Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Principals' Perceptions of the Importance and Availability of Response to Intervention Practices within High School Settings

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Principals' Perceptions of the Importance and Availability of Response to Intervention Practices within High School Settings

Article excerpt

In recent years, proponents of educational reform have called for the use of systemic educational practices that make better use of instructional time by providing multiple levels of high-quality instruction and intervention to struggling learners, a practice known as response to intervention (RTI). RTI currently is recognized as an alternative and promising systems change initiative that can comprehensively address the diverse academic and behavioral needs of all students and achieve the stated goals of both the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004; Batsche et al., 2006). Generally, RTI methodologies encompass high-quality, research-based classroom instruction; continuous and frequent progress monitoring; implementation of research-based academic and behavioral interventions at multiple levels; and assessment of intervention integrity (Batsche et al.). Essentially, this approach uses ongoing progress monitoring data to make decisions about the effectiveness of instruction within a multitiered system of support. Recent data have suggested that RTI approaches not only prevent academic failure, but also improve academic outcomes for students (e.g., Ardoin, Witt, Connell, & Koenig, 2005).

Moreover, RTI has been implemented in several states (e.g., Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania) as part of state improvement grants aimed at providing proactive education that is responsive to individual student needs. Because of demonstrated improvements in increasing student outcomes combined with legislative support, RTI has potential for broad-based change at the school level and is receiving significant national attention.

Although RTI seeks to meet the needs of all students, extant practices have occurred largely within primary grades, and typically in the area of reading (Bender & Shores, 2007). As such, there appears to be a general lack of field-based applications of RTI in secondary settings. One exception is Windram, Scierka, and Silberglitt's (2007) examination of RTI implementation in two secondary schools in Minnesota. Results of their study suggest that a tiered model of intervention support can be successful at the secondary level to address reading and math concerns. However, the researchers discovered that certain "building adjustments" (e.g., scheduling, adjustments to interventions) were necessary for such a model to be sustainable. Despite the findings of Windram et al., other research regarding implementation of RTI at the secondary level has identified potential barriers to sustainability. For example, Johnson and Smith (2008) identified several barriers to RTI implementation in middle school settings, including a lack of differentiated instruction in the general education classroom and limited numbers of evidence-based interventions (especially to support writing and mathematics). However, Johnson and Smith found that the greatest barrier to RTI implementation within middle schools was the lack of a systemic process that uses progress-monitoring data to make important educational decisions. Moreover, in a study examining the facilitators and barriers of RTI in secondary schools, Sansosti, Telzrow, and Noltemeyer (2010) demonstrated that school psychologists had numerous questions regarding the type of progress monitoring tools available; the need for evidence-based interventions within secondary settings; and decision rules of how systems could be modified (e.g., scheduling, students earning credits toward graduation) to ensure sustainability of RTI approaches. Participants in their study indicated that although high-quality teaching, tiers of interventions, and progress monitoring tools were indispensable for the successful implementation of RTI, systematic and experimental application of these approaches was missing at the practice level. Taken together, questions regarding implementation of RTI at the secondary level remain. …

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