For the successful implementation of a three-tier response to intervention system, high quality professional development is crucial. This article describes the Illinois ASPIRE initiative, a response to intervention professional development project of the Illinois State Board of Education. Specifically, the implementation of the initiative in the southern region of the state, a primarily rural region, is illustrated. The recruitment of participants, the structure of the professional development, preliminary evaluation outcomes, and future directions are described. The article may provide a potential model for other rural regions that are interested in designing professional development to support the implementation of response to intervention.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) clearly promote early intervening services through the integration of standardized assessments and scientifically based instructional practices to promote student learning (Glover & DiPerna, 2007). Response to Intervention (RTI) has evolved from NCLB and IDEIA and is a multi-tier model that incorporates screening and progress monitoring in order to facilitate data-based decision-making in the proactive implementation of differing intensities of scientifically-based instruction/intervention in order to increase student achievement (Barnett, Daly, Jones, & Lentz, 2004; Batsche et al., 2005; Burns, Jacob, & Wagner, 2008; VanDerHeyden, Witt, & Gilbertson, 2007).
To successfully implement RTI, educators cannot simply adopt progress monitoring data systems or scientifically based instructional practices (Glover & DiPerna, 2007). Implementation of RTI requires comprehensive, school wide systems reform in order to develop and sustain the use of the data and instructional practices (Danielson, Doolittle, & Bradley, 2007). This involves attention to school-wide goals, school climate and culture, administrator and staff commitment, resources, professional development activities, schedules, assessment and instructional practices, and evaluation procedures. RTI implementation requires substantial school-wide change. Therefore, professional development on RTI cannot simply increase educators' knowledge and skills of practices, but requires an emphasis on building educational leaders' capacity to support school system reform (Kratochwill, Volpiansky, Clements, & Ball, 2007). RTI professional development should emphasize school-wide reform driven by improving the achievement of all students (Mundschenk, Foley, & Bergstrom, 2008).
Both NCLB and IDEIA support the implementation of high quality professional development to improve student achievement. Professional development in RTI is currently just emerging in the professional literature (Kratochwill et al., 2007). However, a number of professional development practices have been identified from the research as likely to increase student achievement including: (a) educator networks within the professional development, (b) professional development activities that span across time, and (c) planning for staff turnover (Glover and DiPerna, 2007; Kratochwill et al., 2007). Isolated training events and workshops with single school representatives are insufficient for substantial, school-wide improvement of student skills. Kratochwill and colleagues (2007) emphasize that professional development must be on-going and systematically integrate educators' skill development with the critical systems factors in order to effectively increase student outcomes. Furthermore, the audiors stress that professional development participants must receive clear expectations and explanations, which is facilitated by standard professional development curricula.
At this time, only a handful of states have initiated the development of standard RTI professional development (e.g. Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa). …