intervention (RTI) like targeted individualized interventions and regular progress monitoring are occasionally missed due to the lack of fidelity to best practices and recommended guidelines based on evidence-based instructional strategies. As a future director of special education, I would ensure that RTI is responsive and responsible, first by developing standard procedures for progress monitoring. Research on specific learning disability shows that the tiered structure of RTI can be especially helpful but only when RTI is defined specifically because vagueness leads to inconsistent and unreliable results with children (Hauerwas, Brown & Scott, 2013). There is no “clear national definition of what specific RTI data a local multidisciplinary team must have in hand to make a determination of” specific learning disabilities (Hauerwas, Brown & Scott, 2013, p. 102). Stahl (2016) also found that schools “were implementing RTI on their own without the support of a research team or external funding,” leading to the lack of fidelity to professional standards of competency (p. 659). Therefore, I would ideally like to work in the realm of public policy in education to help evolve federal standards for RTI that could help educators better implement research-based practice.
Another important issue in increasing the use of effective progress monitoring and the use of research based instructional strategies by classroom teachers would be to mobilize both human and fiscal resources. As Stahl (2016) points out, schools need to be made more accountable for their resources allocation strategies. I would make sure my school not only followed the best practices evident in recent research on RTI and cognitive science but also to follow best practices for accountability and professional standards. Stahl (2016) recommends distinguishing differentiation from intervention, allocating resources according to student need, and tracking tier movement at the grade level, all of which are feasible interventions in any particular school.
Hauerwas, L.B., Brown, R. & Scott, A.N. (2013). Specific learning disability and response to intervention. Exceptional Children 80(1): 101-120.
Stahl, K.A.D. (2016). Response to intervention. The Reading Teacher 69(6): 659-663.
2. The practice of RTI does offer a glimmer of hope that special education is shifting from an almost begrudging compliance with regulation towards outcomes-based education. Quantifying results and encouraging school and educator accountability are critical for performance outcomes. States have inconsistently applied the principles of IDEA and RTI in particular. With an ongoing issue related to lack of accountability for resources allocations and lack of formalized reporting methods to the Department of Education, it is difficult to track the effectiveness of specific special education programs. States need to surrender some of their control over education in order to better standardize a federal policy or program of effective reporting.
Research shows that there is a clear need to differentiate between special education spending and spending in the mainstream classroom environments, allocating resources according to student needs within the RTI framework (Stahl, 2016). Also, Koegel, Koegel, Ashbaugh & Bradshaw (2013) point out that the heterogeneity in inclusive classrooms presents unique challenges for accountability and resources allocation. Education administrators can develop creative methods of accounting on a student-by-student basis to provide statistics and data that can be used to assess the efficacy of specific interventions and especially those that are related to the RTI strategy being used. However, performance outcomes remain critical. Educators need to have a cohesive method of reporting their students’ performance throughout the stages of RTI, ensuring that resources are being allocated effectively and that individual students are responding to the methods being used. When those methods are proving ineffective on a case-by-case basis, then they can be altered until the student responds and shows improvement. The RTI framework offers tremendous long-term benefits for both individual students and schools in general, but only an outcomes-based strategy will help improve resource allocation.
Koegel, L.K., Koegel, R.L., Ashbaugh, K. & Bradshaw, J. (2013). The importance of early identification and intervention for children with or at risk for autism spectrum disorders. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology 16(1): 50-56.
Stahl, K.A.D. (2016). Response to intervention. The Reading Teacher 69(6): 659-663.
3. As Cortiella & Horowitz (2014) point out, a “dramatic shift” in the ways disabilities are identified has led to a reduction in referrals to special education services (p. 13). However, other factors relevant to the decline in the number of students being referred to special education services include the use of RTI, which “might result in greater numbers of struggling students receiving early assistance in general education and ultimately reducing the need for special education classification,” (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014, p. 13). Therefore, the reduction in overall number of referrals can be framed as a net positive, because of the effectiveness of early identification and intervention strategies as per the use of RTI and the IDEA framework.
However, Kurth, Morningstar & Kozleski (2015) point out that states are not setting rigorous enough improvement goals “to reduce restrictive placements,” which can be detrimental to student outcomes (p. 227). Moreover, Kurth, Morningstar & Kozleski (2015) refute claims that referrals have actually been diminishing, citing numbers that restrictive placements have “remained essentially unchanged over the past decade,” (p. 227). The referrals to special education placements that are considered restrictive tend to be disproportionately students with low-incidence or severe disabilities, too (Kurth, Morningstar & Kozleski, 2015). These signs indicate that the IDEA principles are working towards allocating special education funding more appropriately to serve the populations that need more targeted and restrictive interventions. However, there is also a clear need to differentiate as early as possible between students who need restrictive interventions and those who do not, and who would benefit more from the RTI method that intervenes early enough to avoid a referral in the first place. If inclusivity is the goal, then the allocation of funds currently does not encourage states to artificially under-identify but to change the processes and goals of identification.
Cortiella, C. & Horowitz, S.H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities. National Center for Learning Disabilities. Retrieved online: http://www.hopkintonsepac.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2014-State-of-LD.pdf
Kurth, J.A., Morningstar, M.E. & Kozleski, E.B. (2015). The Persistence of Highly Restrictive Special Education Placements for Students With Low-Incidence Disabilities. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities 39(3): 227-239.
4. Research clearly shows the overuse of suspension as a reaction to students with special needs (Losen & Martinez, 2013). Moreover, the link between the use of suspension as a disciplinary measure and race is clearly identified in the literature (Anyon, et al., 2014; Losen & Martinez, 2013). The use of suspension as a knee-jerk reaction presents civil rights issues that need to be conscientiously and immediately addressed by educational policy makers and school administrators. If I were the director of a special education program I would not resort to suspension except in extreme cases in which the safety of students was in danger in some way. I would handle any violation of the policy with strict disciplinary action against the educator, but would also require special training and outreach services for the teachers who were violating the policy. Some educators may lack the tools and resources needed to process students with special needs accordingly, and simply need to upgrade their professional skills.
Finding new and effective ways of dealing with problem or disruptive behaviors in the classroom is challenging but research reveals that harsh punishments “do more harm than good,” (Losen & Martinez, 2013, p. 2). Creative interventions may be helpful, but changing the pedagogy might also be effective. Diverting special needs students into programs that include arts and athletics might help to minimize behaviors that are problematic while at the same time avoiding the use of suspension as a response. Discovering the root causes of the behavior may help to reduce the instances of behavioral problems and improve student performance in core classes as well. Finally, working with parents, whenever possible, serves as another possible tactic for improving student outcomes. IDEA helps to provide a formal structure for handling issues like these.
Anyon, Y. et al. (2014). The persistent effect of race and the promise of alternatives to suspension in school discipline outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review 44(2014): 379-386
Losen, D.J. & Martinez, T.E. (2013). Out of school and off track. The Center for Civil Rights Remedies. Retrieved online: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/8pd0s08z#page-3
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