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SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / May 2007 / Response To Intervention: Effective Instruction for All Students

Response To Intervention: Effective Instruction for All Students

Moira McKenna and Kim Hosford, School Psychologist

Increasing accessibility for the education of all students underscores a primary goal for the Southern Oregon Educational Service District’s (SOESD) department of Psychological Services. Supported by research and backed by legislation, best practice in education to promote student achievement is defined by the development of school-wide systems of academic and positive behavior support, within a context of a Response-To-Intervention (RTI) framework.  SOESD’s psychologists have taken a critical role in promoting awareness of RTI, and in addressing RTI readiness in the southern Oregon region, through the collaboration and the provision of inservice to regional school psychologists, special education directors, general and special education teachers, the SOESD’s department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the department for Speech and Language.  In its essence, accessibility to effective instructional practice begins in the general education environment, whereby coordinated, school-wide systems of academic and positive behavior support are in place, where academic and social intervention is systemically implemented for groups of students and individual students who need additional support to be successful, and where all students have an opportunity to access their education.

As stated by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (2005), Response To Intervention (RTI) is the practice of providing high quality instruction and intervention matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about change in instruction or goals and applying child response data to important educational decisions. RTI should be applied to decisions in general, remedial, and special education, creating a well-integrated system of instruction/intervention guided by child outcome data.  Regulations from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 permits the use of a process for eligibility in special education based on a child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention, and that other alternative research-based procedures may be used for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability (http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/law.htm).  Likewise, the legislation of IDEA 2004 dovetails with that of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), in that school districts are held accountable for student performance and growth over time, for all children regardless of disability, those who speak English as a second language, or socioeconomic status (http://www.wrightslaw.com/nclb/art.htm).  Furthermore, NCLB outlines requirements that include scientifically-based reading research and parental involvement.

RTI is a framework for instructional decision making to implement effective practices for all students. RTI is a process of matching needs to resources through a multi-tiered system of universal, supplemental and intensive support, prior to referral for services in special education (http://www.nasdse.org/). A school-wide, collaborative effort is designed to measure the performance of all students in the academic content areas of reading, mathematics, and written language three times per year.  This process is known as universal screening, or benchmarking. Benchmarking is a brief assessment, using curriculum-based measures (CBM) to provide an indication of student performance as compared with their peers in a school, at a specific grade-level.  As benchmarking is an indicator of performance on specific skills, outcome data answers the questions of:

  1.  For which students is the core program sufficient and not sufficient?
  2. Is our core program sufficient?
  3. Why is our core program not sufficient for these students?

RTI forwards a data-driven model of service delivery.  Students who may require additional support to be successful are initially identified by their level of performance.  If a student’s need for additional support is validated by a convergence of evidence (e.g. academic performance data, permanent products, teacher report), an intervention will be implemented and a student’s progress will be monitored to determine if their rate of growth is accelerating on a trajectory that will be commensurate with one’s peers (progress monitoring data gathered weekly/biweekly).  In a review of progress monitoring data using CBM, if a student is not making progress, the intervention is intensified to provide the additional support needed for skill attainment. If the student is making progress and responding to the intervention, then the intervention is maintained and/or a process is put into place to fade the intervention. Intervention is provided by staff and community support in the general education environment. In an RTI framework, intervention is not intended to be provided by the special education teacher. The goal of RTI is to improve student outcomes as a result of effective core instruction and intervention provided by that of general education.

What RTI is has been defined. What is RTI not? RTI is not an instructional program. RTI is not intended to encourage the placement of students into special education. It is not possible to implement in isolation. It is most important to note that RTI is not respectively an initiative of special education, general education, Title I, or a Talented and Gifted program; RTI is an instructional decision making initiative for “every” and “all” programs within an educational institution.

So, given a framework for RTI, what is special about special education?  Throughout the process of intervention and the identification of needed adjustments to most precisely target skills for explicit, direct instruction, a student’s need for support becomes more clearly defined. When a student has been provided intervention within a multi-tiered model of support, data from progress monitoring may show that a student is not responding to an intervention that has been refined by increasingly intensive levels of support in the general education environment.  At this time, a student may be evaluated to determine his/her need for support through the services of special education. When a student is referred for evaluation, the deductive process by which intervention was implemented and refined in the general education environment will target specific skills for specially designed instruction, and will inform educational need. Provided with a curriculum that is direct, explicit, and systemic, as aligned with accurately targeted
skills for instruction, a student can be presented with increased opportunities to respond in a smaller group environment, and receive higher levels of specific feedback on academic performance.

It is essential that accessibility to effective educational practices occur along a continuum of support within the context of a coordinated, school-wide effort of academic and positive behavior support. RTI is defined by a framework of effective, research-based instructional practices that are designed to maximize the academic performance of all students through the differentiation of instruction in the classroom, and to allocate resources for levels of supplemental and intensive intervention, while at the same time collecting data that more accurately targets student need to inform instructional planning. The purpose of RTI is to eliminate the contextual variables of poor and inconsistent instruction as an explanation of learning disabilities (Fuchs & Vaughn, 2006). Therefore, by increasing the level of precision and accuracy of instructional practices, while identifying accommodations for identified students to provide unique and differential access to instructional and testing environments that most adequately teaches and tests for knowledge and skill, all students are allowed to most aptly access and benefit from their education.




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