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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation


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I was wondering if anyone's had a lot of success with the RTI model and tracking methods within their school, or school system? I am intersted to hear what everyone has to contribute, as I have heard great things, and terrible outcomes of the RTI process.

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Patricia Mullaney's picture

Boy, that sounds good to me. Our former model was to test pretty freely, which was nice because even if a child did not have that magic discrepancy, the teachers would have a great deal of information on the student anyway.

How RTI works in our district is this: the gen ed teacher believes that a child is struggling. Now, I'm not sure of the tiers but she starts an RTI file. She might talk to teachers on her grade level team but no one else is involved. Then, she will list interventions that she has tried and what the result was. Child moves to Tier 2 and process is repeated. She might have a meeting, if she is lucky, with the person in charge of RTI in our school. At this point (and probably at the end of the school year), the child is now Tier 3 and his/her folder moves with him/her to the next grade, where the new teacher basically continues this fruitless process.

There are 2 factors driving this useless process. 1. Our district was reprimanded about 4 years ago for having too many African-American males labeled as special ed. Our district is very porr and about 80% African American (AA). Many children grow up with poor nutrition, supervision and the possibility that they were exposed to drugs inutero. Not surprising that our numbers were a little skewed. 2. THE TEST. We don't want a special ed sub group because they will probably interfere with our ability to achieve AYP. Therefore, we use this wonderful new tool to avoid SpEd palcement.

I came to GA after teaching in Maine, California, and Maryland. I am appalled at what passes for special ed in this state, at least in our district.

KN's picture

Hi Patricia,
I came on here looking to see people's insight into RTI.

I am a school psychologist who works in a district that sounds similar to yours, as in make-up of students and SES level.

I'm sure those are not the only two factors, as RTI is really a federally backed idea. RTI, if done properly, SHOULD improve disproportionality and AYP in all subgroup areas. RTI came into effect, because special education is no longer "special." Especially in districts like yours and mine, when you have HUGE amounts of students receiving special education services. How is that special education? Those students don't make progress, because too many students are receiving special services and not the "individualized" intervention. If you look at the data regarding special education, students typically don't make the progress they made in general education once they enter special education. Expectations are lowered, students likely are not receiving the appropriate interventions to target their needs, there are many stigmas regarding the labels, and drop-out rates are extremely high with special education students, particularly in districts like yours and mine.

RTI is an INSTRUCTIONAL model, not a way to place students in special education. Only 5% of students SHOULD be in Tier 3, and only a few amount of those should be placed in special education. I highly recommend you to read "Tier 3 of the RTI Model" by Kathy McNamara and Sawyer Hunley. It is pretty dry and really written for school psychologists, but I think it does a great job of explaining Tier 3 of the RTI process. In a perfect world, students receiving Tier 3 interventions should only qualify for special education once they find the appropriate intervention to target their specific needs (since the old model never really identified the best intervention for student needs), AND if the tier 3 intervention is too intense to be carried out in the classroom and school day without an IEP.

As for the testing pretty freely, another reason RTI is a better option for districts like ours, is the fact that most of the tests we give can be culturally biased. Especially the good-old Wechsler scales...too verbal, too based on caucasian culture. RTI is a better way to identify and target these student needs.

I'm not sure of the situation in your district, but it does sound like you need some quality leadership. I am really one of the main people in my schools helping to implement RTI, and I am ALWAYS there to help. Instead of testing freely, I am there to really doing RTI. However, teachers don't want to always come to me or work with me, which is why Tiers don't always work well! Instead of trying to problem solve, teachers would rather complain about the process.

I would highly recommend that you work with your leader or even become a leader in the process! Join the RTI group if you have one! If you have concerns or ways to improve the process, I am sure they would love to have assistance. I know I would!

Good luck in your RTI journey!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think there's going to be a lot of things going on in the near future in terms of how Differentiating Instruction overlaps with RTI. If a teacher is presenting lessons and has a variety of ways in which students can demonstrate mastery, you can achieve a more individualized approach to a child's education, reaching them where they are in the developmental and learning process. I know my two children have had IEP and 504 plans, and often I feel that the plan ends up in the back of a drawer and often doesn't really become part of the classroom instruction, but DI strategies give a teacher a fighting chance to make the"promise of IEP's and 504's a reality.
Likewise, with RTI, using slightly different and perhaps more intensive methods (like Orton Gillingham for reading for kids struggling to learing the "code") can really help kids before necessitating a full blown IEP/special education intervention. This said, I think we should use more of testing not in a pure evaluation or grading mode, but in a diagnostic mode, and look for larger patterns in a student's learning over time.
Our district is starting to embrace learning portfoloios for students, so their work will travel with them from grade to grade, and provide more of this long term insight into their learning strengths and weaknesses, and provide information on how best help these students succeed. Now that simple things like wikis for each student are cheap and easily implemented, teachers can look across courses and see how a student is performing, helping to inform both instruction and interventions across the curriculum.

Explorator's picture

[quote]The first time I heard of RTI, I said "Here's a new way to keep kids from receiving services." And, that's exactly how it has worked in our district. Since it has been instituted, not one child has gone from 3rd tier to special ed. They are not receiving any support. We are required to "RTI" any child that we want to retain. No one understands it, it's a whole lot of extra work for gen ed teachers and sped teachers are not consulted for any suggestions on what interventions might work. I started work in this district 3 years ago and there was 20 people in the SpEd department. RTI was introduced that year. This fall, we will have about 8 people with SpEd responsibilities. This, despite the fact that we got about $500,000 in extra funds from the Feds in stimulus money just for special ed this past year.In my outrage, I started to do some research on RTI and when I learned the facts, I found out that it is a good program, if implemented properly. I wish that I could get my district to use it as it was intended, instead of a way to rid of the special ed sub group on our state test.Christine[/quote] It's overwhelming and just one of many programs not working. Too much of a good thing doesn't equal success.

Explorator's picture

Buy-in needs to be promoted through out the school. If it is not, there will be resistance across the board.

artzyone's picture

First off,let me start by saying that I know schools sytems in this country that have successfully implemented the RtI program, and I have worked in a few of them. However 6 years ago I moved to a new state that has very little support for the arts, music, PE, (specials, etc). They have started implementing the RtI program, and have done so during a time when the teachers have not had a raise in 3 years and most likely will not get one next year.
They knew they would be met with resistence when implementing this program because it will and does require "extra" work for the classroom teachers who are already consumed by massive amounts of work. To solve this dilema with the classroom teachers they have made art/music/PE/Tech/Library/etc part of this program. These specialists have been "asked" to give up 30 minutes of their planning time which ends up being A LOT more than 30 minutes when one takes into account that we are required to plan and design the lessons we are teaching the LARGE group of children sent to us during that 30 minutes. A small group of students who are "the identified targets" usually 3-6 students stay with the classroom teachers.
Those of us specialists who have been brazen enough to speak out against utilizing the specials like this, have been cut down and verbally scolded. Mind you all, I work in a "right to work state"now and there are no unions so there is very little support for the teachers and the voice of the teachers doesn't grow much larger than a harsh whisper.
I am a huge advocate for the arts and have been working quietly to bring this to the attention of our State Art Ed association as well as the National Art Ed Association, as the arts are also facing another big change here, mandating that children need more PE so they are going to begin cutting the arts and music programs in half to accommodate for this. We are bracing ourselves already for the possibility. We are already now losing 30 minutes of planning to RtI and then some, and now this is happening. We are not happy.

Nicole Olson's picture

In my school RtI seems to be a long drawn-out process. It only seems to be half way implemented. I think that it could be beneficial if implemented to its fullest degree with all the necessary resources. I currently have 4 students that I have taken to RtI and I haven't really found it to be successful for any of them. The team meets every six weeks to discuss and review how the interventions are working. I haven't found to any extent that any one of these students have had success from this program. Due to lack of time and available resources the students are not receiving the support they need to improve.
I do feel that RtI is moving in the right direction, but I feel there is a lot of confusion of interventions and who is going to complete them. This process seems to take to long and by the time a student gets the actual support that works for them they have fallen even farther behind. Making sure that everyone knows what RtI entails and that there are enough people and resources to implement the tasks could make the RtI process run smoother and be more affective.

Zoe Dell's picture

Hi im interseted in going into the field of special education is their any thing that you can tell me about what i should be infor in a few years.

Ashton's picture

I work in a district in Missouri that implements RTI in the school system. It is a huge part of what makes our students successful. Each week our Vice Principal meets with each grade level teachers and talks about where students are falling on the RTI model. The Vice Principal keeps records of student referrals which places them into the 3 categories for number of office referrals and what the referral was. This past fall, during a faculty meeting, teachers decided to implement the "check in-check out" program for the students that fell into the Tier 2 level. This method consists of the Special Education teacher meeting with students in the morning to make sure they start off to a positive day. Then they students check out at the end of the day and discuss concerns that they may have had and what they can do to change it the next day. This has shown great response with these students. Also, with RTI our school does not only look at special needs students, but all the students. Since the special education teachers were getting so many teacher referrals for students to be in special education classes because of behaviors, our school stresses that the general education teacher makes use of multiple intervention strategies before referring the student. Altogether, our school has a great system in place that helps our students go into a positive direction!

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