Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Determining Responsiveness to School Counseling Interventions Using Behavioral Observations

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Determining Responsiveness to School Counseling Interventions Using Behavioral Observations

Article excerpt

School districts are in the process of adopting the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to identify and remediate academic and behavioral deficits. As an integral member of the school behavior team, school counselors must use data on individual interventions to contribute to the data-based decision making process in RTI. This article presents a method and rationale to use behavioral observations to determine the efficacy of focused responsive services. It includes implications for school counseling practice.


In the years since the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA; U.S. Department of Education, 2004), many school districts have adopted the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to addressing academic and behavioral difficulties as an alternative to the traditional special education assessment model (Shores, 2009). The passage of IDEA 2004 was noteworthy because it brought about a fundamental change in how students may be qualified for special education services (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2009). Under IDEA 2004, states are no longer required to pursue the lengthy and controversial process of identifying a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). Instead, educators may use an RTI process to identify and address learning and behavior problems as quickly as possible in a child's education.

Broadly defined, RTI is a school-wide, multi-tiered approach requiring teachers and support personnel to implement school-wide, research-based practices and frequently assess student progress in two domains, academics and behavior. When a student fails to respond to system-wide interventions, small group or individual interventions are applied with greater intensity. As members of school intervention and student support teams, school counselors have long contributed to the group of educators who hear concerns and formulate plans to support students at risk of school failure. Under IDEA 2004, school counselors, like other team members, are now required to utilize data to drive this intervention planning process for individual students.

Fortunately, the recent focus on accountability in the counseling literature has equipped school practitioners with the mindset and skills to collect and analyze data effectively (Astramovich, Coker, & Hoskins, 2005; Dahir & Stone, 2009; Dimmitt, 2010; Dimmitt, Carey & Hatch, 2007; Loesch & Ritchie, 2009). In fact, the methods for analyzing school-wide academic and behavioral indicators and engaging in data-based decision making have been promoted as a "new cornerstone of effective school counseling practice" (Poynton & Carey, 2006, p. 129). However, fruitful participation in an RTI process at the more intensive services level will require that school counselors translate these systematic data-based skills to the individual responsive services level.

The purpose of this article is to introduce a method for school counselors to collect and use individual data to contribute to RTI behavioral teams. The article begins by reviewing the current literature on RTI and defining potential ways that a school counselor can contribute to team intervention planning and decision making. Next, the authors describe several observational methods for collecting data on classroom environment and student behavior. Finally, the article demonstrates how observational data were used in three actual cases to assess classroom environment and student behavior and determine the efficacy of school counseling interventions in the behavioral domain.


A detailed description of RTI is beyond the scope of this article but an overview will help to frame the school counselor's role in the system. For more information on implementation and delivery, school counselors should consult one of the many recent books on RTI and behavior support (see Applebaum, 2009; Buffum, et al. …

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