Response To Intervention (RtI) In Early Childhood And Preschool Settings

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    Greetings and welcome to the first entry on the RTI Action Network’s blog on Response to Intervention (RtI) in early childhood and preschool settings (EC/Preschool). My name is Robin Miller Young and the RTI Action Network has asked me to facilitate the first round of blog entries and follow-up correspondence on this topic. If you are a regular reader of the RTI blog, you know that over 20 different topics have been addressed thus far on the blog; however, there have not been regular entries and follow-up dialogues on RtI applied to EC/Preschool settings. So, the time has come to start such an exchange of information, ideas, resources, questions and answers! Listed below are the four objectives we plan to address in the RtI in EC/Preschool blog.

    1. Principles: We want to talk about emerging principles for creating, developing, implementing and evaluating RtI in EC/Preschool settings. What defines RtI for preschool-age children? What makes the RtI movement hold such promise as a better way to promote student achievement of essential skills and protective factors than our current “business as usual”? What do we know about RtI as it is being implemented in systems for educating older students that will apply to RtI for younger students? Moreover, what unique features of young children and their families and our beliefs and values for serving young children do we need to take into account as we develop RtI models in the preschool years? How do the constructs of “Consensus Building”, “Developing an Infrastructure”, and “Scaling up” apply to RtI in EC/Preschool? What are our unique challenges and how can we overcome them; plus, what unique successes are we experiencing and are we likely to experience in the future? Let’s collaboratively identify common and unique challenges that we can resolve together and find large and small successes to celebrate as an electronic community that let us know we are on the right track for helping children and their families to achieve targeted outcomes.
    2. Lessons Learned: We want to know how “stories from the field” about a single student, a small group of students, or a whole program/school of students who have benefitted from shifts in curricular and instructional decision-making can help us all improve the way we identify and meet children’s needs. How can we take tiered instructional models that already exist in the EC/at-risk/ECSE fields and ramp them up into fully functioning RtI models? What pieces of an RtI framework are likely to be missing or need to be reshaped so that a more synergistic systems initiative is in place to identify and meet children’s needs? How do the “trainer of trainer” models and “coaching” allow us to create effective system changes? Are there any examples of PK-12 school-wide reforms we can review and from which we can extract important applications? Where are there pockets of resistance and how do we address legitimate concerns and fear mongers? What insights can we gain by examining the journeys experienced by our colleagues at the other levels and the journeys of EC/at-risk/ECSE programs engaged in initial RtI efforts? After all, RtI is a school improvement initiative; as such, it is a process or journey of achieving essential child outcomes and it is not a static event. What happens when your RtI initiative loses steam, you get stuck or you reach an obstacle that you just can’t overcome (i.e., the “Sophomore Slump”)? Members of this electronic community will engage in active listening and help one another with ideas to keep the field moving forward.
    3. Scaling up: Once we know “what works” to improve the way we serve young children and their families, we want to know how to bring other colleagues on board to expand the impact of our effective and efficient services. What are the members of various disciplines, such as principals, and professional organizations, such as the DEC, NAEYC, Headstart, and NASP starting to say about RtI applied to EC/Preschool settings? What are the unique concerns of therapists who work in schools and are being asked to align their responsibilities with RtI principles? Who are our political stakeholders and how do we marshal our political power to create needed changes in state and federal legislation, administrative rules and regulations, teacher certification, and employment decision-making? We have been given an incredible window of opportunity to make some lasting changes in the way we educate young children and we need to take full advantage of it!
    4. Resources: Finally, we will share resources to help us all create more effective systems for meeting the needs of ALL children and their families. Where can you find archived conference sessions such as PowerPoint presentations and PDF documents on early language and literacy instruction for preschoolers? Where can you get advance notice of a conference session on developing an instructional leadership team to create an empowered preschool staff culture? Where can you participate in a webinar on differentiating instruction for high-performing (gifted) preschoolers in an RtI model? What websites can you visit to get resources on meeting the needs of English language learners (ELLs) in an RtI program? What programs can you visit to observe a data-review team meeting and to learn how practitioners are linking assessment practices to environmental, curricular and instructional decision-making? Finally, we want to find ways to link university-based colleagues and field-based practitioners so we can advance our scientifically-based knowledge of what works in the field. Just as we are embracing the concept of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in our schools and programs, we need to create, sustain and expand our momentum as an electronic community, and a community of flesh and blood men and women, whose mission is to create electronic and personal connections that will promote the achievement of essential outcomes for preschoolers and their families.

    Given those four objectives, you might want to know a little about me and my role as the blog facilitator. First, I was asked to facilitate the blog as I have some knowledge of the RtI in EC/Preschool movement based on work my colleagues and I have accomplished so far to move our preschool into an RtI framework. That’s right, I am a school practitioner who gets to play with children every day! We have been moving into various RtI practices over the last nine years and we have plenty of successes to share with the blog readers, as well as mistakes we’ve made along the way. Given my ability to wear the various hats of teacher, school psychologist, and program administrator, I can help frame the questions we need to ask and locate resources that can help us keep moving forward on this journey. Equally important, I maintain a scientist-practitioner orientation to my professional work, so I will endeavor to keep the dialogue evenly balanced, to ask questions about the scientific basis of information that is put out for the readers, and to link the “ivory-tower” world with the “real world” whenever possible. Finally, I am passionate about leading a community that has as its mission to ensure that all children have access to safe environments where they can learn essential skills and knowledge as well as protective qualities that will allow them to move successfully into adulthood. Isn’t that what we are all about?

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