Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Thoughts on Rethinking Response to Intervention with Secondary Students

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Thoughts on Rethinking Response to Intervention with Secondary Students

Article excerpt

We appreciate the opportunity provided by the editor to respond to the commentary on our article (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton, 2010). We also appreciate the editorial team of School Psychology Review for selecting our article as a Featured Article within the journal (Vaughn, Cirino et al., 2010). We interpret this as an indication of the interest in response to intervention (RTI) broadly and particularly as it relates to understanding reading interventions for secondary students within an RTI framework.

Our intention in this commentary is not to provide a rebuttal to the comments made by Fuchs et al. (2010)--because we agree fundamentally with their commentary. However, we want to clarify some of the essential issues related to RTI with secondary students and our understanding resulting from several years of conducting assessments and experimental studies within an RTI framework in middle schools (Denton et al., in press; Vaughn et al., 2008; Vaughn, Cirino et al., 2010, Vaughn et al., 2009).

Identification and Screening for At-Risk Readers in Secondary Grades

We agree with Fuchs et al. (2010) that RTI at the secondary level must be different in some fundamental ways from RTI at the elementary level. We think that one of the fundamental issues pertains to universal screening. We argue that universal screening for reading problems at the secondary level--considered by most to be an essential feature of RTI at the elementary level--can be accomplished through extant data sources and in most cases does not require additional testing.

By the time students reach the sixth grade and higher, educators have considerable information about which students demonstrate reading difficulties. Data sources such as statecriterion-referenced reading assessments and yearly norm-referenced reading achievement tests are commonly available, often with other progress monitoring measures used to document students' progress. Based on our recent studies and the observations of Fuchs et al. (2010), these data sources can provide reliable information to determine which older students are at risk for reading problems and require further intervention.

If these measures are employed as screening tools, their use may not simply be a matter of passing or failing, and some scrutiny may be required to determine the level of performance associated with risk status. Although our experiences and studies have shown that this can be done in reading, we suspect a similar process can also be conducted in other academic areas, such as math. In reading, most of these assessments involve comprehension, so some follow-up assessments may be needed to identify the domains of reading that require intervention, but this can be brief. In general, this approach conserves resources for intervention, which should always be the highest priority for students who are struggling. We think that the best way to identify the majority of students who need additional intervention at sixth grade and above is based on consistently low achievement in an academic area of significance despite overall strong instruction at the classroom level using research-based interventions.

Tiers of Intervention for Older Students With Reading Difficulties

Fundamental to the successful implementation of RTI with younger students is the implementation of successively more intensive tiers of intervention to respond to students' instructional needs based on their lack of response to previously implemented research-derived interventions. Our empirical evidence from multiple intervention studies as well as our clinical experience indicates that secondary students with low reading achievement can be assigned to less or more intensive interventions based on their current reading achievement scores rather than moving them from less intensive to more intensive interventions based on their response. We agree with Fuchs et al. (2010) that there is both empirical and practical evidence to support this view. …

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