RTI: A Promise that Relies on the Capacity to Teach

RTI: A Promise that Relies on the Capacity to Teach

There is something wrong in the field of education when it fails to teach approximately 40 percent of our children to read effectively. Would you buy a car that worked only 60 percent of the time or hire an advisor who was wrong 40 percent of the time? I don’t think so!

IDA hosted an invitational forum on December 7-8, 2004 entitled Building Capacity to Deliver Multi-Tiered Reading Intervention in Public Schools and the Role of Response to Intervention (RTI). The Executive Summary (pages 40 to 46) in this issue of Perspectives on Language and Literacy was prepared from the verbatim transcripts recorded at the Forum. As you will readily see, the issues discussed remain in the forefront of the concerns expressed by state and local education agencies across the country.

Why is there a continuing need to address the issue of building capacity when RTI is poised at our doorstep ready and willing to come to our rescue? In fact, being “ready and willing” is not enough to get the job done. The well-meaning rescuer has to be ready, willing, and ____ (fill in the blank). Like one of those old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies, RTI provides the barn, stage, lights, and costumes; but it is up to individual schools to provide the motivation and talent to make the show a success.

   “The fruits of our scientific labors

cannot be realized unless teachers

are prepared to implement them.”

(Moats & Foorman, 2003). 

RTI has the potential to deliver measured doses of scientific research-based instruction in a timely fashion to prevent the consequences of reading failure and provides a general education alternative to special education eligibility as a source for meaningful intervention. It also allows for the efficient use of resources by differentiatingpupil need, thereby permitting the differentiated use of time, effort, materials and human resources. However, it is the instruction that is actually being delivered that is the critical foundation on which the success of RTI depends. The weakening of the discrepancy formula, the movement toward prevention of reading failure, the use of RTI within general education, and scaling the capacity to deliver reading instruction informed by research along a differentiated continuum of need, together have the potential to improve reading achievement for all children.

The brainstorming teams of the Capacity Building Forum focused on issues related to The Social Marketing of Educational Change and Organizational Roles in RTI Capacity Building.

The themes that were repeatedly voiced recognized the need:

1.      for leadership and partnership,

2.      to identify validated treatment protocols,

3.      for a process of tiered or incrementally staged programs of professional development,

4.      for a reasonable approach to ensure accountability,

5.      to motivate a sense of commitment and responsibility for student success at the school level,

6.      for a re-conceptualization of organizational and individual educator roles, and

7.      for an approach that will allow implementation and institutionalization of change without losing what is already working.

Simple ideas can be deceptively difficult to implement, for example, “let’s go to the moon” or “let’s teach all children to read.” If change is to be meaningful and lasting it must offer ownership to ensure commitment. One who feels a true sense of ownership experiences commitment, dedication, and a sense of empowerment.  Socrates offered knowledge through a process that provided enlightenment through a framework promoting progressive epiphany. The student became the discoverer, and as such, the owner. Increasing accountability often appears to effect only such change as is necessary to satisfy those to whom you are accountable. For instance, students are currently being prepared to take tests like never before. Is this the skill that the accountability movement intended to promote? Regardless of good intentions, if negative consequences are seen as a motivation for compliance, the priority of effort will be focused on avoiding the whip rather than doing the work.

At some point along the path between educational research and educational practice, ownership is not currently being effectively transferred. RTI, as a framework, has the potential to efficiently pass both knowledge and ownership from the source (research) to the end point (practice).The advantage that the field of educationhas is that educators are motivated not merely by self-interest, but by improved outcomes for the children they serve. I believe that it is this unselfish dedication that will ultimately provide the seed from which empowerment and ownership will spring to drive the success of RTI.

It is my hope that the Executive Summary, entitled Building Capacity to Deliver Multi-Tiered Reading Intervention in Public Schools and the Role of Response to Intervention (RTI), will provide a patch of sunlight that will nourish the seed and help us grow closer to our goal of improving outcomes for all children.

G. Emerson Dickman, President Moats, L.C., & Foorman, B.R. (2003). Measuring teachers’content knowledge of language and reading.Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 23-45.