Across the country, states are taking similar approaches – often called a Response to Intervention (RTI) method – to address areas of weakness in student learning. While many of the overall goals are the same, in Tennessee, we have taken a unique RTI approach that we believe can make our states’ educators more effective.
Our approach is called RTI2: Response to Instruction and Intervention. Under RTI2, we use a few key strategies to make sure this method is the one that supports teachers and empowers them to improve students’ abilities.
1. Supporting strong, consistent implementation: Many states do not place a significant focus on fidelity of implementation. But in Tennessee, we do. Establishing a firm, consistent foundation helps all of us learn what strategies do and do not work. Through RTI2, we support universal screeners and progress monitoring screeners; aligned interventions; scheduling 30-45 minutes outside of core instruction; and using data/intervention teams to support both data-based decision-making and teachers.
These strategies help educators better identify any areas of weakness in a student and ensure the steps educators take in response will strengthen that particular skill and support the student’s overall growth.
2. Building on core instruction – not replacing it: We want to empower educators through a multi-tiered system that helps teachers differentiate instruction for all students and provide interventions for those with skill deficits. Importantly, in Tennessee, we are clear that intervention for certain students, including those with those with disabilities, is in addition to core instruction. Intervention is not a replacement.
Often in other states’ RTI implementation, students can be pulled from class and miss out on learning opportunities, instead of having a chance to develop their strengths and build on core classroom instruction.
That is the opposite of what we want to happen through RTI2.Instead, we want to give students supplemental moments in which to strengthen areas of weakness so they stay on track. We specifically have asked districts to schedule dedicated time outside of core instruction that can be spent intervening on a student’s specific area of weakness.
Additionally, interventions through RTI2 should be different than what happens during regular instruction, not just a part of a lesson that everyone receives or re-teaching of core instruction. Interventions should be specific to the student’s area of need and it must align to that need for growth to occur.
3. Using a variety of sources to drive data-based decisions: We encourage our educators in Tennessee to use multiple sources and inputs to determine if any interventions are needed, and if so, which ones. No one test should be the determining factor for an intervention.
4. Taking appropriate interventions for the right student: RTI2 is a path to providing instructional opportunity to any student struggling to succeed and should not be viewed as a path to special education eligibility. We believe that if an educator believes a student has a learning disability that they seek formal evaluation for that child.
5. Preventing learning gaps before they start: RTI2 is intended to be preventative and provide early intervention to help kids who may need additional support from falling off-track. It is not intended to only serve students who are behind.
RTI2 is specifically focused on providing instruction and intervention that is individualized to meet student need, and the goal is for the student to show growth so they do not require more intensive interventions.
6. Learning what works: We are actively engaged in a series of research efforts to identify best practices that will improve statewide implementation of RTI2 in Tennessee. For example, we are currently focused on learning from differences between schools that have “fully implemented” RTI2 but are seeing very different student results. We are specifically interested in the results in schools where they have implemented with fidelity. We will use these efforts to inform our own strategy and share findings across the state.
We believe overall RTI2 is the right approach. We have two years of survey data showing us that the majority of teachers in the state agree or strongly agree that RTI2 will benefit students. While we have not statistically measured RTI2 impact yet, we think there is anecdotal evidence, backed up by the survey findings, that indicates our educators feel RTI2 is beneficial.
That is important, because RTI2 is intended to help educators better understand where to focus their limited time and energy and give them flexibility to determine how to meet their students’ individual needs.
We want all schools in Tennessee to utilize evidence-based practices, instructionally relevant assessments, data-based decision making, and effective professional development in order to ensure the success of ALL students. RTI2 is a helpful tool for reaching that goal.