In my first post on Response to Intervention (RTI), I provided a brief introduction to this framework. In summary, Response to Intervention (RTI) is a strategy geared towards students who face learning challenges. The premise behind “interventions” is to ensure that students receive the supports they need so that the gaps in learning are not exacerbated. A significant portion of the RTI process is for educators to support struggling students by using instructional interventions that are rooted in research and have proven to be effective. Many of these interventions surround reading but there are methods that can support students with writing and mathematics. The interventions are based on ongoing assessment and evaluation and are: (a) intentional, (b) formalized, and (c) fluid. Intention refers to defining learning goals and success criteria based on the learning needs, formalized means identifying timelines (e.g., the intervention will be six weeks, two months, etc), and fluid refers to regularly checking in to see if any changes need to be made (e.g., additional strategies, longer timeframes, increased support, etc). For example, Jake is in Grade Four and has challenges related to reading. He receives 30 minutes of instructional support three times a week and every week his progress is monitored and adjustments are made if necessary. Data collected through assessments is indicating he is not progressing as he should be so support might increase to four times a week and he could start using text-to-speech software.
It is important to keep in mind that RTI should not be seen as providing students with “extra help” nor as a special education program. Instead, as mentioned, it is using proven research methods to implement a specific program or set of meaningful and relevant steps to address the academic needs of students. Using RTI can certainly help with identifying which students might require Special Education support because now there is documentation over a period of time demonstrating their difficulties with learning. Therefore, data from RTI can support students to receive an IEP.
Before exploring or deciding whether to use RTI with a student or group of students, it is imperative to ensure that relationships with students are being built at the start of the year. Here are some points to ponder:
- Are you getting to know your students through Interest Inventories?
- Are you getting to know your students through Identity Maps?
- Are you getting to know your students through games and class/team challenges?
- Are you connecting with families and having conversations about their child’s strengths, affinities, and needs?
- Do you have culturally responsive materials and resources in your classroom that represent the diversity of your students?
- Are you integrating their affinities, lived experiences, and identities via the curriculum?
Not considering these questions may lead to student disengagement due to the fact that their strengths and interests are not being incorporated into whole class instruction, which can lead to unnecessary interventions. In addition, issues might arise when students are not identified accurately or are assessed using unreliable and invalid data. Furthermore, RTI can be viewed as political in terms of using it to stream kids to Special Education programs. By using research-based instructional practices and strategies that do not take into consideration their background, experiences, and identities, students will not progress and they will continue to be “misidentified” and achievement gaps will continue to widen due to the fact that many of these programs are inequitable and inaccessible for our marginalized communities.
Instead of implementing narrow and restrictive intervention methods, it is important that districts and schools enhance the quality of instruction happening in classrooms to reflect the student diversity in their classrooms.
Dr. Shelly Vohra is an educator, coach, and consultant. Dr. Vohra teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in Technology and Mathematics as well as working with students who are learning English. She holds an M.Ed in Adult Education & Distant Learning and a Ph.D. in Educational Technology. Dr. Vohra has over 20 years of experience in education (K-12) teaching various subject areas. Dr. Vohra has written several courses related to Indigenous Education, Multilingual Learners, and Mathematics. Most recently, she was on a writing team that revised the Science Curriculum (K-8) for Ontario. She has presented at various conferences in Canada and the U.S.A. Dr. Vohra’s work includes designing learning experiences for students through an integrated curriculum lens that combines inquiry with equity. Her research interests include social media in education and blended learning, Dr. Vohra is currently writing a book on her journey. You can find her blog at https://techdiva29.wordpress.com/. Her website will also be launching in late Fall. You can also follow her on Twitter @raspberryberet3 and on Instagram @elevate_ed_21.