Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

RTI in a Middle School: Findings and Practical Implications of a Tier 2 Reading Comprehension Study

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

RTI in a Middle School: Findings and Practical Implications of a Tier 2 Reading Comprehension Study

Article excerpt

Abstract. Response to intervention (RTI) has received considerable attention from both researchers and practitioners as a schoolwide model for service delivery. However, research is limited on RTI applications in middle and high schools. The purpose of this article is to describe the outcomes of an experimental examination of a secondary (Tier 2) literacy intervention for at-risk fifth- and sixth-grade students in an urban middle school assigned to one of three conditions: Story Structure (SS), Typical Practice delivered by reading specialists (TP), and Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). Results indicated a statistically significant difference between the mean posttest cloze scores of the SSR group and both the SS and TP conditions. Study findings support the growing body of research indicating that at-risk students need intensive and explicit instruction in addition to opportunities to practice reading.

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Concerns about improving literacy-related outcomes for middle and high school students are providing a catalyst for reconceptualizing service delivery for at-risk students. In recent years, a multitiered model, response to intervention (RTI), has received considerable attention from both researchers and practitioners as a schoolwide model for improving service delivery for all students (Fuchs, Mock, Morgan, & Young, 2003; Graner, Faggella-Luby, & Fritschmann, 2005). Consequently, RTI models are under rapid development and adoption across the United States. However, the empirical foundations of RTI are rooted in early-literacy research and the elementary school context, causing practical challenges when the model is applied to middle school settings. Specifically, schools face the initial challenge of differentiating Tier 2 instruction from Tier 1 by considering when and how to deliver supplemental instruction, and which practitioners are qualified and available to deliver intensive instruction. Therefore, empirical study of RTI in middle schools is warranted to validate the efficacy of implementation efforts.

This article describes the findings and practical implications of an experimental examination of three Tier 2 reading comprehension interventions for at-risk fifth- and sixth-grade students in an urban middle school.

A Significant Need

Recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data indicate that 68% of fourth graders and 70% of eighth graders in public schools perform at or below the basic level in reading comprehension nationally (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009). Operationally, these students may struggle with recognizing literal information, explicitly stated reasons for character action, or finding the central problem or main idea from text. In the state of Connecticut, where the present study was conducted, NAEP data demonstrate a trend similar to the national average. However, there are no states with a larger reading achievement gap (comparing percentages of students within subgroups that are at or above proficiency and those who are not) between students receiving free and reduced-price lunch and those who are not, white and black students, and white and Hispanic students at the fourth and the eighth grade (State Department of Education, Connecticut, 2007). Accordingly, schools in Connecticut and around the nation are in search of a new way to conceptualize service delivery that results in improved outcomes for all students.

Response to Intervention as Reform Model

One promising schoolwide model for improving student outcomes, RTI, is a multitier model of schoolwide service delivery intended to address the needs of academically diverse groups of students by measuring their response to research-based instruction (Fuchs et al., 2003; Graner et al., 2005). RTI's empirical foundations are rooted in several traditions, including early-literacy research (K-3), and is viewed as an alternative procedure in identification of specific learning disabilities (Simonsen, et al. …

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