• by Bradley Scott, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June – July 2008 •
The 10 regional equity assistance centers have been in conversation for more than a year about the reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Response to Intervention (RTI) process that is offered in the legislation as one of the ways to address the connection between general education and special education in public schools. The RTI process is clearly intended to be a strategy used in general education to provide evidenced-based interventions to learners in a three- or four-tiered system to serve those learners who present a greater challenge regarding school learning success before they become identified for placement in special education.
Implementation of RTI is intended to ensure that learners are not placed in special education before all possible resources are used in a focused way in general education to properly serve them and appropriately address their learning needs and characteristics. The inability of general education to provide such focused educational strategies, in part, accounts for the continued persistent inappropriate over-representation of minorities in special education.
The equity assistance centers began to identify some concerns about the strategy and its implementation and requested that I, as director of the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity (the equity assistance center that serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas), bring the concerns together in a white paper capturing precautions they felt should be considered as states and school districts implement RTI.
The RTI movement is now in full force. States and school districts are beginning to implement the process with varying levels of capacity to do so properly. The equity assistance centers see this as a possible problem that may have an unfair and potentially discriminatory impact upon students.
This article represents an abbreviated form of the white paper. Its content has been presented and vetted through the U.S. Department of Education, the Office for Special Education Programs (OSEP) and all of the technical assistance centers connected with the U.S. Department of Education, including the regional comprehensive centers, the regional parent centers, and the OSEP technical assistance and dissemination providers, for review, comment and feedback. Their input has been integrated, and the excerpt provided here is the result of that effort. The entire document can be accessed through the IDRA SCCE web site and in Newsletter Plus for local use, including training. Readers should feel free to call upon the IDRA SCCE for technical assistance and training on the principles and precautions described in the document.
The nation’s 10 equity assistance centers (EACs) are committed to the successful implementation of the Response to Intervention (RTI) frame at the state and local levels. It is clear to us that successful implementation of RTI will require an approach that is other than “business as usual.” The EACs believe that business as usual historically has led to the over-representation of minorities in special education, the persistence of the achievement gap, the continuance of various systemic and individual acts of discrimination, and the impact of de facto segregation of students resulting from certain educational policies and practices that are still evident in our nation’s public schools.
It is clear to us that business as usual cannot and should not continue to go on. The Response to Intervention process is intended to change business as usual.
We offer 11 conditions we believe must be in place for RTI to be successful. To that end, we list and discuss these conditions as recommendations and precautions that must receive attention to ensure that RTI does not become an ineffective response to a serious education concern for thousands of learners in our nation’s schools.
Recommendation 1 – Ensure the Creation and Implementation of an Equity Context.
Precaution: Institutions must work to create an equity context in order to produce new regularities out of which may arise new practices. If the old context has produced achievement gaps, disproportionality, discrimination and segregation, one should not expect new practices to come from these old contexts and habits.
Recommendation 2 – Commit to High Achievement for All Learners Regardless of Race, Gender and National Origin.
Precaution: Failure to implement a goal of equitable outcomes for all learners, including minority, linguistically different, male/female, low-income and disabled learners, and adherence to a principle of educational responsiveness to different characteristics will only produce more of the same.
Recommendation 3 – Commit to Real Access and Inclusion.
Precaution: Failure to implement a goal of equitable access and inclusion for all learners will only produce more of the same. Schools must commit to a principle of educational responsiveness to different characteristics.
Recommendation 4 – Commit to Equitable Treatment.
Precaution: Failure to implement a goal of equitable treatment for all learners, including minority, linguistically different, male/female, low-income and disabled learners, and adherence to a principle of educational responsiveness to different characteristics will only produce more of the same.
Recommendation 5 – Commit to a Real Opportunity to Learn for Every Student.
Precaution: Failure to implement an equitable opportunity to learn for all learners, including minority, linguistically different, male/female and low-income learners, and adherence to a principle of educational responsiveness to different characteristics will only produce more of the same.
Recommendation 6 – Commit to Rethink and Redirect Resources to Support Students’ Continual Learning Improvement at Each Tier.
Precaution: Failure to implement an equitable distribution of resources for all learners, including minority, linguistically different, male/female, low-income and disabled learners and adherence to a principle of educational responsiveness to different characteristics will only produce more of the same.
Recommendation 7 – Ensure All Stakeholders are Jointly Accountable for the Appropriate Implementation of RTI and the Continual Learning Improvement of All Learners.
Precaution: Failure to implement an equitable, shared accountability regarding the success of all learners, including minority, linguistically different, male/female, low-income and disabled learners and adherence to a principle of educational responsiveness to different characteristics will only produce more of the same.
Recommendation 8 – Create Criteria and Set Interventions at the Right Tier Level to Avoid Confusion.
Precaution: Failure to establish and ensure that teachers and other professionals know what truly constitutes a Tier I, II or III evidenced-based intervention is critical. Otherwise, professionals may label an intervention Tier II when it is nothing more than regular instruction provided with a different instructional strategy rather than a different level of intervention.
Recommendation 9 – Provide Special and Immediate Professional Development to Prepare General Education Teachers to Properly Implement RTI Interventions.
Precaution: Failure to significantly train and prepare general education teachers for the RTI implementation will seriously decrease the likelihood that the innovation will stick, be efficacious or produce the desired result. Teachers will engage students out of their habit and that habit in many respects has created the current situation for diverse populations.
Recommendation 10 – Take Immediate Steps to Properly Certify Teachers to Serve English Language Learners and Ensure the Use of Scientific, Research-based Interventions Identified for English Language Learners.
Precaution: Failure of districts to ensure the proper preparation of general education teachers, including their bilingual certification or English as a second language (ESL) endorsement, particularly for core content teachers, reading specialists and other educators working with English language learners, could easily produce the effect of teachers being unable and unqualified to give English language learners the proper support they need to succeed.
Recommendation 11 – Inform and Engage Parents in Every Aspect of the RTI Implementation Process and Sustain Transparency Regarding the Interventions.
Precaution: Failure to attend to parent engagement, involvement and participation in the RTI process at every level in communicative ways that parents and guardians can understand will disenfranchise parents, truncate their right and authority to protect their children’s rights to a fair and equitable education, and jeopardize the success of RTI implementation.
To see the full document, “Issues Paper – Response to Intervention: An Equity Perspective,” visit http://www.idra.org/equity-assistance-center/response-to-intervention/.
Bradley Scott, Ph.D., is a senior education associate in the IDRA Field Services and directs the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following article originally appeared in theJune – July 2008 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]