Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

When Leadership Matters: Perspectives from a Teacher Team Implementing Response to Intervention

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

When Leadership Matters: Perspectives from a Teacher Team Implementing Response to Intervention

Article excerpt


Previous research investigating the effectiveness of response to intervention (RTI) has relied on post hoc data analyses and surveys, although few studies have explored interactions among teacher teams. Understanding the synergistic impact of teacher work within the RTI framework may have implications for how school leaders can support teacher teams and anticipate some challenges that teachers face. In this study, the authors describe a first-grade teacher team's experiences during their second year of RTI implementation at a rural Title I school. Findings showed that participants lacked professional development opportunities, leadership support, and tangible resources. Teachers struggled with implementation as they coped with uncertainty about what their job roles were, how to manage interventions, and how to utilize data-based decision making. Teachers identified practices they believed would have supported RTI implementation. By illustrating how the teacher team worked together, the findings offer practical and authentic recommendations for school leaders. Moreover, the findings reinforce the crucial roles that the school and district leadership exercise in effective RTI implementation.


Response to intervention (RTI) implementation has increased following the reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA; 2004). Howell, Patton, and Deiotte (2008) suggested that the relationship between RTI and No Child Left Behind (NCLB; 2002) is based on the premise that all educators can and will collaborate to ensure that students' educational needs are met through prevention and early intervention. A central goal of RTI is to provide instruction tailored to all students' learning needs. Given this focus, researchers and school leaders remain hopeful that RTI will improve student achievement across all demographic subgroups. Effective RTI implementation will require fundamental and systematic change across all system levels (i.e., pupil, classroom, building, and/or district; Burns & Ysseldyke, 2005; Lau et al., 2006; Mahdavi & Beebe-Frankenberger, 2009; Richards, Pavri, Golez, Canges, & Murphy, 2007). According to Lau et al. (2006), administrators in particular may play important roles as change agents.

RTI implementation requires significant and complex decision making across many levels. Faculty must consider (1) the level and intensity of the intervention, (2) how to target students for universal screening and preventative interventions and identify the nature of such practices, (3) how to monitor student progress, and (4) what type of multidisciplinary evaluation to use before student placement in special education settings. School-wide implementation requires decision making at several levels: from teams of teachers, to larger teams within schools, to school administrators, and to central office personnel who must provide the support and resources (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007). Therefore, good communication and effective collaboration are essential for effective RTI implementation.

Grounded in the practice of collective responsibility for student learning, RTI is a radical departure from how most schools have functioned for decades (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2009). Since teachers have historically tended to work in isolation, it will take time for educators to learn how working collaboratively can improve student learning. Special and general educators have different types of knowledge, skills, and dispositions regarding key RTI practices (e.g., formative assessment, evidence-based practices, and data-based decision making), and everyone must learn to collaborate primarily around instructional planning, teaching, and evaluation of student outcomes. Buffum et al. (2009) proposed that, "RTI can help harness, systematically and coherently, the resources and expertise of specialists in general education, Title I education, English-language learner education, and special education" (p. …

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