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Response to Intervention: Improving achievement for all children

Sponsor: Spectrum K12 School Solutions

Response to Intervention is on almost every district’s agenda as a strategy for improving outcomes for all students. But many districts are only beginning their RTI implementations, and misperceptions persist about RTI ’s association with special education. Following are excerpts from presentations delivered at a District Administration web seminar on RTI, which was broadcast on Sept. 23, 2008 and sponsored by Spectrum K12.

Christy Chambers

Past president, Council of Administrators of Special Education

Why should we care about Response to Intervention?

There are a number of reasons. Under No Child Left Behind we certainly have heightened accountability. The great part of that is all our children count. However, we’ve also noted from measuring progress that we see achievement gaps too often, that our children with disabilities are not making the gains for which we planned and hoped. Under IDEA 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we saw that we have a new emphasis on being very concerned about disproportionate representation, which has been a concern for some time. We know now that we need to take a look at our populations and how they are represented in special education disability groups and address that.

We also know that there is a new emphasis on response to scientific, research-based interventions. And ultimately the reason we care is that we’re concerned about the progress and the growth that all children make. We know that all children can and do learn and that it is very important to intervene early so that we can increase our effectiveness and get better results for our children.

Alexa Posny

Kansas Commissioner of Education

How is RTI being used across the country?

The way we look at it is, first, it is an integrated intervention support system for any child. The child does not have to be labeled to be a part of this system. It provides intervention whenever the child needs it. It includes multiple tiers of support. It also reflects the clear continuum of increasingly intense research-based intervention as the child goes through the tiers, and it absolutely requires the ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness of the interventions provided.

What conditions must exist for RTI to be successful?

We’ve built a model in our state on a foundation of professional development. We know professional development is the number one concern, critically important to success. Another condition is the leadership, and I’m talking about leadership from general education. This is not a special education initiative. Yet another condition for success is that the process be based on data collected via multiple assessments across a period of time. And the last one is the empowering culture that allows people to do what’s right for children whenever they need it.

Mark Shinn

Professor of School Psychology, National Louis University

What is this thing that people call RTI?

The big RTI, which is really important for a lot of people, is the entitlement process for specific learning disabilities. It is a long-standing tradition in our field, but it is built around entitlement. But many of us are interested in what I call the little RTI. It’s a school improvement model that is designed to help us implement scientifically based instructional and behavioral interventions, carefully aligned to student needs and tied to database decision making.

We want to reduce the likelihood that this is a referral driven system that takes kids one at a time, with the conveyor belt moving through referral, paper, meetings, testing, meetings, placement, meetings, testing. Kids should be getting the services they need as soon as they need it. We don’t need to identify kids one at a time anymore. We don’t need to decide what they need one at a time anymore. And we certainly don’t need to deliver interventions one at a time anymore.

To view this web seminar in its entirety, please visit