Monthly Archives: May 2010

13. RTI Success

A notice by Lexia Learning Systems, headquartered in Concord, Massachusetts, lays out the advantages of its computer software program to enhance literacy acquisition. “To boost the performance of struggling readers and improve reading proficiency for all students, more than 700 schools and districts in Illinois have turned to the Lexia Reading® software program.”

The system promotes early intervention to prevent later reading problems. It is technology based. Students use computers to work independently on over 900 activities.

At Walter S. Christopher Elementary School, Principal Mary McAloon reports wide applications of Lexia Reading for struggling children with different needs:

“McAloon notes that Lexia Reading’s data reporting features make a significant impact, helping with writing IEP goals, organizing reading groups, collecting information for Response to Intervention (RTI) and planning meaningful differentiated instruction.”

McAloon says the children love their time on Lexia. “It is rare that a teacher ever has to bring them back to task. Furthermore, they willingly come before school starts and stay after school to work on the program. That’s what gets me excited about the future in education — engaging students, challenging students, and helping students succeed.”


12. RTI Success

Anne Brown, writing for the Morning Sun (Michigan) in 2010, reports on the use of RTI in Isabella County Schools. Not all Michigan schools are required to use RTI but here it is already producing good results along several lines.

Principal Phyllis Hall reported an RTI-like program has been in place for five years: “Hall said four years ago, 17 students were held back. The following year there were 11, then four, and last year only one student had to repeat a grade.”

The three tier method is followed. “At Shepherd Middle School, RTI methods are used to keep as many students in tier I as possible.” Teachers observe and test to see if they are keeping up. Emphasis is placed on homework completion.

The theme of prevention of learning problems and special education placement comes through loud and clear. The goal is to keep struggling children in the classroom with adjustments to help them keep pace. Special education children also spend as much time in the regular classroom as possible.

“Assessments occur at all grade levels, and help faculty and staff to intervene immediately so the learning gap doesn’t get so big that the student qualifies for special education, when they may not have if the learning issues were caught and addressed earlier.”

11. RTI Success

Gary Henry, writing for the Paris-Beacon News in 2010, reports on an RTI program in Hume, Illinois, at the Newman Grade School. Hume is a town with less than 400 residents. The RTI program is mandated. It is for struggling students who are falling behind their peers but should not go immediately to special education. The focus will be on reading.

The Shiloh Board of Education received a progress report on what the Newman Grade School curriculum committee was doing to implement RTI. “The Shiloh School District is organized by attendance centers and all of the district’s prekindergarten through second grade students are taught at Newman.” Progress evaluation is supported by online testing.

Final plans will be made over the summer.

10. RTI Success

Frank Mand, writing for GateHouse News Service in 2010, reports on RTI funding at Carver School, Mass. Regular classroom teachers and other personnel had to be laid off but enthusiasm for the School’s RTI program lead to the retention of staff, according to Superintendent Elizabeth Sorrell:

‘The professional staff was also adamant, Sorrell said, that no cuts be made that would affect the school-wide “Response to Intervention” reading initiative. Since the RTI program was established in Carver, reading and comprehension scores at all levels have made “gigantic strides,” according to Sorrell. At the elementary level, students reading at grade level have risen from 25 to 78 percent since the RTI programs began…So there will not be a reduction in reading specialists and support staff.”

9. RTI Success

Donyelle Kesler, writing for the Las Cruces Sun-News (2010) in New Mexico, features a cooperative program between New Mexico State University and Hatch Middle School using RTI. The focus of the reading program developed is struggling English-language learners, pupils who speak Spanish as their first language.

“When working with a struggling student whose first language is not English, it is always difficult to determine whether the student is struggling because of an innate language-learning disability or whether the struggle is due to the language difference…When students still learning English do not test at the levels expected for their grade rank, they may be placed into special education programs instead of getting the help they really need.”

The RTI three tier approach is used. Tier 3 pupils receive the special education curriculum. Emphasis is given to reading, phonological awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Teachers and Title 1 teachers must develop schedule flexibility.

“We have seen the schoolwide average reading scores go up one level and English language learners increased more within six months of using the program,[Pauline] Staski said. When we look at a bell curve of the data, we see fewer students lost ground and more students gained ground under this program.”


English language learners across the U. S. tend to be over-identified for special education.

8. RTI Success

Kassia Micek writing in The Courier of Montgomery County (Texas) 2010 highlights RTI success in The Willis Independent School District for special-needs children. The program was presented to the Board of Trustees Workshop. The first effort is to begin at the middle school. It takes up to five years to fully establish RTI.

Both IDEA and No Child Left Behind prompted early efforts to start an RTI program. The District is ahead of most districts. RTI will likely be mandated by the Texas Education Agency.

The programs operates in three tiers. “Tier one includes 100 percent of students and is included in the general classroom education. Tier two includes 15-20 percent of students and is where students are pulled out for additional instruction three times per week. In tier three, which affects around 5 percent of students, the intensity, frequency and class size is increased…”

There is a research basis for RTI programming: “They’ve been doing this in the northern states for 20-25 years” … “This is something that has statistics to show that it works….”

7. RTI Success

REL West (Regional Education Laboratories, U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, 2009) conducted a survey of RTI policies and procedures employed in selectedstates. A table 3 presents an overview of how nine states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington) conformed to eight programmatic concerns.

No state addressed all eight concerns. Three states addressed six, and one four. Of the 73 cells in table, 41 (64%) were filled. Progress in the nine states was uneven, suggesting considerable discretion as to how RTI was being organized. (There is no federal mandate for RTI.)

All nine states were “promoting general education ownership” of RTI. The table format excluded special education as a concern. “…while state respondents highlighted as accomplishments progress in training and technical assistance, cross-discipline collaborative efforts, and framing RTI as a general education initiative (as opposed to one exclusively for identifying students with spe­cific learning disabilities), they also acknowledged some of these areas as ongoing concerns…”

“In four states—Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, and Washington—respondents described special and general education depart­ments as sharing responsibility.”

“Two states deliberately excluded the term RTI in naming their initiatives, according to respondents, to avoid its association with special education and to foster broader application.”

Only 4 states were “incorporating student diversity” into their RTI programs. “In implementing RTI policy, as with any other educa­tion reform or policy, states need to con
sider the di­verse needs of students.”

“New Mexico is the only study state whose documents explicitly identify the tier III intervention as a special education intervention, implemented as part of the student’s individualized education program.”

Six states were “ensuring personnel capacity.” Related services were not mentioned.

As to aims for special education, “Respondents indicated that evaluation efforts should contain outcome data on student achievement and referrals to special education. Respondents for all nine states mentioned student achievement outcome data as a potential focus for evaluating their RTI processes. Seven state respondents cited a reduction in special education referrals as an anticipated impact of RTI. However, respondents from four of these states noted that reducing the number of referrals was not a state goal of RTI; rather, the goal was to clarify the ac­curacy and efficiency of the referrals. “


The REL West survey indicated state-wise progress in rolling out RTI. Demonstrated was a wide variety of philosophies, policies and procedures applied under the RTI umbrella. Discretion is far ranging. Considering the IDEA-2004 purpose of reducing special education over-identification through RTI, general educators appeared to be moving in another direction, taking control of RTI and converting it into remedial programs. Preventing the over-identification of special needs children was not a priority.

2. RTI and Speech-Language Pathology

Writing in 2010, over two-thirds of the American schools are setting up RTI programs (cf. 1. RTI and Speech-Language Pathology), and activities are moving forward at a steady rate. How do SLPs fit into this picture? Is there a niche for them?

Policy information suggests SLP placement in RTI protocols is absent. For example, the U. S. Department of Education has issued a Guide for response to intervention. It turns out a wide range of personnel are candidates for participation but the Guide does not not indicate who should be on the team (c.f. 6 RTI Success).

The Guide does not spell out participation in critical interface Tier 3. One would expect related service staff to show up on the list of important figures to review performance data leading to Tier 2 replacement, continuation in Tier 3, or referral to special education. The Guide does indicate Tier 3 is weak in conceptualization, procedural detail and research support (c.f. 6 RTI Success).

From another source we learn there is no identified role for SLPs as RTI team managers. “There are no set guidelines as to who organizes collaborative school programs such as RTI and early intervention. School administrators, curriculum directors, psychologists and special education directors are vying for leadership roles, helter-skelter. In some instances district superintendents play a central organizational role and should. Related services personnel are largely left out in the cold because they are thought to be clinical specialists rather than program-design specialists” (cf. 1. RTI and Speech-Language Pathology).

A REL West study of RTI progress in nine states indicated that RTI is being lead by general education leaders rather than special education leaders (cf. 7. RTI Success). RTI is associated with IDEA 2004 but it is not a dominant component. State-by-state development is uneven, and pupil diversity is not a significant concern. An overriding purpose of RTI is to cut down on the over-identification of learning disabled children. “Two states deliberately excluded the term RTI in naming their initiatives, according to respondents, to avoid its association with special education and to foster broader application.”

With reference to Tier 3, “New Mexico is the only study state whose documents explicitly identify the tier III intervention as a special education intervention, implemented as part of the student’s individualized education program.” The report gives many reasons why special education is not central to the process now.


In spite of the fact that RTI is associated with IDEA 2004 with mandates to reduce the number of at-risk children over-identified for special education, RTI is being shaped by general education leadership creating separate remedial pathways. Little leadership is coming from special education, especially to articulate the need for Tier 3 precision in support of eligibility decision-making and staff utilization. Related services personnel are invisible in the process though their clinical teaching skills are refined and relevant for applications to Tiers 2 and 3.

There is an historical pattern of segregating special education from the flow of school organization dating back to the times of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Tier 3 “struggling students” are likely to be taught by special education teachers with or without eligibility determinations. Tier 3 children are the ones regular teachers do not want in their classrooms. Such an outcome represents no change at all in what is being done now.

Learning a few differential teaching techniques for Tier 1 involves less effort than intensive Tier 3 one-on-one direct instruction throughout the week.

14. “Struggling Students”

The National Education Association of the United States has 3.2 million-members. Members “…are the voice of education professionals. Our work is fundamental to the nation, and we accept the profound trust placed in us” (NEA).

The NEA has endorsed recommendations for the “Overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).” Since enactment of ESEA, NEA has provided input to the ACT. NEA joins with 149 other national organizations to comment on the reauthorization of ESEA:

“We endorse the use of an accountability system that helps ensure all children, including children of color, from low-income families, with disabilities, and of limited English proficiency, are prepared to be successful, participating members of our democracy.”


Over-emphasis of standardized testing
Narrow instruction focused on testing skills
Over-identification of schools needing improvement
Sanctions against failing schools
Exclusion of low-scoring children to boost test results
Inadequate funding of ESEA


Improve measurement by charting growth
Build capacity by improving personnel training
Replace sanctions with improvement determination
Improve funding of the ACT

“The American public and educators agree with the need for changes. According to the 2007 Gallup Poll for Phi Delta Kappan magazine, eight out of 10 Americans believe that teaching to the test is a bad thing. The 2008 poll found that 42 percent of the public believes NCLB “should be changed significantly” and another 25 percent support allowing the law to expire. Only 16 percent of the public believes the law should be extended without change. A June 2006 poll of NEA members found that almost 70 percent disapprove of NCLB, and 85 percent believe there is too much reliance on standardized testing.”

13. “Struggling Students”

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) has submitted its “Principles for the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” “The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is a coalition of nearly 100 national consumer, advocacy, provider and professional organizations headquartered in Washington, D.C.”

CCD supports the idea that disabled pupils should reach graduation “career ready” and “college ready.” Within the framework of ESEA, the right to an appropriate public education must be ensured.

General and special education must be prepared to teach grade-level content and create a positive learning climate. They must “…select and implement evidence-based instruction, and modify curriculum and assessment using principles of universal design for learning to meet the needs of diverse learners.” There should be early targeted instruction, which can include response to intervention.

Integration of instruction and services — “…mental health services, assistive technology, specialized instructional support services, and adequate nutrition” — must work to eliminate barriers to learning.

“State, district and classroom based assessments must utilize the principles of Universal Design for Learning to ensure that all students – including those with disabilities – can meaningfully demonstrate their knowledge and skills, thereby providing a more accurate understanding of student academic performance for evaluation by educators, families and policymakers.”

Growth models if applied of assessment should be used with all students.

IEP progress in the general curriculum should not be used to determine school accountability.

Families should be included in school policy formulation and decision-making.