Field Studies of RTI Effectiveness Minneapolis Problem-Solving Model (MPSM)

Study Citation


Marston, D., Muyskens, P., Lau, M., & Canter, A. (2003). Problem-solving model for decision making with high-incidence disabilities: The Minneapolis experience. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 187–200.

Program Description


The Minneapolis problem-solving model (MPSM) is a problem-solving model that includes collaborative consultation. It is designed as a three-tier process to measure Response to Intervention (RTI) and is used in the special education eligibility process. Marston, Muyskens, Lau, and Canter (2003) identified four themes driving district implementation:


  1. The inappropriateness of intelligence tests and the IQ–achievement discrepancy for determination of eligibility;
  2. Bias in assessment;
  3. Allocation of school psychologist time;
  4. Linking assessment to instruction through curriculum-based measurement (CBM).

Within this model, intervention assistance teams (IATs) are responsible for problem solving and consist of the general education teacher, special education personnel, the school psychologist, and other specialists and administrators as needed. The IATs use a four-step system for identifying and supporting students with academic difficulties: a) describing with specificity the student’s problem, b) generating and implementing strategies for instructional intervention, c) monitoring student progress and evaluating effectiveness of instruction, and d) continuing this cycle as necessary. Training of school personnel in the MPSM has evolved from introductory and follow-up sessions (45 minutes each) conducted by MPSM lead staff in 1994 to more intensive ongoing training (information on duration, frequency, and implementer were not provided) in nonspecified effective instructional strategies and progress-monitoring measures (e.g., CBM) by the end of 2002. By 2002, all elementary and secondary schools in Minneapolis had, at minimum, received introductory training in the MPSM.

Purpose of Study


The authors conducted this study to evaluate the effectiveness of the MPSM. Specifically, the purpose of the study was to answer the following questions:


  1. What is the effect of the MPSM on special education placements?
  2. What are the differences between traditionally identified students with learning disabilities (LD) and MPSM-identified students in terms of achievement?
  3. What is the effect of the MPSM on disproportionality?

Study Method


Data for study questions were compared in each of the domains (e.g., placements, achievement) before and after MPSM implementation. No other methodological procedures were reported.

Study Results

Question 1: The authors compared special education placement rates before and after MPSM implementation. The number of students identified for special education services at MPSM schools remained largely constant (327 students in 1997–1998; 364 students in 2001–2002). For the entire district (N = 50,000), students identified with high-incidence disabilities (e.g., LD, Mild Mental Impairment [MMI]) have remained largely constant from 1990 to 2002 (7%) regardless of MPSM implementation.

Question 2: With regard to achievement, the authors reviewed the achievement levels of students with traditionally identified and MPSM-identified LD (the latter being referred to as students needing alternative programming [SNAPs]) over a 4-year period (years not specified). During this interval they were able to track the growth of 87 students with traditionally identified LD and 34 SNAPs students in reading and math on the Northwest Achievement Levels Test across Grades 4, 5, 6, and 7. The levels of performance and growth of these two groups were similar (although performance levels were lower for SNAPS students in reading and state goals) when contrasted with the district standard indicating those students who were on-track for passing the Minnesota Basic Standards Tests.

Question 3: The authors used an odds-ratio analysis to review disproportion for students of color. In this approach, the probability that a student of color is placed in a selected category is compared to the probability that a White student is placed in that same category. Equity in the categorization of the students would yield a ratio of 1.0. Parrish (2000) reviewed state data for the Harvard Civil Rights Project and found the average odds ratio for African-American students in Minnesota identified as having LD was about 2.7. The authors analyzed the data over the preceding 5 years using the odds-ratio formula and found that in Minneapolis public schools, the odds-ratios for African-American students identified as having LD or MMI (traditional or MPSM) ranged from 1.9 to 2.1.

Back To Top