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Response to Intervention: Does it Work?


**Please forgive my deviation from such vital topics as movie night, shoe shopping, road trips, book reviews, cake raffles, and water parks. Today I am using the blog for school. Read on….

Cool RTI Graphic:

The Quickie Wiki Definition of RTI (translation: of course it’s not that simple): A method of academic intervention used in the United States to provide early, systematic assistance to children who are having difficulty learning.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a three-tiered model that can be used in any subject matter as a way to identify students who may have a specific learning disability. Click here for more info. But make sure you come back.

Does RTI Work?

What I have heard from those who use RTI is that it requires a lot of training, documentation and research that it is costly and time consuming, and that it ultimately impedes a teacher’s ability to interact with students and individualize instruction. Teachers say they have a set way they like to teach, and they don’t like to be forced to change that. Response to Intervention requires frequent progress monitoring, and research-based interventions, and teachers tell me that the system doesn’t work because their administration can’t spend the money on the professional development needed to make the program successful. Teachers also say that RTI eliminates the “wait to fail” philosophy of education and allows students in need of interventions the help they need sooner, and that they therefore like the process.

What Scares Me About Implementing RTI:

What concerns me is that teaching strategies that work but may not have been researched and proven to work may be eliminated. Good teachers have a million tricks to teach content, and they can find many creative ways to get students to grasp concepts. For example, they may write a song to help students remember math facts, or create their own graphic organizers that help students write papers. My concern with RTI is that these types of teaching tools and intervention techniques would be shunned, or worse, disallowed until proof could be found that they are effective. What drew me to teaching is the ability to find creative ways to help students learn, and I wonder if RTI would not allow that. Another worry I have is that I might place a student in the wrong tier, or that a student may not receive the special education services he or she needs because RTI becomes a panacea for students who are struggling and then the Child Find aspect of IDEA stops. If I were working at a school that used RTI, I would be concerned about keeping up with the additional paperwork that the program requires and that I would miss teaching opportunities and interactions with my students because I was constantly assessing. I also wonder about the impact the program has on students, if they are being assessed too often or if they feel that they are stuck in one tier forever. I’ve also heard that first-year teachers are very busy, so I’d worry about my ability to get it all done and still serve my students in the ways they need.

Despite my fears, my personal take on RTI is that it can work, if you have the time and money to implement it properly, and if you have the buy in of the teachers. I think it has to be a school wide requirement thought, not an optional addition. And I feel that anything that can help students get access to more learning opportunities, the better resources we all wish we had more of: time and money.

Because I don’t have personal experience with RTI, I am appealing to those of you who do. If you are a teacher, post a comment. If you have a child in special education or general education and you have an opinion (good or bad) about RTI, post a comment. If your grown-up child could have been impacted (good or bad) by a program like RTI, post a comment. If you are a student in K-12, post a comment.  If, after reading this post, you have an opinion about RTI, comment! I’d love to hear what you have to say.

A Few Links

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 02/15/2012 2:26 am

    No comment. Talk lata…..

  2. Deidre permalink
    02/15/2012 2:45 am

    Based on what I have read in the above article and my own experience in school I think RTI could be helpful to some and could hurt others. Every child is a different case and to categorize students more than they are already categorized seems impersonal, however, teachers could use RTIs to understand a child’s comprehension as long as the way you ‘diagnose’ someone’s RTI can be accurate.

    • 02/15/2012 1:45 pm

      Hey D – I agre that RTI can be a controversial issue, especially as you mention in the placing kids into categories. And since you are a student in WCSD I’m sure you can attest to the fact that it’s no secret in school what the categories the kids are in. That’s the part that I think is tough: the pressure of the label applied to you as a student. Thanks so much for commenting, as always your insight amazes me. Tammy

  3. Susan Jensen permalink
    02/15/2012 2:58 am

    Our school district (White Pine County) began implementing RTI in our elementary schools six years ago. I was charged with the task of implementing RTI within our middle school four years ago. I absolutely believe that the RTI process can and does work, but it has to be carefully implemented and requires that all teaching staff is on board.

    The primary focus in our elementary RTI program has been on reading literacy. In particular, there is a great deal of focus on working with sight words, blends, phonemes, etc. to help increase fluency. Assessment is done weekly on sight word progress and I know that they DIBEL students, but I am not sure how often. In the last three years, the elementary has also begun using AutoSkills Academy of Math to help intervene on the math side of things. As you mentioned, time and resources always present themselves as hurdles to the process. Classroom teachers were originally resistant because they felt RTI placed one more thing on an already full platter. The district utilized some grant money to create the position of District RTI Coordinator a few years ago. Currently this person spends one day at the middle school, one day at an outlying elementary school and two days at our local elementary school. It has taken a lot of time and effort on her part, but elementary teachers are now following through in the classroom and she is left mostly to progress monitor and coach on use of strategies.

    I can tell you that RTI is a daunting task. We utilize the Read180 program for reading intervention at the middle school, so our focus did not begin there. Instead we chose to focus on math. Using MAP assessment data we (which actually means me) created various practice packets that focused on areas of weakness in number sense, geometry, algebra, data analysis and measurement. Were these research-based? Probably not, but I was trying to create something from scratch. When not working with special needs kids in inclusion classrooms, I would go to math classrooms and deliver the interventions. Even with some help from paraprofessionals and my colleagues in the special education department, I was delivering better than half of the interventions and tracking all the data. It is an extremely time consuming process, but without the progress monitoring you really have no way of knowing if you are having an impact.

    I know I have rambled on quite a bit, but I do want to address some of your concerns directly. The concern about ignoring strategies that work because they may not be research-based, I feel is dependent on your administrator. I was always lucky in that my principal was open to doing what works best for kids regardless of the research. I don’t believe that RTI has to squash teacher creativity. I truly believe teacher creativity enriches the process. Then there is the all important question of time. Progress monitoring eats up a great deal of time, but is key in identifying those students that might have a disabiliity. I think it is important to create a tracking tool that works for you as well as a solid schedule to follow in delivery of services. Thoughtful planning can certainly save valuable time. Resources? In a small district like ours there never seems to be enough. I often relied on our veteran’s. You would be surprised all the stuff you will amass over years of teaching!

    I hope my thoughts have helped you a little bit. I would be happy to share any of the tools we have used in our district to implement RTI (this ranges from goal sheets to tracking tools). I would also be happy to talk with you anytime about special education. I was in the program for three years, but feel like I can be a resource for you. Good luck in your endeavors!!

    • 02/15/2012 1:38 pm

      Susan – Thanks so much for this thoughtful reply! It’s good to know that strategies that work don’t have to be abandoned if they are not research based, and that teachers can still be creative (something I value a lot!) I hadn’t thougt about the fact that there is a need for an RTI coordinator (feels like one per district is not enough?). You’ve given me a lot to think about and a few things to research (Read 180) and MORE on RTI. Thanks again for posting! Tammy

  4. Susan Jensen permalink
    02/15/2012 3:48 pm

    Hi Tammy! I think in a district as large as Washoe, each school could benefit from a coordinator. Especially if the the coordinator could carry the bulk of the data tracking so teachers can focus on the interventions. Definitely look into the Read180 program. We have used it in our middle school with 6th and 7th graders for about five years. On average, students make 2.5 years of growth. Another program to take a look at is Fast ForWord. Our elementary school recently began using that program and we send a handful of our middle school kids over to utilize it as well. Research indicates that it is showing the best results out there at this time.

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