RTI Blog

Every week we will have a new editorial from an experienced implementer and/or researcher who will be posting commentary about common, emerging, or controversial issues regarding RTI. Readers are invited to post their reactions and thoughts.



A Middle School Principal’s Perspective: Transitioning to a “New” School
Over the past 10-15 years, the student population at our school has been steadily increasing. This past year saw our numbers increase to an all-time high of 1,610 students. As you can imagine, a building intended to hold a maximum of 1,100-1,200 gets quite interesting when you add 400 extra pre-adolescents. Thankfully, our district has been planning for how to deal with this increase for a number of years as well. Beginning next year, our sixth grade staff and students will report to a new school designed to house the sixth grade from both sides of the district. That will leave us with roughly 1,050 seventh and eighth grade students for us to plan schedules and interventions to support.
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Bigger than the Details: Topics to Build into Faculty Discussions
In the district I serve, we’ve made considerable advancements with our RtI practices. We have a district protocol that has served us well for several years. We are expanding our protocol into our preschool settings and we continue to work hard to integrate our academic and behavior structures. We have a multi-year approach to growing our skills around evidence-based practices, data-based decision making, and the application of the problem-solving process. Yet, while every building in the district could make the list of particular practices they want to improve and strengthen, there are some important topics that deserve some conversation and acknowledgement among our faculties.
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Getting the Best Return on Investment from MTSS/RTI Assessments
Districts and schools across the country have invested heavily in screening assessments to identify students who will need additional support to be successful in light of increasing standards (e.g. CCSS). These screening assessments often measure “general outcomes” (e.g. comprehension) and are very reliable predictors of state summative assessments. Unfortunately, they offer little guidance to teachers and administrators about what to do if a student is predicted not to be successful. These same screening assessments are often used to monitor student progress across the year. Many of these assessments have been normed, are equated for difficulty, and even have adaptive versions which allow their use 3-5 times per year. This ensures that a “reliable estimate of student growth” can be obtained. Thus, schools and teachers can make reliable and valid decisions about student progress, as well as which instruction and intervention supports seem to be effective for students. In order for a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) to be effective and for Response to Intervention (RTI) implementation to be successful, schools must be able to determine not just “if” instruction and intervention supports are working, but which students they are working for, how well they are working, and under what conditions they are working (e.g. with a specific amount of intensity).
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MTSS/RTI: The Power to Transform Schools and Districts
While Response to Intervention (RTI) may have stemmed from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as an alternative to the discrepancy model for identifying students with learning disabilities, many schools and districts across the country have realized that when they pair RTI with a Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS), the result is a reform methodology that not only provides better supports for students who struggle academically, but improves instruction and outcomes for every student. MTSS provides consistent methods to identify students who struggle, target tiered instruction and intervention supports, determine progress, and support professional learning efforts of staff. RTI provides a consistent methodology for evaluating the effectiveness and success of that system of supports. Both MTSS and RTI are needed to ensure the success of every student in a school or district.
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A Middle School Principal’s Perspective: Challenges to Scheduling a Multi-Tier System of Supports
Before discussing scheduling challenges, I should mention an intervention that we have in place. It will come in handy to understand as I progress through this blog entry. You may remember from my last blog post that we offer a “split” Language Arts program in our 6th and 7th grade classes. All students in these grades get both a Literature and Writing class. I described our intervention course for students who need help in Literature, but neglected to do so for Writing.
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See all entries in the archive.