Interview with a Special Educator, June 2016
I corresponded with a reading specialist in the states about ‘Response to Intervention.’ She shared with me some of her insights involving how the system works and what it takes to get students the help they need. Although RTI was originally a special education term, it has broadened to include all educational framework and generally monitoring student progress.
The first step of the RTI process is identifying a student in need of assistance. Typically, the classroom teacher will notice a student is ‘[failing] to complete their work, even with teacher help. They might be complaining that it is too hard or they may act out in order to avoid the work. Sometimes they rush through it.’ But that presumption requires data in addition to the teacher’s recommendation. Referred to as ‘Tier One’ by the RTI Action Network, that data is obtained through the results of standardized testing and periodical screenings. More data is obtained as needed, such as through curriculum-based measurement and progress monitoring, and then interviews are scheduled with the student’s legal guardians (What is RTI). There are different models for identifying students needing support. The specialist’s district used ‘a discrepancy model [to] look for strengths and weaknesses in testing.’ However, other models exist such as problem-solving models, functional assessment models, and blended models that cobble aspects of each model together (Approaches to RTI).
A number of educators and peers are involved in the process. These advocates for special needs include the ‘[classroom] teacher, [special education] teacher, school psychologist, speech teacher, and testing coordinator.’ In addition, the principal and vice principal oversee the entire process. Although the teacher remains firmly in the center of the circle of support, it is ever-expanding to include other educators such as speech-language pathologists, counselors, other teachers, other administrators, volunteers, and paraprofessionals (Frequently Asked Questions). There are layers of redundancy and collaboration to ensure the student receives the best possible support available. The parents or legal guardians must grant permission for the process to begin and have the power to stop it at any time; they also have input in the construction of Individualized Education Plans for their child.
The students selected for further review move into Tier Two and Tier Three as the need grows, and a variety of provisions are made for their success. They receive individualized instruction based on the identified nature of their disability, taking into account teacher and parent input. Only about 15% of students identified through RTI ever require supplemental education through Tier Two, and less than 5% through Tier Three (Response To Intervention). It seems that RTI’s initial tier is capable of meeting the needs of most special needs students, suggesting that teacher and parent intervention plays a strong role in the performance of a child and their educational growth. Students who move to Tier Three have the option to return to Tier Two if higher tier intervention techniques are successful and escalation is no longer required.
As I mentioned in my reflection for activity one, the future of special education is inclusion of special needs students into the general student body, allowing them to experience average school life. Advancements in technology like online translators, speech-to-text, and video conferencing with specialists make accomplishing this easier for children with disabilities. There are now smartphone apps for the blind, smart readers to convert digital files into audio files, and environmental control systems. Not all school districts have funding for the most advanced assistive technologies, but it appears that there is a demand for these products, since even underfunded schools have things like promethean boards, microphone systems, and chromebooks for text-to-speech. As RTI becomes more widespread, usage of assistive technologies will only increase, prompting greater innovation and wider accessibility for students and educators.
Response to Intervention seems to be a successful program that relies on a tried-and-tested process accessible to all levels of those people invested in a student’s welfare. It avails itself of multiple means and methods and is tailored to respond to the student’s individual and immediate needs. Its very existence will continue to increase awareness of disability and special needs in the classroom. In the future I predict it will be adopted outside of the states and become even more useful as it is integrated globally, or it will lead to innovation and spur the development of a better program. In either case, students everywhere will benefit.
What is RTI? (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.rtinetwork.org/learn/what/whatisrti
Approaches to RTI. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.rtinetwork.org/learn/what/approaches-to-rti
Response To Intervention Explained | Special Education Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.specialeducationguide.com/pre-k-12/response-to-intervention/
Response to Intervention Frequently Asked Questions - About RTI - Response To Intervention (RTI) - A Rhode Island Technical Assistance Project (RITAP) Site. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.ritap.org/rti/about/faq.php