Scaling Up Response to Intervention: The Influence of Policy and Research and the Role of Program Evaluation

Article excerpt

District implementation of the response to intervention (RTI) model has occurred at a surprising rate. Data from the Response to Intervention Adoption Survey (Spectrum K12/CASE, 2011) indicate that 94% of schools reportedimplementingsome level of RTI in 2011 (up from 72% in 2009) , 24% reported "full implementation" (up from 12% in 2009) , and 44% reported that they were in the process of district-wide implementation (up from 28% in 2009). Sixty-six percent of schools reported using RTI as part of the process for determining eligibility for special education (up from 41% in 2010). In a study of nine selected states, Harr-Robins, Shambaugh, and Parrish (2009) reported that all nine states described RTI as a framework to guide the school improvement process for all students. Furthermore, the report indicated that, at the state level, general education had taken charge of RTI or heldjoint responsibility with the special education division in seven of the nine states studied. These state-level data are consistent with recent district-level data indicating that RTI is led by general education or a unified effort of general and special education in 81% of districts nationwide (Spectrum-Ki2, 2011). Thus, it appears that implementation of RTI has occurred rapidly and is being implemented with all students.

Rapid implementation of RTI is occurring alongside continued controversy over the model and its intended uses. Federal special education statute (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEIA], 2004) and regulations (IDEIA Regulations, 2006) include language allowing school districts to examine student response to scientifically based interventions when determining eligibility for specific learning disability (SLD) programs. Much of the debate among scholars focuses on the validity of using RTI in the process of eligibility determination rather than disagreement with the literature that supports the use of RTI components to improve student outcomes (e.g., Batsche, Kavale, 8c Kovaleski, 2006). Some critics of RTI have focused on the challenge of implementing the model on a large scale with fidelity (e.g., Batsche et al., 2006; Berkely, Bender, Peaster, 8c Saunders, 2009; Gerber, 2005); however, the criticisms offered are often discussed in the context of using RTI for eligibility decisions rather than improving student outcomes. In the authors' view, the controversy over RTI emanating from discussions of the model's utility for making decisions about eligibility for SLD programs often detracts from the idea that RTI is a method to improve instruction, beginning with core or universal instruction. All students stand to benefit from the implementation of RTI when the primary focus is increasing the effectiveness of instruction school-wide.

Despite the continued controversy, the momentum of RTI adoption continues Id grow (Spectrum K-12, 2011). While it could be argued that this rate of adoption is influenced primarily by current statutory and regulatory mandates (e.g., IDEIA, 2004; IDEIA Regulations, 2006) as well as proposals to include RTI components in federal general education legislation (e.g., the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation [LEARN] Act, H.R. 4037, 2009; and A Blueprint for Educational Reform 2010: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, U.S. Department of Education, 2010), a logical question to ask is why are these dramatic changes that include RTI occurring in federal policy? Inreality, RTI is simply a term that represents the four steps of the problem-solving process (Bergen 8c Kratochwill, 1990), of which the final step, evaluation, is really RTI. A broad base of research supports the use of the four problem-solving steps (problem identification, problem analysis, instruction/intervention, and evaluation) to significantly improve the impact of academic and behavior instruction and intervention on student outcomes. It was, in fact, this research base, articulated in testimony at regional meetings held by the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education (2002), that served as the birth of RTI in subsequent legislation

The literature on problem solving models ranges broadly in terms of the research questions asked, methodology employed, models examined, and conclusions drawn. …


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