Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making Response to Intervention More Accessible

I always have such great conversations and idea-bouncing with my email buddy, a school psychologist in Ohio. She emailed me today with a question/query/frustration that I'm sure TONS of us, including myself deal with: teacher push-back and reluctance to adopt the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Here's some of what she had to say:
"Myself and another psych in the district are trying to create a framework and/or standard protocol model for the RtI process... [T]here is a great deal of talk about the resistance we are facing in developing an intervention framework... My frustration is trying to foster teacher buy in.... I want to move towards identifying students area of weakness, developing a student specific goal and then selecting the appropriate intervention for said deficit... Right now, the IAT type meetings {student support team meetings, I imagine} we have involve the teacher complaining, the Interv. Spec. doing a small reading group and DIBELS and in 4-6 weeks saying no progress-evaluate. UGH!"
Agreed, agreed, 100%! With RTI now the legal requirement for eligibility, the mode into special education is going to be changing a lot, potentially without a lot of support to the people who have to do and/or monitor the interventions: the teachers! No wonder they fight back... they don't have the support, training, time, or understanding of the model in order to implement RTI the way it's "supposed" to be done. It's much easier to stand by the old "test and place" or "discrepancy" models, which are not as fair to the child as RTI is.

My district is huge and there's no guidelines or mandates about how RTI should be done or what it's expected to look like, only that we have to be doing it. We have no specific intervention building staff, and some of our reading/math support staff don't work with the kids, only coach the teachers. We do have a lot of tutors come in from local colleges, and are putting before and after school tutoring/homework help in place, but it's hard to monitor.

I try to be basic with RTI for my teachers, and think about it more like differentiation than a separate intervention... I think people get scared by the term "intervention." What I've found in requiring academic RTI data is that teachers are doing way more differentiation than you and they realize, and when you're trying to scrounge things together, many things can be recorded as intervention. For instance: pre-teaching vocab, re-teaching lessons, shortened assignments, reduced items per page, graphic organizers/outlines, visual aids (i.e. a reminder card on the desk of steps for writing a paragraph), specially spaced lined paper, practice writing sight words in sentences, math manipulatives (tiles, cubes, counters, charts), etc. These are things teachers typically do in a classroom, but if only a few kids are getting it, it's an intervention. Sure, there are bigger things too, like special tutoring, small groups, individual pull-out, etc, but those are often too cumbersome, time-consuming, and disruptive for teachers to wrap their heads around.

My biggest obstacle is getting good, sold, appropriate data. I can get beautiful narratives and excellent information to fill into Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), but if I don't have the numbers, it's less than useful. We use the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELs) pretty extensively for reading assessment. Every kiddo gets a quarterly progress monitoring, and those who are at the strategic (1 year behind) or intensive (2+ years behind) level get monitoring much more often. Usually, I have to rely on DIBELs and reading program lesson tests (pre- and post-) for my data. What I found from past experiences is that you don't have to have nationally normed, well-known sources of data for it to be useful and meaningful. Using things like the Dolch word lists, Fry's high frequency words, and other DIBELs measures aside from Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) are useful too [Letter Naming Fluency (LNF), Initial Sound Fluency (ISF), Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF), and Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) are good for the little kiddos, especially to measure decoding interventions].

In short, I try to remember that teachers are limited in their time, resources, and ability to conduct interventions. Make it as simple yet effective as possible for them and give them easy data tracking ideas. Meet them where they are. Remind them of all the differentiation they actually do, and find away to quantify it.

Readers, please share how your school/district manages RTI! How do you get teachers to "buy in"? What do you do to help/field/alleviate their frustrations? What sources of data have you found to be easy yet effective to implement?

Don't forget to check out and "Like" my Facebook page!


  1. Aahh as a new reader of your blog there is so much to say about this! I'm an early career psychologist (yay) in Florida and RtI is supposed to be "up and running" in my district. I've seen schools that do an amazing job... Unfortunately I work in an urban, high-poverty "D" school and we are just trying to make some sort of growth since last year. I will say this though: progress monitoring heaven = Love dibels but we dont use it here anymore.. This is what I've been utilizing w my school and it's amazing... My whole district loves it. And it's free!! Try it out if ou haven't already :)

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Erika! I always love hearing from other early career psychologists. :) Sounds like we're in the same boat in terms of our school populations, but remember--when you're at the bottom, only place to go is up!

    I've heard of, and it sounds great! Thanks for the suggestion. I love that it has measures for reading comprehension and math. So often, RTI is about reading, but we forget those kids for whom math doesn't click.

  3. I just found this site and it's great! This post is nearly a year old, but I thought I'd chime in. It would be VERY worthwhile to have your district buy into Aimsweb services. There is a fee per student (and is research-based and widely used). It has reading, math, and writing components. It is utilized as a universal screening assessment as well as a progress monitoring tool. Best used at the elementary level though. We have our teachers administering the assessments 3x/year, and without complaint (although buy-in took some time).

  4. Thanks so much for your comment, my Anonymous friend! Better old than never. :) I loved using AIMSweb on one of my practica, it was very well supported by the personnel and administration of that building. In my first district, I was on an RTI steering committee and we were investigating bringing AIMSweb there, which they did after I left for my current job. Unfortunately, my district is enormous and bringing in a new curriculum or program takes YEARS of rigmarole. Right now, we use the DIBELs progress monitoring system and do benchmark assessments 3x/year, and more frequent progress monitoring as needed based on the child's level.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.