Myths: Response To Intervention

To The Reader’s Forum:

I recently read an editorial in this newspaper regarding common core standards and Response to Intervention (RtI) that compelled me to try to dispel some misinformation. While the authors of the editorial are undoubtably passionate and well-intentioned, some of the information seems misleading. For the past two years I have worked as a school psychologist in a school with a free or reduced lunch rate of 98 percent and one of the highest violent crimes rate in the state of Colorado. Due to high quality instruction aligned to common core standards along with excellent faculty who use RtI effectively, our school went from being on the state’s “at-risk” list to celebrating 90 percent of our third grade students meeting or exceeding state standards in reading (on multiple measures!) in just two years. It was incredible to witness.

RtI is, simply put, a process which requires educators to have data to support academic or behavioral interventions. Interventions during RtI must have a research base (in other words, they must be proven to work by peer-reviewed journals). When used appropriately, educators implement interventions that target a specific skill deficit, and simultaneously collect data. If a student does not learn or improve his or her behavior despite interventions that have been proven to work with other students, then we have a responsibility to try a different one. If a student does not respond to three sequential, research-based interventions, then he or she might be a candidate for special education services. Prior to being qualified for special education, however, the district is already providing research-based interventions.

In the article I read, the authors appeared to be equating RtI to using behaviorism, which includes some very effective behavior modification techniques such as classical conditioning. However, RtI is not limited to behaviorism. It is intended to target any specific area of academic concern, which could include academic, emotional, or attention difficulties. Additionally, the authors of the article were concerned that students “will be subjected to an experimental program without protection from parents or guardians.” This should not be the case. If a child is receiving an intervention that is different from those that are being provided to other students, parents should be informed and should provide consent. I have yet to witness a parent refuse to consent to his or her struggling child getting more help.

I share the concerns of author of “Common Core is Not a Great Idea” in the sense that practitioners may not have adequate training. If implemented incorrectly RtI could serve as a barrier to special education services, and could waste valuable learning time. As implemented in my experience, it has looked like: effective academic interventions happening faster, a way to celebrate academic successes and identify students of need, and a way to prioritize the allocation of intervention services. As far as common core standards go, I am not familiar with New York State standards, but I do support the idea that communities should agree upon what is being taught and hold teachers responsible. Good teachers can teach common core standards and also integrate critical thinking skills, and I have been lucky enough to have witnessed that in action.

Bess Raynor