Sunday, February 10, 2013

Responsive Instruction (RtI)

            Words matter.  When I hear the phrase, “response to intervention,” I get hung up on the word intervention. Response to Intervention (RtI) refers to a framework for improving instruction.  The term gained notoriety in the re-authorization of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), when the concept of RtI was allowed (some might say encouraged or mandated) to be used as an alternative process for identifying students with specific learning disabilities.  I will not go into the components or research behind RtI, but I will recommend reading Fuchs & Fuchs (2006) or Fisher & Frey (2010) for additional background. 
            Back to the word “intervention.”  In an RtI framework, educators use assessment data to help improve education and supports for students.  The word “intervention,” unfortunately, has shaped the implementation of RtI. It is unfortunate, because RtI is often associated with struggling students, and RtI discussions typically revolve around ways of fixing students. Instead, we should be using the assessment data to have discussions about how to change instruction and learning in the regular classroom in order to reduce the number of students who are not meeting benchmarks.  We, as educators, need to shift the focus away from fixing students to fixing our instructional practices to engage more learners and meet their needs in the regular classroom.
            RtI should be about Responsive Instruction that monitors student progress, provides feedback to students, and differentiates in the regular classroom.  Instead of investing in pullout interventionists, schools should be investing in specialists and instructional coaches who “push-in” to classrooms in order to help teachers differentiate instruction, content, and processes for their students. 

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2010). Enhancing RTI: How to ensure success with effective classroom instruction and intervention. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Fuchs, D. and L. S. Fuchs (2006). "Introduction to Response to Intervention: What, why, and how valid is it?" Reading Research Quarterly, 41(1): 93-99.