Response to Intervention (RtI) in the Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Domains: Current Challenges and Emerging Possibilities

Article excerpt

As many schools move toward a three-tier model that incorporates a Response to Intervention (RtI) service delivery model in the social, emotional, and behavioral domains, school psychologists may provide leadership. The decision-making process for filtering students through multiple tiers of support and intervention and examining change is an area where school psychologists are encouraged to apply their expertise regarding assessment and evidence-based interventions. This paper describes an implementation of behavioral and social-emotional RtI in an elementary school setting. Issues and challenges related to measurement of change (i.e., responsiveness to intervention) and identification of students for additional supports as well as emerging possibilities of incorporating qualitative information in the process are discussed.

Education professionals continue to struggle to address the needs of an increasing number of students who have social, emotional, or behavioral difficulties (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Socialemotional and behavioral problems among students are associated with a variety of poor school-related outcomes (Greenberg et al., 2003; Zins et al., 2004). Too frequently, schools address student behavior problems by employing consequences such as detention, suspension, and expulsion (Skiba & Rausch, 2006). A disproportionate amount of time and energy is spent on serving a small number of students with social-emotional and behavior problems. One potential remedy for this issue is early identification of and intervention with students at risk for such problems. This approach, known as Response to Intervention (RtI), has been recommended as an alternative to the "wait-to-fail" approach that some schools have historically used (Gresham, 2005). Until recently, RtI has been primarily utilized in the academic domain to identify students with specific learning disabilities (Jimerson, Bums, & VanDerHeyden, 2007). However, RtI may also serve as an effective approach for preventing and remedying the social, emotional, and behavioral problems of students who respond to behavioral interventions and therefore do not need more intensive services in special education. On the other hand, students who continue to display behavior problems despite early interventions should continue to receive increasingly targeted services.

The intent of this discussion is to explore RtI as a service delivery model for social, emotional, and behavioral problems in schools. Specifically, the aim of this work is to describe the decision-making process to effectively and efficiently provide appropriate services to students in need of social, emotional, or behavioral support. To illustrate the social-emotional-behavioral RtI methodology presented herein, a case example from an action research collaborative project will be included. Finally, issues and challenges related to measurement of responsiveness to intervention and emerging possibilities will be discussed.


Response to Intervention (RtI) has been characterized as "the science and practice of assessment and intervention" (Jimerson, Burns, & VanDerHeyden, 2007). RtI may also be described as the change in behavior as a function of intervention (Gresham, 1991, 2002). RtI is typically comprised of five core components: (a) a continuum of evidence-based services available to all students (Martson, Muyskens, Lau, & Canter, 2003); (b) ongoing monitoring of student progress (Gresham et al., 2005); (c) a systematic decision-making process of determining student progress in the academic or behavioral domain (Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, & Hickman, 2003); (d) implementation of increasingly intensive interventions when students do not demonstrate improvements in response to other interventions (Fairbanks, Sugai, Guardino, & Lathrop, 2007); and (e) evaluation of special education services for students who do not demonstrate improvements despite implementation of increasingly intensive interventions (Fuchs, Mock, Morgan, & Young, 2003). …


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