Professional Development in Implementing and Sustaining Multitier Prevention Models: Implications for Response to Intervention

Article excerpt

Abstract. We provide an overview of the role professional development plays in multitiered prevention and intervention models. Specifically, professional development is discussed within the context of establishing sustainable improvement in schools as professionals implement multitiered models of prevention and intervention services, programs, and practices related to response to intervention. We discuss the system capacity for sustainable improvement and system-wide procedures that can be implemented to support multitiered prevention models. We also discuss various models, levels of professional development, and the relationship between professional development implementation and sustainability of school improvement. We conclude with a discussion of the challenges schools are likely to face in establishing response to intervention. We also note what preservice and in-service professional development activities can offer to help overcome some of these challenges and barriers to system-wide change in quality prevention and intervention programs.


The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the role professional development plays in multitiered prevention and intervention approaches, specifically within the context of response to intervention (RTI). Multitiered systems of prevention existed long before RTI was considered a viable option for the provision of interventions to students at risk and represent one of several models of prevention that can be implemented in school systems (see Kratochwill, in press, for an overview). Multitiered systems typically encompass three levels of prevention and intervention including primary, secondary or supplemental intervention (e.g., small-group instruction, a focused classroom management program), and tertiary or intensive intervention (e.g., individualized instruction, functional assessment based intervention).

There is strong support for a variety of prevention programs and models including multitiered approaches but far less empirical research on RTI (Kratochwill, Clements, & Kalymon, 2007). RTI should be distinguished from prevention in that it extends one approach to prevention into a decision algorithm for problem solving within educational settings. Many prevention programs and procedures (instructional and mental health) have support independent of being implemented in a multitiered model. When they are structured as part of RTI, they have additional requirements related to data-based decision making about the effectiveness of the level or levels of intervention structured within a multitiered model (Kratochwill, 2006). In RTI, student progress is systematically monitored during intervention phases. Depending on the student response to a given level of intervention, decisions are made regarding whether to move to a different level or tier of intervention that can include less intense or more intense intervention. It is the combination of systematic progress monitoring and movement across tiers of intervention for making decisions that represent the RTI component of the multitiered system.

As with other systemic school improvement efforts, implementing RTI requires change on many levels, with the most significant change pertaining to the professional practice of education and mental health professionals. Hence, professional development is a centerpiece of concern, and we can look beyond RTI to extract examples of best practices that can be applied in this context from the literature on prevention science and on professional development generally. Professional development challenges are multifaceted and include training of preservice and in-service practitioners in (a) the conceptual, methodological, and practical aspects of RTI; and (b) the systemic change factors that influence the process of implementing any new innovation. Although preservice professional development training is important, our focus is primarily on in-service professional development as it relates to RTI (see Kratochwill, in press, for a detailed overview of graduate training of psychologists in evidence-based practices, of which professional development is a major focus). …