Field Studies of RTI Effectiveness Illinois Flexible Service Delivery System (FSDS) Model

Study Citation


Peterson, D. W., Prasse, D. P., Shinn, M. R., & Swerdlik, M. E. (2007). The Illinois flexible service delivery model: A problem-solving model initiative. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. M. VanDerHeyden (Eds.), Handbook of response to intervention: The science and practice of assessment and intervention (pp. 300–318). New York: Springer.

Program Description


The Illinois flexible service delivery system (FSDS) model is a problem-solving model that includes collaborative consultation. The FSDS is built on the principle that student academic and behavioral difficulties are, at least in part, due to interactions between the child and the classroom. Peterson, Prasse, Shinn, and Swerdlik (2007) identified several phases of the FSDS process:


  1. Implementing a multi-tier model of service delivery for students experiencing difficulty;
  2. Intervening early in academic and social/emotional difficulties;
  3. Meaningful parental involvement;
  4. Problem solving to guide decision making;
  5. Ongoing progress monitoring (e.g., curriculum-based measurement [CBM]);
  6. Eligibility for special education services based on the student's Response to Intervention (RTI).

Within this model, general education teachers are responsible for implementing strategic interventions in the classroom. If these interventions prove unsuccessful, problem-solving teams (PSTs) are responsible for identifying a more intensive intervention plan. The membership of the PSTs typically consists of the general education teacher, school psychologists, and special education personnel. The PSTs develop a plan adhering to the four problem-solving cornerstones of the FSDS: a) problems are defined ecologically, b) problem solving starts with prevention, c) special education eligibility is defined by both need and services required for benefit, and d) scientifically based assessment tools that fit problem solving are used.

Training of school personnel in the FSDS model took place over several years and was the responsibility of the statewide FSDS consortium. By 2005, professional development in FSDS had been conducted in approximately 90 school districts.

Purpose of Study


The authors conducted the study to answer the following questions:


  1. Is the FSDS an effective method for meeting the needs of students?
  2. What effect, if any, does FSDS have on resources and services for students eligible for special education services?
  3. What effect, if any, does FSDS have on the timeliness of referral, evaluation, and subsequent entitlement for special education services for those students suspected of having a disability?
  4. Are parents and educational staff satisfied with the use of FSDS?

Study Method


Data were collected from 556 K-8 students from 26 FSDS model schools across the entire state from 1999 to 2003. The criteria for inclusion in the sample used for each year of the statewide evaluation included the following: a) the sites had been implementing the FSDS for a minimum of two years, b) the staff at the selected sites had been trained in the skills essential to the implementation of FSDS, and c) the implementation of FSDS was proceeding in a satisfactory manner based on the Flexible Service Delivery: Rubric of Quality Indicators.

Study Results

Question 1: Based on school personnel surveys over the first 2 years of evaluation, Peterson et al. (2007) reported that students improved both academically (mean of 3.6, with 5 being "strongly agree" and 1 being "strongly disagree" with the statement “the FSDS resulted in improved academic performance for my students”) and behaviorally (mean of 3.4, with 5 being "strongly agree" and 1 being "strongly disagree" with the statement “the FSDS resulted in improved behavioral performance for my students”).

Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) data were collected in reading during the final two years of evaluation. The authors reported a small average increase (13) in correct words per minute from reading probe 1 to 2 and probe 2 to 3, controlling for grade and minutes of engaged time per week.

Question 2: When asked if appropriate services were being provided to students in special education, less than 2% of the staff respondents said no and 98% said either yes or that they did not know (72% and 26%, respectively).

Question 3: The authors reported that referrals for special education remained relatively stable over the years of implementing FSDS, with an average decrease of 1% for all of the participating schools or districts compared to a historical contrast group. Special education placement data, based on the size of the building or district, remained relatively stable since FSDS implementation, with an average absolute change of 1.4% over the years of FSDS implementation.

Question 4: Based on school personnel surveys conducted during the first two years of evaluation, the authors reported overall satisfaction with the implementation of FSDS in their buildings. On a 5-point Likert scale (5 = strongly agree, and 1 = strongly disagree), personnel responded to the statement, “I am satisfied with the implementation of the FSDS in my school.” The average ratings were 4.4 for principals, 4.1 for school psychologists and social workers, 3.7 for special education personnel, and 3.3 for general education teachers.

Over the four-year evaluation period, the authors reported that 75% of parent respondents indicated that their child received help in a timely fashion and it contributed to success in school. The authors also reported that more than 90% of parent respondents perceived they were a partner in the FSDS problem-solving process.

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