Response to Intervention: Changing How We Do Business: When the RtI Process Is Used to Diagnose Disabilities, Schools Can Intervene Early to Offer Students More Beneficial Instructional Strategies

By Hilton, Alan | Leadership, March-April 2007 | Go to article overview

Response to Intervention: Changing How We Do Business: When the RtI Process Is Used to Diagnose Disabilities, Schools Can Intervene Early to Offer Students More Beneficial Instructional Strategies


Hilton, Alan, Leadership


Response to Intervention is a school-wide system of interventions that is generally a three-tiered system. Tier one interventions are data-proven practices used by the classroom teacher that identify children at risk.

In tier two, students who do not respond to proven practices receive targeted, data-based intervention from professionals other than the teacher. A student with academic delays is given one or more of the research-validated interventions.

In this model, students' academic progress is monitored frequently to see if the interventions are sufficient to help the student to catch up with his or her peers. If the student fails to show significantly improved academic skills despite several well-designed and implemented interventions, this failure to "respond to intervention" can be viewed as evidence of an underlying learning disability. Additional assessment may take place upon that determination.

One of the advantages of RtI in the diagnosis of disabilities is that it allows schools to intervene early to meet the needs of struggling learners. RtI also maps those specific instructional strategies found to benefit a particular student, which is helpful to teachers and parents.

Meeting the RtI challenge in California

It does not appear that California Local Education Agencies and their schools will be given the choice as to the use of RtI. Therefore, debate on the merits of RtI in shaping general education interventions and the special education identification process bear little merit. On the other hand, proactive planning for this change will lead to the smooth implementation and the ultimate sustainability of RtI as an effective force for students who are at risk of failure.

Recent research (Sindelar, et al., 2006) on the sustainability of inclusive school reform identified several areas that may be generalized to the implementation and sustainability of RtI as a school-wide reform movement. Three key categories that emerged include state and district policy, leadership and teaching.

State and district policy

The State Department of Education, with direction from the superintendent of public instruction, needs to step forward without delay and take a leadership role in ensuring effective and systematic implementation of RtI. Although the federal government has delayed promulgating regulations, the mandate to the state is clear in IDEA.

The departments of curriculum and instruction, especially reading/language arts and specialized programs, special education, Title I and English learners, should be required to work together to develop common approaches, share resources and provide trainings and technical assistance throughout the state.

One tool that is available is the California Services for Technical Assistance. CalSTAT, which already has a model for developing leadership sites and is funding a limited number of local trainings in RtI, should be expanded and given a broader statewide mission related to RtI.

LEAs at this point should not be overly eager to jump into all three levels of RtI, but should be focusing on changes in policies and strengthening approaches relating to general education interventions. Districts should support, through top-level leadership, the implementation policies that encourage portions of RtI implementation at local model sites.

To accomplish this, superintendents need a general knowledge of the concepts that RtI is based on, whereas building administrators need extensive training concerning implementation and support of RtI. This may be accomplished using a variety of approaches, but training should be scheduled to start as soon as possible.

Leadership: Providing direction

For RtI to be successfully implemented and sustained in California, leadership will be critical. The state, county and local superintendents will be critically important in providing direction, policies and guidelines to move forward. …

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Response to Intervention: Changing How We Do Business: When the RtI Process Is Used to Diagnose Disabilities, Schools Can Intervene Early to Offer Students More Beneficial Instructional Strategies
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