Panel 1 Speaker: Charles Greenwood, Ph.D. - University of Kansas (KS)

RTI Leadership Forum
Washington, DC
December 8, 2010


Well thank you and good morning to you all.  Let me use a low-tech method and with those of you…by the way, I was asked to comment on the early childhood aspect, so those of you who hang your hat and work in early childhood, could you hold up your clicker?  (laughter)  So I just want to see how many we’ve got.  So I think I’m doing well.

So part of my task I thought appropriate was to share some perspective on early childhood opportunities and education prior to kindergarten.  So by the way, there exists very strong evidence these days that one of the best investments that we could make in terms of policy and I hope NCLD will get, I know that you guys will get right in there, but the best investment we can make in school readiness is universal preschool.  So with that let me just make the point that we currently do not have universal early childhood preschool experiences.  So compared to K-12, the early childhood system and we talk about working in system presents a unique challenge because it’s really a collection of sectors.  And it’s a collection of programs, and some are supported by federal, some by state policies, and others by foundations and corporations and grassroots community activities.  That’s a bit of a sketch of early childhood in America at the moment.

So children do not have universal access and those early childhood programs that are available to families across the nation vary widely within their locality and across states.  So in that context in a systems point of view, it appears at the moment that the best context for RTI are in pre-K programs that are aligned with K-12.  Kind of going out on a limb here, but that alignment is very helpful.  And also in early Head Start and early, and Head Start programs who are collaborating with IDEA, early intervention, and early childhood special ed programs, or some combination of those things.  So we have all those folks working together and in early childhood they deal with issues, an issue that relates to blending funding and I’ll just put quotes around that, and you can look into what does that mean, blending funding.  But that’s another, people who can blend funds are able to push the ball ahead with RTI.

So how well does RTI fit in early childhood, which is really a unique professional discipline, etc., etc.  Early childhood programs are firmly behind the RTI ideas of finding and serving children as early as possible, so when we talk about early intervening in elementary, we can thank our early childhood colleagues for that precept.  They’ve been doing it a long time.  Individualization is embraced there, has a long history in the early intervention and early childhood special ed sectors of the system.  It’s not widely accepted but in some sectors it is and it’s there and we can make some big progress there.  In many of the other, some of the sectors they may embrace individualization, but one size fits all is too common.

Support for the concept of intentional teaching of young children as opposed to child-directed learning that has been a mainstay in early intervention or early childhood is a new and growing precept that provides a basis for multi-tiered systems of support.  It is a coming idea that direct instruction or the intent to teach a content area is a really coming area there and so that’s great.  I don’t have time to really tell you enough about this, but…

I have a slide.  I don’t know if it can cue up.  Our Center, we’ve done a survey.  Can I have my first slide?  PowerPoint?  It’s in your folder.  I’m sorry it’s in black and white but basically I’ll just tell you that the survey, we did a national survey of state directors and coordinators, and the good news is over, between 2009 and 2010 there’s been progress in terms of those folks reporting increasing implementation, increasing levels of implementation.  So like some programs have begun to implement RTI…which we don’t have the slide, so…in that case it moved up from 21 to 30%.  And there’s been a decline by about half in people reporting one of the lowest levels of implementation in the survey that preliminary discussions are going on.  So there’s a movement across the reports that we’re getting.

Only Kentucky and Georgia in our survey reported that early childhood RTI was fully implemented.  You might want to check those out.  We haven’t checked those out, but that’s the report.

What challenges are reported?  Well, as you might expect early childhood programs given their, the multiplicity and their different responses and support by different policies are really rather under resourced, so they have all the problems of lack of resources, the lack of knowledge, the lack of Tier 2 and 3 interventions, a range of things that we can image some have been mentioned.

So what’s the good news about RTI in early childhood?  Well, we have frameworks that have been translated and so recognition and response, for example, and the teaching pyramid are two increasingly well known RTI frameworks in early childhood and they’re increasingly being implemented.

We have annual meetings going on now.  Our Center for RTI in Early Childhood has an annual meeting, we have over 200 people coming to the meeting, it’s a range of people interested in preschool early childhood RTI.  We have evidence-based practices and on-going research.  There’s strong evidence showing that there is a range of skills that’s unique and that are precursors, should be taught in preschool before the kids get to kindergarten.  Interventions for Tier 2 and Tier 3 are being put together.  We have had professional policy development.  Virginia Buysse in the division of early childhood, in conjunction with the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Head Start are working on a joint RTI position statement.  We’ve had federal policy clarification and basically on that level as regards RTI, Alexa Posny put out a letter making the comment that RTI does not replace early childhood in special ed and its procedural safeguards, Number 1.  And “if a district is implementing RTI does not mean the students cannot be referred to special education evaluations.”  So I know I’m running across a range of things, but I’m wanting you to see the advances in areas.

We have informational resources, so we have the RTI Action Network, thank you NCLD, and various funders and folks in this room.  Thank you, Mary Ruth Coleman for the Roadmap to RTI that’s on that, in the preschool, pre-K version.  And the information there for parents in early childhood and arranging those issues are represented.  So I’m just rattling on.

An exemplary program?  I don’t have time to really tell you that Donna Nylander in the Valley View District in the early childhood center in Romeo[ville], Illinois, has a really cool RTI program going on there.  So I need to stop.  How comprehensive are we at this point?  We’re just underway.  Thank you.  (applause)


Dr. Charles R. Greenwood is Professor of Applied Behavioral Science, Senior Scientist in the Schiefelbusch Institute of Life Span Studies and Director of the Juniper Gardens Children's Project at the University of Kansas. He serves as CoPI (with Dr. Judith J. Carta) of the Center for RTI in Early Childhood funded by IES.

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