An RTI Guide to Improving the Performance of African American Students


Dwayne D. Williams

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  • Copyright


    This book is dedicated to Deshawn Williams, Malachai Ward, Jada and Jazmin Price, Dwayne II, and Noni Williams. This book is also dedicated to Evan and Ian Byrd, Leaoance Williams III, Harper T. Williams III, and Alexandra M. Paul. I want you all to know and remember that education is power.

    Your uncle, father, and friend, respectively

    Dwayne D. Williams

    A Note to the Reader

    As a school psychologist, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work at every level of the response-to-intervention (RTI) process—from providing consultation to teachers and working with students directly to qualifying students for special education services who did not respond to Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. I have been afforded the great experience to help shape an RTI model at the high school level, where I facilitated RTI meetings and chaired annual review and 3-year reevaluation meetings for students who qualified for special education services because they failed to respond to interventions. In addition to working at every level of the RTI process—from prevention to special education eligibility—I have dedicated every year of my professional career to studying culture within the context of education and RTI. In particular, I have studied and conducted research on characteristics that have been associated with African American culture and have put research to practice at both the primary and secondary levels.

    Throughout this book, I share my experiences working with students and parents of color, educators, and grade-level team members. I do not intend to leave readers with the belief that all students and parents of color will act similarly to the students and parents I have worked with or with the belief that all teachers will practice similarly to those discussed throughout this book. Practical stories and examples are shared within this work as opportunities to learn; they are intended to be used as case studies and teachable moments.

    This book is divided into three parts. Part 1 lays the foundation for understanding RTI and culture, including theory and science that support culturally relevant RTI models. Part 2 includes practical examples of working with students and parents of color at the primary through secondary levels; this section of the book details their concerns surrounding race relations and cultural differences they experienced within the classroom. The final part of this book—Part 3—brings all chapters together to provide concrete examples of how educators may increase engagement among African American students by implementing culturally relevant RTI models, including culturally relevant instruction. Part 3 shows how culturally relevant RTI models should look, starting at the Tier 1 level. While reading this book, it is important that readers remain cognizant of the variability that exists within and between all groups. No two people are exactly alike. No two people have the same worldviews. All people are different—even if they share cultural values, preferences, and interests—and just because a student is Black does not mean he or she will value characteristics that have been associated with African American culture. To ignore the research on variability that exists within and between all groups is to ignore the individuality among all people.


    I am grateful for the many minds who have labored over this work.

    I give honor to God for instilling a passion within me, a passion to research, write, and apply practices that address the needs of all students, including students who come from culturally diverse backgrounds. Without this passion, I would not have the motivation to research and write for hours at a time.

    To my wonderful wife, Toni Williams: I thank you for understanding the importance of this work and being patient with me throughout the writing process. I thank you for being patient with what seemed to be disorganization—my scattered papers, sticky notes, books, articles, and even napkins, which included ideas for this book that piled up in many places within our home.

    To my son, Dwayne D. Williams: You have inspired me by your imitation. When you put your suits on and act as if you are “teaching teachers” (as you call it) and writing and selling books—“just like your daddy”—you show me the impact of observational learning.

    To my daughter, Noni D. Williams: Thank you for helping me balance writing and playing. When you thought I spent enough time writing, you were sure to let me know that my writing time was up and that it was time to play some games. Thanks for helping me balance things out.

    To my mother, Mildred Mason: I thank you for your ongoing support and always reminding me of the source of my strength.

    To my father, Willie B. Williams, I thank you for the talks that you had with me during the writing process. I am most inspired by your passion to hear me present on this work and your encouraging words.

    To my brother, Lashawn Williams, and sister, Tabatha Price: I am always thankful for your love and support.

    To my stepfather, Mark Mason: I thank you for your encouraging words. I am inspired by your strength to encourage me. No matter what you experienced with your health, you had a word from the Lord for me, and I want you to know that I appreciate that.

    To editor Dan Alpert: I am grateful that you saw the need for RTI models that emphasize cultural diversity and were moved to work with me to get this book published.

    To editor Cesar Reyes: I thank you for assisting with this work and keeping me in the loop with the publication process.

    To the reviewers of this work: Thank you all for your feedback. Thanks for encouraging me to include more content about the basic principles of RTI. This book would not be what it is if it were not for your scrutiny and constructive feedback. Your questions, inquiries, and feedback made this edition much more detailed than the original edition. Thank you for your thoughts!

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the following reviewers:

    • Lydia Adegbola
    • Assistant Principal, NYC
    • Department of Education
    • Elmsford, NY
    • Julie Esparza Brown
    • Assistant Professor in Special Education, Portland State University
    • Portland, OR
    • Cindy Lawrence
    • Curriculum Coordinator/RTI Coordinator, Lumberton ISD
    • Lumberton, TX
    • Rufus Thompson
    • Retired Educator and Technology Coordinator, Independent Education Consultant
    • Fayetteville, NC
    • Velda Wright
    • Associate Professor, Lewis University
    • Romeoville, IL

    About the Author

    Dwayne D. Williams is a school psychologist, educational consultant, and certified success coach. He provides training to school districts on how to create culturally relevant educational models, including RTI models. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology (BA) from Fairmont State University; he earned a master’s degree in psychology (MA) and an Educational Specialist degree (EdS) from Marshall University Graduate College. Dwayne received training in the area of life coaching from Youth and Family Guidance, Inc. and received board-certified life coaching credentials through the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). Dwayne is the founder of Tier 1 Educational Coaching and Consulting Services—a firm that provides urban educational and psychological consultative services to stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, community leaders, and parents. Dwayne is a first-generation college graduate and is devoted to shedding light on the importance of integrating cultural activities and instruction in the classroom. He was raised in housing projects in Springfield, Illinois, and often speaks on the need to connect with families and community leaders from underrepresented backgrounds. Dwayne is married to Toni Williams, and together they have two beautiful children: Dwayne II and Noni Williams. Email Dwayne D. Williams at Website: Follow Dwayne on twitter: @dwaynedwilliams


    The purpose of this book is twofold: (1) to examine response to intervention (RTI) in the context of culturally relevant instruction and (2) to discuss how educators might incorporate an RTI model that fits the cultural needs of most African American students.

    RTI is a problem-solving model that emphasizes the importance of using scientifically based instruction and interventions to increase academic performance among all students (Brown-Chidsey & Steege, 2005). There is an array of research on culturally relevant instruction and RTI, but very few resources integrate culturally relevant pedagogy with the practice of RTI and other problem-solving models. To this end, my hope is that this book will encourage educators and researchers to collect data on culturally responsive activities in the classroom and to consider culturally relevant instruction and interventions prior to referring students for special education services.

    The process of providing education is as sociocultural as it is psychological and emotional. Although sociocultural factors play a significant role in academic achievement, the education system in America has paid little attention to the social aspect of culture that teachers transmit into their classrooms (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). This is unfortunate, considering a vast amount of research points to cultural discontinuity as a key contributor to academic disengagement among students of color. In place of sociocultural factors, schools in America focus primarily on cognitive and emotional factors that shape learning.

    An effective response-to-intervention model will not only ensure that educators and practitioners will research evidence-based instructions and interventions but will also identify cultural ethos within their classrooms; an effective RTI model will ensure that educators identify which students respond well to those cultural ethos and which students are unresponsive to those same cultural characteristics. Identifying cultural values within one’s classroom and determining which students respond well to those values fit perfectly within an RTI model. In fact, this is an example of problem solving based on a culturally responsive approach.

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