RTI Rollout Rushed?

Grace Tatter over at Chalkbeat has a story about Tennessee’s RTI2 program implementation in which she notes that the program’s mandates have come largely unfunded by the State of Tennessee.

The Response to Intervention and Instruction program is designed to identify students who are struggling and get them extra assistance before they fall too far behind.

In practice, the program means many students miss related arts or even social studies and science in order to spend extra time in remediation for math and reading, the two subjects tested on the state’s TCAP test.

Additionally, many districts report they lack the funding to provide subject-matter teachers and so individuals not certified in math or reading may be in charge of certain remediation classrooms.

Tatter notes:

Districts have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on assessments, and don’t have the money to hire educators with the expertise required to work with the highest needs students. Some schools are using their general education teachers, already stretched thin, and others are using computer programs.

The state’s RTI2 policy identifies the intervention levels for students:

According to the state RTI2 policy, students should be divided into three groups: the majority, on grade level, are in Tier 1, students in the bottom 25th percentile of students across the country  are in Tier 2, and students in the bottom 10th percentile are in Tier 3.

All students, regardless of tier, get an hour of intervention time a day. For Tier 2 and Tier 3, intervention time is spent in small groups, ideally of fewer than five students, working on specific skills, while for kids in Tier 1 it might be enrichment activities.

Tatter notes that Metro Nashville Public Schools is among the districts taking advantage of the flexibility offered by the state to serve a smaller pool of students.

Essentially, if a district feels it lacks adequate resources to provide services to the bottom 25 perfcent of students, it can shift down to a smaller number, 16% in Tier 2 in MNPS for example, and the bottom 7% in Tier 3.

The shift at MNPS means they can focus on a smaller pool, but it also highlights the challenge faced by districts across the state. That is, those districts with higher concentrations of poverty (and likely to have higher numbers of students needing intervention) also have the least resources available to assist students.  The poorest districts, then, are left further behind as a result of a well-intentioned unfunded state mandate.

Tatter notes that education researchers and practitioners believe RTI2 can work and work well, but without proper support, many districts are struggling to make that happen.

More on RTI2 from our friends over at Bluff City Ed

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport



11 thoughts on “RTI Rollout Rushed?

  1. Regarding this part of the article: “Essentially, if a district feels it lacks adequate resources to provide services to the bottom 25 percent of students, it can shift down to a smaller number, 16% in Tier 2 in MNPS for example, and the bottom 7% in Tier 3.”

    I sure would hate to be the person who decides that Becky (part of the original 25%) gets to take advantage of interventions while Billy (one who was part of the original 25%, but who was knocked out after we [as a district] “shifted down to a smaller number”) goes without his needed interventions. Wouldn’t you?

    How do you decide who gets what they need and who doesn’t?

  2. That is ridiculous. The law regarding RTI was passed how many years ago? 10? For our state or school systems to say that implementation was rushed is idiotic.

    • The original RTI was passed about 10 years ago, yes. The RTI2 initiative is fairly recent, and the challenge, as I understand it, is that the state is mandating interventions without providing resources. Some districts can afford it, some can’t. Some are making decisions about how to allocate resources and some simply lack the resources to implement RTI2 effectively.

  3. It was actually in the IDEA 2004. In roughly 2006 or 2007 in the state law, I was still a grad student at that time and we thought we were going to a pure rti system for identifying SLD and we were surprised when it was released. It was either a state approved RTI plan or discrepancy formula for SLD. Most stuck with the discrepancy plan. Of course the discrepancy plan required “pre-referral interventions” but a lot of people conveniently forgot about that part. It’s still up on the state website at http://www.state.tn.us/education/student_support/eligibility/6110sldpacket.pdf
    The state dept. recently also gave the systems a reprieve. The systems could apply for a RTI waiver for middle and high schools this year aka “kick the can down the road.”

    Although, in defense of school systems, it is difficult to make changes in a whole system quickly, such as in the case of common core recently. It takes time to train personnel and inform parents of changes. The legislature quickly rubber stamped common core only to realize that it may or may not be right for TN. This in turn makes the state department unprepared to help initiate and guide changes for the postponement, the systems have to quickly absorb the advise and training of the state department and train their own personnel. A lot of times it leads to confusion and chaos. It’s a form of a trickle down effect, I guess, but probably not the best way to conduct education for TN.

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  5. Regarding the article, this child is being served wrongly with RTI. If she has a stuttering problem, that should be evaluated by the special education department in the area of speech/language for possible assistance. If she is physically disabled depending on the type of disability/medical documentation/needs, she may be eligible for special education or a 504 plan. From what I understood about RTI, it was to identify children that were having difficulty early on and intervene with additional instruction. The old way was more of a “wait to fail” model, which may have led to special education services. RTI isn’t a bad thing if it is used correctly, but it is like so many things nowadays. There is a lot of misinformation out there. If the child has the skills, putting him/her in an intervention due to the issues (stuttering, physical disability) mentioned above are a disservice.

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