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Tech Favorites

Expert Advice in RTI

May 2009

We called in our panel of reading experts to answer educators’ top questions about RTI:
Linda B. Gambrell, former president of the IRA
Barbara A. Marinak, graduate program coordinator for Literacy Education at Penn State University
Susan A. Mazzoni, an independent literacy consultant.

Q>What are the major components of RTI that everyone should know?
A> Sue: First, quality assessment is a major component of RTI. Avoid using what the IRA’s RTI commission calls “contrived texts or tasks generated specifically for assessment purposes.” Instead, assessments should provide comprehensive, valid information about authentic classroom language and literacy activities.

Second, effective core classroom instruction is a key component of RTI. Prepare by looking into evidence-based best practices and their intended outcomes.

Third, there needs to be highly qualified professional staff available for intervention.

Q> How would you recommend implementing RTI in middle school?
A> Barb: Though there are several aspects of secondary education that make RTI more challenging, intervening effectively with adolescents is critical. In most models of RTI, Tier 1 is core reading instruction. Given this premise, middle schools must decide how long core reading will be offered to all students. Then, in high school, if core reading becomes the English class taken by all students, some curricular revision might be necessary to include more reading (versus language arts) strategies. Other challenges of RTI at the secondary level include scheduling and differentiation.

Intervention should always take place in addition to core, and the school day for most adolescents is pretty busy. Creative scheduling is often needed to free up periods for reading support. Sometimes the greater challenge is having qualified reading specialists available to conduct individualized diagnostic evaluations.Q How can RTI work for English language learners (ELLs)?A Barb: RTI can really help these students.

ELLs need culturally and linguistically appropriate instruction no matter the educational setting. Instruction and intervention must consider a student’s cultural background and experiences as well as their linguistic proficiency (in both English and the native language). To ensure that the needs of English language learners are met, it’s a good idea that an ESL teacher be a member of the curriculum committee that plans core reading instruction, as well as the RTI team.

Q>How can parents get more involved in RTI?
A> Linda: All RTI models should regularly involve parents. When a student begins to struggle, parents should be informed (with specific data and examples) and included in the intervention decision. The RTI team should explain how parents can help, but be careful not to overwhelm families. Home support for RTI might include comfortable guided practice such as rereading familiar books, sight word review, silent reading practice, and so on. 

Tech Favorites:
Response to Intervention. 
Six educators share their solutions for differentiated instruction

Accelerated Reader
 Reviewer: Dr. Tom Livezey
Superintendent, Oakridge Public Schools , Muskegon, Michigan

Challenge: We needed a way to diagnose and intervene with students who have reading comprehension difficulty.
How It’s Working: We upgraded to the Web-based Renaissance Place, and this is the first year that scores are in the 90th percentile on our state test. It’s not a curriculum; it’s a way to monitor students. It seems to be making a difference, and practice makes permanent.
Lesson Learned: Our teachers made the discovery that while they had been providing time to read at school, they didn’t know how much of that time was on task.
Ease of Use: Some teachers needed little to no training; we provided it where necessary. It’s about learning how to manage an individualized, differentiated learning environment.
Appeal: It lets teachers monitor what students read and comprehend.
Bottom Line: We get quality data for monitoring student achievement, which allows us to intervene more quickly and efficiently, as well as identify successes. 

 Reviewer: Dr. Barry O’Neill
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, McDuffie County Schools, Thomson, Georgia

Challenge: We wanted to expand our program. We had used Academy of Math, and teachers were positive about it. So we decided to go with Academy of Reading, which had been improved and revised.
How It’s Working: It’s an all-in-one package, rather than trying to piece together a whole bunch of solutions. It’s really good to hear teachers say that it’s working, and we’re not letting children fall behind.
Ease of Use: AutoSkill trainers were very well received by our folks and extremely supportive. Teachers were familiar with it, which made the transition much easier. It’s a substantial part of our success this year.
Appeal: It helped me do my job of following up. It makes it easy to review data and help principals implement and prescribe solutions.
Bottom Line: It allows the special education director and me to work together to classify students properly for remediation.

Lexia Learning
 Reviewer: Dr. Aaron Turpin
Executive Director of Technology, Hall County Schools , Gainesville, Georgia

Challenge: When we first started using Lexia, RTI wasn’t a requirement. We were seamlessly able to adapt it to our RTI system.
How It’s Working: Teachers are thrilled to have a sound piece of instructional software with literacy instruction that has reports for whole and small group instruction.
Lesson Learned: Each student in Tier One uses Lexia twice a week for 20 minutes. With Tier Two, we increase the time. We realized that the time students spend correlates positively with our testing results.
Ease of Use: It’s easy to use—not just at school, but at home—for administrators, teachers, and students.
Appeal: We did a quality check, asking principals what they thought of it, and we found that they were pleased with the reporting. In an RTI conference with teachers, they could quickly discover progress.
Bottom Line: It gives educators a way to share student strengths and weaknesses— and the specific work needed for improvement.

 Reviewer: Randall Haack
Coordinator of Assessment and Instructional Technology, Community Consolidated School District 59 , Arlington Heights, Illinois

Challenge: We wanted something to help us tier our instruction to the needs of the kids earlier. We didn’t have any instruments that sensitive—or that easy to use.
How It’s Working: At first, we had to educate the teachers for them to buy in, but now they’d fight if you tried to take it away. Parents especially like all the comparison charts for displaying exactly how their child is doing—and then later, for tracking their overall progress.
Lesson Learned: Parents helped with district adoption, because they got used to the reports and wanted the program throughout the grades.
Ease of Use: AIMSweb is intuitive, but some training is required.
Appeal: Any teacher in the district can get information, look at the data, and determine whether or not students are making progress—at a group, class, grade, or individual level.
Bottom Line: This is the instrument for monitoring all children.

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