Viewing Response-to-Intervention through an Educational Change Paradigm: What Can We Learn?

Article excerpt

Response-to-intervention (RtI), a framework for improving academic and behavioral outcomes for all students, can be viewed as a current example of an educational change initiative. Given the difficulties that some schools may be experiencing when implementing RtI effectively, it is important to examine prior educational change conceptualizations and research for factors that may facilitate or impede current educational reform. The purpose of this article is to (a) present RtI as a current educational reform initiative, (b) use Fullan's (2007) theoretical model as a framework through which to present information related to educational change, and (c) provide suggestions regarding how such educational change literature can inform and improve the implementation and future sustainability of RtI in schools.

KEYWORDS: Response to Intervention, Educational Reform, Educational Change, Systemic Consultation

Since the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) published A Nation at Risk, widespread demand for educational reform has remained a dominant theme across the United States. As policy changes were enacted related to special education (e.g., reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA), significant changes within general education policy also occurred. Perhaps the most notable of these changes was passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2002), which requires schools to provide high-quality instruction to all students through the use of evi dene e -bas ed practices provided by highly qualified teachers. When Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004), further emphasis was placed on using systemic approaches that integrate general and special education into a unified system. Recent changes in these federal policies, combined with the proliferation of empirically based interventions designed to prevent problems and promote students' academic and behavioral success, have created an unprecedented opportunity for schools to expand their use of alternative service delivery models (Graczyk, Domitrovich, Small, & Zins, 2006).

At the present time, Response to Intervention (RtI) is a prominent alternative service delivery model receiving much attention in contemporary educational literature (see Jimerson, Burns, & VanDerHeyden, 2007 for a review of related contemporary scholarship). Although RtI has been given much attention as the result of the IDEIA, successful implementation requires collaboration among all educators, not just those involved in the process of determining special education eligibility (Fuchs, Mock, Morgan, & Young, 2003). RtI is defined as the change in behavior or performance as a function of an intervention (Gresham, 2002; 2007). More specifically, RtI is a service delivery approach for providing services and interventions to students at increasing levels of intensity based on progress monitoring and data analysis. Successful implementation of RtI requires the adoption of three essential components: (a) multiple tiers of interventions, (b) a problem-solving method, and (c) a data collection system to inform educational decision-making (Batsche et al., 2005). Furthermore, the fidelity with which a RtI model is implemented relies heavily on consistent behavior among educators (Gerber, 2005).

RTI AS AN EDUCATIONAL CHANGE INITIATIVE

RtI cannot be characterized by one educational program or curriculum, but rather a transformation in the way that systems, schools, and professionals operate. As such, RtI represents a current educational change initiative. Aligned with directives called for within NCLB, as well as within provisions of the IDEIA of 2004, the application of RtI in schools has received legislative support. Unfortunately, research has suggested that even when supported by legislation, most educational change efforts result in limited implementation success (Ber ends, Bodilly, & Kirby, 2002), possibly due to the fact that programming decisions are based upon a top-down model of change. …