Implementing RTI

In 2004, Clark County, Nevada, the fifth largest school district in the nation, began forming pilot schools for conducting Response to Intervention (RTI). Over the next five years, there was so much success in those schools that it led to a district-wide shift towards RTI. In 2009, the school psychologists of Clark County implemented RTI at every elementary and middle school and completely abandoned the discrepancy model. As a result, thousands of students began receiving academic and behavioral interventions in the general education setting. In addition, the amount of referrals that school psychologists received decreased. Plus, the referrals that school psychologists did receive were more accurate referrals meaning the students were more likely to qualify for special education.

 

 

How is RTI Implemented:

 

It’s important to note right away that this answers the basics of how RTI can be implemented in a school system. The more specific details will vary from school to school. However, in order to give practical examples of how the specific details could work in a school, I will use the schools that I work at as examples.

 

Having done a lot of research on RTI, I’ve read the age-old questions: “Where do you find the time?”, “Where do you find the resources?” I myself had these questions among others. During graduate school, I had done my RTI homework assignments using AIMSWEB and DIBELS in schools that did not have firmly established RTI in place. So although I was learning vast amounts about interventions, progress monitoring, and data analysis, I did not know how it was systematically implemented in schools. I myself could not answer the age-old questions, and I was even a bit skeptical about RTI. This all changed after working in Clark County, Nevada. While starting my job in Clark County, I had in mind the following questions about RTI that I wanted answers to:

 

What is the school psychologist’s role in RTI?

What is the initial first step for schools who do not have RTI?

Who is in charge of giving interventions and progress monitoring?

Where do teachers find the time to do intensive, personalized interventions?

How often are interventions implemented and progress monitoring recorded?

Is RTI implemented for behavior as well?

 

I have based my answers on my own personal experience as well as my discussions with many experts in the field of RTI. As mentioned previously, the specifics of these answers will vary from school to school. Therefore, I will only discuss general trends. For more information, please refer to: http://www.rti4success.org/

 

What is the school psychologist’s role in RTI?

Anything and everything. School psychologists may be involved in any and every area of RTI (i.e. giving interventions, progress monitoring, etc.), especially in schools that are just beginning the RTI process. The role of school psychologists is often flexible to fit the needs of their schools’ RTI system. There are some general trends: Teachers often consult with the school psychologist to determine which evidence-based intervention should be utilized for a particular student. Teachers will then implement these interventions in their classroom. Teachers, school psychologists, or other school staff members will then progress monitor a student’s targeted academic skill to determine the effectiveness of the intervention. The student’s teacher and school psychologist monitor the effectiveness of the intervention over time.

 

When providing interventions to teachers, it is important to check for fidelity when teachers are implementing these interventions. By fidelity, I mean to check that teachers are implementing interventions properly and not largely deviating from standard procedure. This can be done simply by observing teachers when they are giving the intervention. Explaining the intervention clearly and giving teachers a list of directions that they can refer back to also helps increase the likelihood that they will implement the interventions as intended.

 

At my schools, a well-established RTI program has been in place for over 5 years. Teachers and intervention specialists are expected to give the interventions and the teachers or RTI specialist at my schools are in charge of screening and progress monitoring.   Therefore, my role as a school psychologist is more consultation-based. I, among other school staff, provide teachers with evidence-based interventions and review graphs of students’ progress over time. I am part of the RTI team, which meets weekly with teachers to discuss student progress. I also have a few miscellaneous roles such as helping teachers with questions about paperwork and interpreting norms.

 

What is the initial first steps for schools who do not have RTI?

The first step typically comes from the administrative staff at the school. RTI brings about a lot of change for teachers. Therefore, it is important for the Principal and Assistant Principal to play an active role in the RTI process to increase teacher buy-in. At my schools, the administrative staff take an active role on the RTI team. In addition to the administrative staff, the RTI team typically consists of the school psychologist, intervention specialists, and teachers. The RTI teams at my schools have defined and continue to define the roles of who does what, as well as determine when interventions are to be implemented. After everything is defined, the procedures are explained during school-wide staff training days. Professional development trainings are also recommended.

 

One important note when starting the RTI process is to start small. If you take on too much at one time, you can sacrifice the quality of the process and lose buy-in from school staff members as a result.   I talked with several school psychologists, including Adam Rudow, who were working in Clark County during the initial shift to RTI, and they all emphasized the same thing. “With anything you bring to a school that is change-oriented, you have to start small. […] While there may be a whole myriad of things you want to measure, I found it most productive to just pick one.” (Rudow, 2013) By picking just one measure such as Oral Reading Fluency, you can hone in on the quality of the process.

 

Who is in charge of giving interventions and progress monitoring?

As previously mentioned, this varies from school to school, and this decision is generally made by the administrative staff. At both of my schools, the teachers are primarily in charge of giving interventions, while specialists aid in the process. At one of my schools, the teachers progress monitor, while at my other school, the RTI specialist does all of the progress monitoring. It is important to add that not every student is progress monitored. At my schools, only the students who are below grade level based on their AIMSweb scores are progress monitored. All other students are simply given one academic screener during the fall, winter, and spring, and their scores are referred to as benchmarks.

 

One thing that I have learned is that progress monitoring is not an arduous process when you have a CBM in place. For example, AIMSweb has a website online that allows teachers to track all of their students’ data.

 

If you’re having difficulty visualizing how progress monitoring works, I will give a brief description of the procedures. A teacher will pull up a reading probe on their computer from the AIMSweb website. As the student reads a printed version of that same probe, the teacher is on the computer marking any errors. At the end of a minute, the student stops reading and the teacher marks on the computer how far they read. The data such as words per minute, errors, and self-corrections, are then recorded and displayed instantly. Plus all the data is stored on the AIMSweb website. It’s that simple.

 

A) Where do teachers find the time to do intensive, personalized interventions?

B) How often are these interventions implemented and progress monitoring recorded?

At my schools, there is time scheduled in daily for every student at each grade level to receive interventions (around 30-45 minutes). These intervention times are called Tier 1 interventions and are scheduled outside of the allotted time for core instruction. Teachers are given reading intervention programs for their scheduled intervention time. One of my schools uses iStation and the other uses Corrective Reading. During this scheduled time for interventions, students are split up into groups based on achievement. These groups can be determined by diagnostic measures using programs such as AIMSweb, Core Phonics, etc. By placing students into groups, teachers can target many students at once using the same or similar interventions. Specialists are involved in helping students in the lower to lowest groups. The groups that are at or above grade level are referred to as enrichment groups.

 

It is also recommended that teachers work with students who are struggling the most for an extra 5-10 minutes per day. This is referred to as Tier 2 interventions. This can be done at a one-to-one or small group setting and is outside of the scheduled Tier 1 intervention time for students. This is typically done by having other students silently work on independent classwork while a student or small group of students works directly with the teacher.

 

Regarding the frequency of progress monitoring, it is recommended at my schools that students who score in the red (the lowest category) are progress monitored once per week. Teachers also progress monitors students in the yellow (the second lowest category), but on a less frequent basis such as monthly.

 

 

Is RTI implemented for behavior as well?

RTI can certainly be implemented for behavior as well. The same principles apply as behavioral problems can be screened, identified, intervened, and monitored. This assists in the process of determining the suspicion of an Emotional Disturbance. For obvious reasons, there aren’t CBM’s for behavior, so the overall process does take more work when it comes to tracking the data. For tutorials on how to track behavioral data using Microsoft Excel, refer to this tutorial.

 

Conclusion:

As you can see, the RTI system will vary from school to school. However, the general principles remain the same. In each case, students are screened, academic problems are identified, then goals are set, interventions are implemented, and progress is tracked. For more information, listen to Melody Thompson’s NASP Podcast on the implementation of RTI.