Pennsylvania's Secondary RTII Initiative Impact of a Multi-Tiered System of Support in Five Middle Schools
Lillenstein, Jennifer, Fritschmann, Nanette, Moran, Laura, Perspectives on Language and Literacy
Rationale for Pennsylvania's Secondary RtII Research to Practice Initiative
There is widespread national, state, and local support for the implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI). The intent of RTI in Pennsylvania is to assist schools with the establishment of a standards-aligned comprehensive school improvement framework that reinforces high-quality core curriculum and instruction and the adoption of a continuum of evidencebased practices intended to maximize academic and behavioral outcomes for all students. The need to systematically prevent and effectively treat early reading failure, as well as increase adolescent literacy outcomes, lies at the heart of both elementary and secondary adoption and intended outcomes. While literacy has been the initial area of emphasis for Pennsylvania's middle school learning sites, there has been integration of tiered supports for mathematics and positive behavior support as well. It should be noted that Pennsylvania's multi-tiered model is referred to as "Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtII)" to underscore the importance of highquality, standards aligned core instruction for ALL students (see Figure 1 ).
Based upon the aforementioned rationale, Pennsylvania has committed to a long-term project that was initiated in 20092010 and involves the study and evaluation of secondary RTI implementation among five (and more recently six) middle schools located in the eastern, central, and western regions.
The project (Pennsylvania's Secondary RtII Learning Site Project) acknowledges that while limited research exists relative to the impact of secondary RTI implementation efforts, there is a need to learn more about the unique implementation challenges that exist at the secondary level. For example, administrators commonly report that changes in organizational structure, a shift in academic foci, and a general increase in extracurricular responsibilities, represent some of the strongest contrasts between elementary and secondary implementation considerations. Nonetheless, the path to improved secondary RTI outcomes is still believed to be attributable to persistence around quality implementation that includes the ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and refinement of those practices that have been shown to work within a data-driven and collaborative school climate. Similarly, Pennsylvania's Secondary RtII Learning Site Project was designed with this intent and subsequent outcomes in mind.
Characteristics of Pennsylvania's Secondary RtII Model
According to a review of the literature, RTI models share many common components including high-quality core instruction, universal screening, progress-monitoring, tiered intervention, and a focus on fidelity of implementation (National Center on Response to Intervention). Similarly, Pennsylvania's secondary RtII framework comprises the following components:
* High-quality standards-aligned core instruction for all students
* Relational support (i?-school, family, community) systems to provide students with the social/emotional and behavioral supports needed to engage them in the learning process and to complete their elected course of study
* Adoption and implementation of evidence-based methodologies for instruction and intervention
* Establishment of a multi-tiered system of increasingly intensive support matched to student need within the confines of the general education system
* Adoption of a continuum of reliable and valid assessment measures to inform instruction
* Provision of continuous, differentiated, professional learning for all staff
Figure 2 illustrates effective core and supplemental instructional practices and a continuum of reliable and valid measures that may be used within a comprehensive service delivery framework to assist educators with data-based decision making and instructional matching.
Strengthening Core/Tier 1 Literacy Practices: Vocabulary Instruction as a Common Implementation Priority
Since the inception of this project, each middle school learning site has identified both individual and collective implementation priorities intended to strengthen Tier 1 and foundational literacy practices within and across content areas via the goal planner (see Figure 3). …