RTI: A Practitioner's Guide to Implementing Response to Intervention


Daryl F. Mellard & Evelyn Johnson

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    Response to intervention (RTI) is gaining momentum as a school-wide framework for improving students' outcomes; an increasing number of resources describe RTI. The purpose of this text is to provide practical guidance on implementing an RTI framework within a school. Developing and implementing RTI is not a one-shot, quick-fix activity. It involves important social, technical, and practical considerations. As state education agencies, school districts, and school staffs develop and implement RTI, this text will provide a framework for understanding the components, procedures, practices, and criteria that are reflected in research. We believe that the most significant issues that implementers confront are not technical but social. Successful implementation requires ensuring a fit with the personal views, interaction patterns, and contextual features of a school's climate. The text's guidance will help with those decisions that support RTI within the varied contexts of states' and schools' policies and practices.

    Clarifying our perspective in writing this text is important. As described in Chapter 1, RTI can serve three distinct applications: screening and prevention, early intervention, and disability determination. Within this text, we emphasize RTI in a general education setting for prevention and early intervention of students' learning difficulties. Strong evidence supports the RTI components and principles to improve instruction and related student outcomes. The research does not, to date, support the use of RTI as an exclusive component to disability determination. However, the research foundation may be used in incorporating RTI as one component of disability determination. As such, RTI provides documentation that the student has received appropriate and high-quality instruction in the general classroom, but more thorough assessment is required to determine the nature and extent of the student's disability if a special education referral is made.

    The suggestions and guidance presented are drawn extensively from the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD) research. Like many areas of education, research and understanding of areas related to RTI continue to expand at incredible rates. In recognition of this expanding knowledge, rather than recommending specific curricula or assessment tools, or both, that may quickly become outdated or limited in scope, we have attempted to capture the salient features, characteristics, and principles on which research-based RTI models are based. Understanding these principles may help a school make decisions as new curricula, screening measures, progress monitoring systems, and intervention tools are developed. We intend for schools to find the information useful as they begin their RTI model development and implementation.

    The information is organized into nine chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 provide an overview of the RTI framework, as well as the policies and legislation that support its implementation. Chapters 3 through 8 are devoted to explaining the particular components of a three-tiered RTI model: Schoolwide Screening, Progress Monitoring, Tier 1: General Education, Tier 2: Intervention, Tier 3: Special Education, and Fidelity of Implementation. Within each of these chapters, you will find definitions, features, implementation guidance, case studies, and resources to facilitate your understanding and planning. Finally, Chapter 9 summarizes what is currently known about RTI and offers concluding thoughts on implementation.


    This work would not have been possible without significant contributions from many professionals in the field, including our colleagues at the NRCLD: Don Deshler, Doug Fuchs, Lynn Fuchs, Don Compton, Dan Reschly, Barbara Starrett, Melinda McKnight, Julie Tollefson, Sonja de Boer, and Sara Byrd; Lou Danielson and Renee Bradley from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP); the school staffs from Jefferson Elementary School in Pella, Iowa, Tualatin Elementary in Tualatin, Oregon, Rosewood Elementary School in Vero Beach, Florida, and Northstar Elementary School in Knoxville, Iowa. Finally, we acknowledge the editorial work of Kirsten McBride, whose talents in translating jargon, obfuscations, and other confusions into meaningfully connected prose are incredible and are greatly appreciated.

    The grant from Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education (Award #324U010004) that funded the NRCLD helped support the research underlying this book. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of OSEP.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the following reviewers for their contributions to this book:

    • John La Londe
    • Director
    • Marin Special Education Local Plan Area
    • San Rafael, CA
    • Roger Piwowarski
    • School Psychologist
    • Harrison School District Two
    • Department of Special Programs
    • Colorado Springs, CO
    • Sancta Sorensen
    • Special Education and Pre-Algebra Teacher
    • Monroe Middle School
    • Omaha, NE
    • Karen L. Tichy
    • Associate Superintendent for Instruction
    • Catholic Education Office
    • St. Louis, MO

    About the Authors

    Daryl F. Mellard, PhD (University of Kansas), began his career in school psychology. Since 1982, Dr. Mellard has been a research associate within the Center for Research on Learning and the Division of Adult Studies. He is the director of the Division of Adult Studies, which includes a professional staff of 12 and approximately 35 student research assistants. The Division's work examines policies and practices that limit the abilities of adults with disabilities to fully participate in society's everyday activities.

    He has been the principal investigator of research and evaluation studies. Dr. Mellard's current projects address assessment and services to children and youth with learning disabilities, reading comprehension, and adult literacy. Dr. Mellard is one of the principal investigators with the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD) (http://nrcld.org) that examined the identification of learning disabilities, including the application of responsiveness to intervention. Dr. Mellard directed the NRCLD staff in their review of RTI as implemented in numerous elementary school settings. Dr. Mellard also directed research on social, education, and employment issues for adults with disabilities. These projects involved consumers, employers, and staff in community and technical colleges, independent living centers, vocational rehabilitation, One-Stop Career Centers, and adult education and literacy programs.

    Additionally, as a service to the state of Kansas, Dr. Mellard served as a co-chair to the Kansas Coalition on Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities. This work group was formed to coordinate the efforts of education, corrections, rehabilitation, human resources, and businesses in meeting the needs and legal requirements of individuals with disabilities. Contributing to his views on adults with disabilities and their services, for the past six years Dr. Mellard has served as an officer on a board of directors' for the local independent living center.

    Evelyn Johnson, EdD (Boise State University), was a research associate for the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD) (http://nrcld.org) until August 2007, at which time she began work as an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho. She began her career in Washington in 1994 as a special education teacher, and then at the University of Washington, Seattle, where her research focused on the inclusion of students with disabilities in accountability systems. Dr. Johnson's work on assessment for students with disabilities has included research on accommodations and alternative assessments, as well as investigations on literacy assessment. She worked for the NRCLD from 2003 to 2007, during which time she developed numerous technical assistance products to assist state and local educational agencies on RTI and learning disability identification-related issues.

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