On Apr 28, 2022
A Fireside Chat with Rutherford County: Best Practices to Scale Response to Intervention (RTI) Strategies
Dr. Julie Alonzo, professor at the University of Oregon and the lead author of easyCBM, sat down with Rutherford County School District leaders to explore some best practices in scaling effective Response to Intervention (RTI) systems – a critical topic in classrooms and schools today as educators wrestle with the lingering learning challenges presented by COVID-19. In this post, Dr. Alonzo shares a brief history of Response to Intervention, the need RTI fills, the potential it offers our students, and the how it empowers educators. In our next few posts, we'll hear specific best practices shared from the experiences of Rutherford County leaders Mark Gullion, Ashli Lamons, and Janice Fox, but we'll start with Dr. Alonzo's passionate introduction.
Dr. Julie Alonzo: First, it's amazing that we have Rutherford here today. Rutherford County has been really a leader, in terms of RTI use and implementation, in a way that's made a huge difference for students and their learning trajectories.
I just want to give massive kudos to the team there. We've been fortunate enough to work with them over the years through easyCBM and have been just amazingly impressed with each encounter. So, we're very lucky to have them here today.
I've been involved with Response to Intervention since the early days, when it was adopted as one of the practices that could be used to identify students for special education services and, more broadly, could be used to help school improvement for all students at all schools, if done correctly.
In 2006 the Office of Special Education Programs awarded a grant to the National Center on Response to Intervention to help develop some of the practices that should be used to implement RTI successfully. Interestingly enough, it was through that grant that we realized that the existing progress monitoring and screening measures that were out there were insufficient to really be up to the job of school-wide improvement efforts being led by an RTI approach.
In response, we developed easyCBM to answer some of those needs. Trying to streamline the easyCBM system to provide screening with useful information that teachers could use to drive their instructional decision making, or their ability to group and regroup students in very flexible formats, to make sure that educators could tailor what they were doing to individual students' strengths and areas of need, and that school districts, individual teachers, practitioners, school psychologists, et., would have the information they needed to be able to make better decisions.
What do I mean by better decisions? Decisions about what's going to work for this particular kid, in this particular context, at this particular point in their life. RTI, I believe, is one of the most promising practices to realize the potential of public education, which is to make sure that all students are really able to live up to the dreams and hopes their parents may have for them.
MTSS, or Multi-Tier System of Support, has gained popularity in recent years as well. And that has to do with the all-encompassing idea that it's not just about academics, but it's also about behavioral support, social and emotional learning, and various other needs that may be involved in supporting students.
So, where RTI traditionally has been focused almost exclusively on academic needs and learning needs, Multi-Tier System of Support also encompasses the broader aspect of social and emotional learning. That doesn't mean that districts that are doing RTI don't also take those things into account, and in some areas of the country, the terms are used almost interchangeably. So, I'd hate to have people get too wrapped up in, is this MTSS, or is this RTI?
If you're doing those things, then you're doing RTI, and you're realizing the promise of RTI. While Response to Intervention is for students, it can also be an incredibly powerful tool for staff to gain expertise as teachers, as school psychologists, as people who are helping out in the classroom, even to help empower parents, and, as students get older and begin to understand their own progress graphs; it can help motivate individual students to think about what are they learning, are they learning, what might they do to increase their learning and really take ownership of their future?
I get passionate about the topic because honestly, I see Response to Intervention as just an amazing tool for empowering teachers, empowering school psychologists, and empowering teams of educators to help students really succeed.
And, like I said earlier, we’re so lucky to have Rutherford County here today because they really are living the dream. They're making RTI a reality.
Stay tuned for the next part of this series as we dive into Rutherford County’s best practices and how they could work in your school or district. Subscribe to our blog to get updates on our latest professional development opportunities and get updates as we highlight educators around the country unlocking limitless learning.
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