One of the early decisions made by a district or building with RtI is how they are going to design their approach to intervention. In my district, we elected to create a reading intervention protocol that articulates what I call the “front line interventions” that vary by big idea addressed and intensity (in design and implementation). These interventions are expected to be used across the district. The advantages to this approach in a district with 35 elementary schools have included: (a) continuity in intervention when students move within district, (b) a strong focus for district staff development and support, and (c) a common language for district employees. While the expectation has been to utilize one of the front line interventions when forming intervention groups, we have always had as part of our protocol the expectation to customize the use of the intervention based on student or group information.
While this approach has been advantageous for our early implementation efforts, we are now focusing on how to address issues that are insufficiently addressed in the protocol. When the topic of the intervention protocol comes up, the first response is to want to find other “programs” that should be considered. While I strongly support research-validated programs, I think our next step needs to be to mature our process by addressing three areas of need: (a) understanding our intervention approach at a deeper level, (b) using the problem-solving approach when articulating needs, and (c) maintaining our focus on the core.
Understanding our Intervention Approach at a Deeper Level
Every intervention approach has strengths and weaknesses – whether a building uses particular programs for intervention or designs the intervention based on specific diagnostic data. Given that we have front line intervention programs, our next step is to review the programs with the Consumer’s Guide to Evaluating Supplemental and Intervention Programs. While this guide is often used on the front end to assist with selection decisions, it is also beneficial to review interventions after having used them for a few years. We plan to utilize teachers who have been using the programs with a high level of fidelity and to ensure we have a cross-representation of general educators, special educators, reading specialists, and staff who are ELL endorsed. The aim of the critique is to allow us to articulate, with more precision, areas of strength and areas that are deficits. Importantly, this will allow us to provide stronger recommendations about how to customize, or supplement, deficit areas with our existing resources.
Using the Problem-Solving Approach when Articulating Needs
The process above is one that we are engaging in as a district. This next recommendation pertains to individual building teams that are making necessary adjustments and additions to the protocol based on needs of students in their buildings. In order to promote judicious decisions regarding intervention selection, we advocate the use of the problem-solving process as a way to articulate needs. This ensures that we are interpreting our data accurately, developing plausible hypotheses, and selecting a course of action that sound and sensible. It is also a process that allows the building-level team to demonstrate that the structures involved with RtI (time for core and intervention, core curricula fidelity and differentiation, use of existing protocol interventions, and progress monitoring procedures) are assured. If we are going to make our systems operate differently than history has demonstrated, then we need to have a strong process in place because we know that even the best of intervention approaches used in a weak system are unlikely to have the intended impact.
Maintaining our Focus on the Core
It is encouraging and exciting to see the acknowledged importance of the core curricula and instruction in the RtI literature. While this focus has been challenging, the importance of clearly-articulated curriculum and instructional practices cannot be overemphasized. One request we have had from several principals is that the district not decrease the emphasis on fidelity to the core. As we are revisiting and strengthening our intervention approach, the core curriculum and instruction plays an important role. Our approach this coming year will be to mirror the Consumer’s Guide review process with our core reading approach and develop guidance on how to address deficit areas. Likewise, we can utilize the committee approach described above to articulate ways to carry over the scaffolds and instructional delivery approaches that we have found successful during intervention into core instruction. While we believe this continuity will prove beneficial for all students during core, we believe it will be vital to those students receiving or transitioning out of intervention support.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc., is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Meets all 20 of the Standards for Charity Accountability.