Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Response to Intervention

An Interview with Nancy Goosen, Director of Special Services
Edmond Public Schools

Just like any other academic area, CareerTech programs serve a number of students that are on IEP’s (Individualized Education Program for children with disabilities). Nationwide the IEP subgroup makes up approximately 13% to 14% of the overall student population. Of the IEP student population, almost half of the special education population is identified as having a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education reported in 2002 that over the last 10 years there had been a 36% increase in the SLD category population.

CTTC: Has Edmond Public Schools experienced the same trends in the identification of students with a SLD?
NG: Our numbers have been consistent with the national averages. We believe there are problems with the IQ/achievement discrepancy SLD formula and this revealed the current identification system was simply a “wait-to-fail” model. This means the younger children in grades K through 1st grade and even 2nd grade, rarely have been identified with this method. Therefore, it usually was at the 3rd grade level when a student was identified as having a significant discrepancy. The Commission’s report indicated the older students with reading disabilities respond poorly to conventional special education interventions, ultimately revealing few students exiting from special education or making significant improvement in their reading skills.

CTTC: How has your school system decided to respond to these findings?
NG: With the Response to Intervention (RtI) model. RtI is a service delivery model that uses data to guide instruction and intervention at increasingly intensive levels. RtI is designed to encompass all children in a school. Students can be identified in younger grades, even in Kindergarten, as eligible for special education services. By assessing all children in the elementary school the chances of catching all children with reading difficulties is significantly higher than the discrepancy model. RtI incorporates a frequent progress-monitoring component to help make decisions about changes in instruction, interventions and supports for students to match their specific needs.

Students who are determined eligible for special education services through the RtI model have been through intense interventions prior to the determination of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) eligibility. The students who are NOT determined to qualify for special education services under the SLD category have responded to the interventions implemented. Therefore, by implementing RtI model, districts should see a reduction in the SLD student population.

CTTC: How did you begin implementing RtI into your school system?
NG: We are piloting RtI in three buildings and making efforts to train staff to expand for next year. We hope to add two more elementary buildings next year. It is a huge change for our regular education teachers, so it takes quite a bit of training, but it provides opportunities for them to share their feedback to help make things run smoothly.

We conduct universal screenings three times a year and these screenings provide the local norms and we are also using national norms from AIMSweb. We then conduct progress monitoring with the bottom 16%ile. It has been a wonderful model, because our teachers are actually discussing specific interventions. No longer are they talking about reducing items or preferential seating, but asking questions of each other on how to teach a student struggling with Consonant/Vowel/Consonant (CVC) blends or how to teach specific concepts of punctuation. It is pretty cool to hear their discussions where they focus on specific interventions and what we can do to help the student.

CTTC: What is your goal for RtI?
NG: Our goal is to see the overall IEP subgroup reduce by half from 14% to 7% due to the increased intensive interventions implemented at an earlier age.

CTTC: What type of results have you seen to this point?
NG: We conduct universal screenings three times a year (fall, winter, and spring). From the universal screenings, progress monitoring is conducted with students falling at the 16%ile or below, which creates a group of students who received Tier 1 interventions. Approximately 10% of the student population tends to fall in this category of Tier 1.

Then when students do not respond to the Tier 1 interventions, they are moved to Tier 2, which tends to be approximately 7% of the student population. With intense interventions implemented at the Tier 2 level, it results in less than 1% of the total student population moved to Tier 3 receiving special education services as the intervention. The other 5% responded positively to the intense Tier 2 interventions without the need for special education services, and approximately 1% moved away during the middle of the intervention phase.

CTTC: Can you tell us a little more about the specifics of RtI? For example, what is meant by progress monitoring?
NG: Progress monitoring is the systematic and repeated collection of data to indicate the effectiveness of the intervention. The measures are administered frequently (often weekly) and assess growth in the skill being addressed by the intervention. An assessment system called Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) is almost always used for progress monitoring.

CTTC: What is Curriculum Based Measurement?
NG: Curriculum Based Measurement, or “CBM”, refers to a collection of standardized procedures for collecting data on academic skills. CBM has 3 decades of research support in assisting educator’s in making sound, data-based educational decisions. Assessments such as DIBELS and AIMSweb are based on CBM procedures.

CTTC: You also discussed Universal Screening. Could you describe that process?
NG: Universal Screening refers to the screening of all children in basic academic skills. Data from the screening is used to identify students at-risk of academic difficulty, provide an indicator of the success of the core curriculum and instruction, and to provide data that is socially and culturally sensitive to the local school population.

CTTC: What is meant by “Tiers” in RtI?
NG: RtI uses multiple levels of intervention intensity referred to as Tiers. The most common model uses 3 Tiers in which the core curriculum and instruction is Tier 1, more intense intervention with additional resources is Tier 2, and prolonged, individual intervention is Tier 3. However, not all models are alike. Some may have 4 tiers or more, and some models include special education in a tier, and some do not.

CTTC: How do you determine cut-off scores or the number of students to conduct progress monitoring for Tier I, then Tier II?
NG: While there is no single method for determining cut scores, scores should predict risk of academic problems. A school site must also consider their capacity to provide interventions at each tier. RtI literature typically indicates that the core curriculum should be successful with 80-85% of students, additional intervention should be successful with an additional 10-15% of students, and the most intensive individualized interventions should only be necessary in approximately 5% of the school population. Using these projections as a guideline a school site might use the 20th Percentile as a cut-off. Some assessment packages currently available such as DIBELS, AIMSweb, easyCBM provide cutoffs. Local norms/ performance should also be considered.

CTTC: How long should you implement the interventions in Tier I and Tier II?
NG: The duration of intervention at a particular tier should be guided by data and should not be time limited. If an intervention is successful at a particular tier it could continue at that level until the problem is resolved. Tier timelines should be seen as the minimal amount of time prior to moving to a more intensive tier. Some general guidelines might include a minimum of 4 weeks at Tier 1, and a minimum of 8 weeks at Tier 2. Additionally, Tier 2 may require at least one intervention change prior to moving to the next tier.

CTTC: What type of interventions should be implemented?
NG: Interventions should be specific to the problem identified and be designed to increase competence. Interventions should be research based so that a particular outcome can be expected based on previous evidence. While interventions may be pre-packaged and commercially published, they may also be taken directly from the research literature provided they are described in sufficient detail. School should consider creating an intervention bank of protocols for the most frequently encountered problems.

CTTC: How do you determine when an intervention is not working and when do you change course?
NG: There is not currently a single prescriptive method used within all RtI models to determine an appropriate response to intervention; however, it is clear that implementing sites should clearly define their decision rules. It is also clear that the use of graphs is essential in making good decisions about student progress. Clear decision rules improve decision making. Assessments such as DIBELS and other CBMs have decision rules. Additionally, school districts have created decision rules using CBM data. For example, a district might determine that reaching the 25th percentile within 1 school year given grade level CBM represents a sufficient response to intervention.

CTTC: How are special education decisions made using RtI?
NG: With the passing of IDEA 2004, states may now allow schools to identify children with Specific Learning Disabilities using RtI data. If a student’s progress monitoring data does not indicate sufficient progress when provided with scientifically research based instruction and intervention, the team may determine the presence of a learning disability. An evaluation for special education eligibility, however, must be sufficiently comprehensive to rule out other factors.

As always, I think it is amazing to find out about some of the great things that are happening in the field of education. Intervention at an earlier age would surely reduce the frustration level for many students and increase their level of success. I would like to thank Nancy for all of the great information concerning RtI and I hope you will contact her or Dr. Scott Singleton if you have any questions!

If anyone would like to find out more about RtI, please contact:
Dr. Scott Singleton
Edmond Public Schools
Washington Irving Elementary
18101 N. Western
Edmond, OK 73034
Phone: (405) 340-2210

If you have any administrative questions, please contact:
Nancy Goosen
Director of Special Services
Edmond Public Schools
Phone: (405) 715-6116
Fax: (405) 330-7387
E-mail: nancy.goosen@edmondschools.net

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