Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Toward More Effective Tiered Systems: Lessons from National Implementation Efforts

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Toward More Effective Tiered Systems: Lessons from National Implementation Efforts

Article excerpt


Based on the 2015 evaluation of response-to-intervention (RTI) efforts and our own 2 decades of experience in supporting educators' implementation of RTI efforts, four recommendations are presented to advance effective implementation of tiered systems of intervention. We suggest that by (a) assessing readiness and capacity, (b) providing content and coaching as part of professional development, (c) using evaluation data, and (d) including students with disabilities, educators can make strides to implement RTI more effectively and help to meet the needs of all students in today's schools.

In the early 2000s, the U.S. Department of Education (ED)'s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) convened a summit of stakeholders to discuss methods for identifying learning disabilities (LD), including a new concept called response to intervention (RTI). The recommendation for this summit occurred in response to well documented concerns surrounding the psychometric properties of assessments traditionally used to identify students with LD, increases in the numbers of students identified with LD, disproportionate representation among subgroups of minority students, and the variable and often poor quality of special education services (Bradley, Danielson, & Hallahan, 2002; Zumeta, Zirkel, & Danielson, 2014). RTI was discussed as a promising alternative to traditional identification procedures because of its focus on providing increasingly intensive, research-based instruction to students based on demonstrated response or nonresponse. Nonresponse, as measured by progress monitoring data, would be considered an indicator of potential LD (Vaughn & Fuchs, 2003).

Following the OSEP summit, the concept of RTI was formally introduced to the public with its inclusion in the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as an alternative method for identifying LD. Since that time, increasing numbers of educational decision makers have worked to implement RTI and other related frameworks (e.g., multitiered systems of support), primarily as a mechanism to identify students with LD more accurately, to distinguish them from those at risk for academic failure, and to support their needs through highly structured tiers of increasingly intensive intervention (Vaughn & Fletcher, 2012). (For the purposes of this article, we refer to all multitiered intervention frameworks using the term RTI.) Recent policy reviews indicate that 45 or more state education agencies (SEAs) recommend using RTI in schools and districts (Hauerwas, Brown, & Scott. 2013; Hudson & McKenzie, 2016).

A compelling body of controlled research on RTI has shown an increased likelihood of achieving improved outcomes for students with significant academic and behavior needs (Fuchs. Fuchs, & Compton, 2012; Shapiro, 2015; Vaughn & Swanson, 2015). Yet, at the same time, recent findings from evaluations of RTI in practice have provided evidence to suggest that implementation of the framework in authentic school contexts is a serious problem; it is not happening as intended or with any measure of fidelity (Balu et al., 2015; Shinn & Brown, 2016). This problem becomes seemingly more serious as findings from aforementioned policy reviews (Hauerwas et al., 2013; Hudson & McKenzie, 2016) reveal that of the SEAs recommending the use of RTI, fewer than 10% provide guidelines for its implementation.

Evaluations of RTI have suggested problems consistent with this lack of guidance surrounding implementation of the practice (Balu et al., 2015). In this article, we offer four actionable steps implementers can take to further the efficacy of their implementation and help RTI meet its promise. These recommendations are born out of decades of research experience and from our involvement in managing and directing the implementation efforts of many national technical assistance (TA) centers (Table 1). …

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