Panel 1 Speaker: Judy Elliott, Ph.D. - Los Angeles Unified School District (CA)

RTI Leadership Forum
Washington, DC
December 8, 2010


I would say Response to Instruction or Intervention is a really, it’s a data-based decision-making model, and I think it’s not anything new.  It’s been around for a long time.  It’s really using the problem-solving model to actually look at data and do something about it.  I think that for a long time in schools we’ve admired the data.  We haven’t necessarily analyzed it.  And so the breadth and scope of it  is endless

It’s not only for students at risk.  It’s for students who are in need of acceleration and push me to higher levels of learning.  So it’s not, you know and you hear a lot about people saying, Oh, it’s just about reading.  It’s kindergarten through third grade reading.  It is so not about K-3 reading.  It really started in behavior.  Positive behavior supports.  So it’s about integration of behavior, and it’s integration of academics.  And you know we look at it as about literacy, numeracy across content areas.  It’s not about reading and math in isolation.  You know just because you teach science doesn’t mean you get off the hook of teaching literacy.  So it’s about academic vocabularies.

Clearly what we’ve been doing has not helped all students, including students with learning disabilities and students on IEPs.  But this is not about a means to get students into special education.  The target for me is always, even as a special educator, has been general education instruction because we need to, and in our district year one is Tier One.  We go after core instruction because I think a lot of our issues around it is our core instruction and some people go, Well, you know we’re doing RTI because we have interventions and the kids go to interventions.  That’s not what RTI is about.  It’s really about looking at core instruction and then actually differentiating instruction.

It’s about having the hard courageous conversations about our expectations for students on IEPs.  Do we really believe our African-American and Hispanic kids can learn to high levels, and I would tell you that predominantly the answer is No.  That we don’t have high expectations for our kids.  So we are having lots of courageous conversations about race and instruction because it shouldn’t be about curriculum casualties.  Students should be on IEPs or learning disabled kids truly because they have that, not because we didn’t know what to do with students and so they spill into special education.  So, umm, and my, my perspective in Los Angeles schools the way we are doing it, it’s not about even looking at at-risk kids.  It’s about what’s in the best interests of all students including students that may be at risk for failure.

One of the things in the secondary schools, and I think it happens in elementary as well, but you have the feeling that the general education teachers are not responsible for students who need differentiated instruction, and therefore, you know, let’s RTI them.  Let’s you know give them an intervention and move them out.  What we are really confronting with in that model is everybody’s responsible for all students

So it’s really teaching teachers how to look differently at you know differentiated instruction.  It doesn’t have to be push the kid out or pull the kid out into a different…you do it right in your classroom.

If I held the scepter and I wanted to change people’s perception about things is that it’s a framework for folks to look at how to differentiate professional development, leadership, instruction, reallocation of resources, and that includes gifted students.  That includes students with severe disabilities, with you know cognitive or emotional…everybody.  There’s something for everybody in this model.  As a leader, it’s our, it’s our responsibility to help people understand what that means and how you can use it as a tool to get at every disenfranchised population that’s been left out.

Judy Elliott, Ph.D. is the chief academic officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is Chair of NCLD’s RTI Advisory Council and Vice Chair of NCLD’s Professional Advisory Board.

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