Response to Intervention or Really Terrible Instruction?

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Susan Godsland
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Response to Intervention or Really Terrible Instruction?

Postby Susan Godsland » Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:23 pm

Prof. Dylan Wiliam tweeted this comment today:
A 13-state evaluation of "Response to Intervention" found it actually lowered reading achievement in 1st graders

Here's the evaluation he was commenting on:
Evaluation of Response to Intervention Practices for Elementary School Reading

Response to Intervention (RtI) is a framework for collecting and using data to match students to interventions of varying intensity. This study examines the implementation of RtI in Grade 1–3 reading in 13 states during the 2011–12 school year, focusing on 146 schools that were experienced with RtI. Full implementation of the RtI framework in Grade 1–3 reading was reported by 86 percent of the experienced schools. Fifty-five percent of these schools focused reading intervention services on Grade 1 students reading below grade level, while 45 percent of the schools also provided reading intervention services for Grade 1 students reading at or above grade level. Students who scored just below school-determined benchmarks on fall screening tests, and who were assigned to interventions for struggling readers, had lower spring reading scores in Grade 1 than students just above the threshold for intervention. In Grades 2 and 3, there were no statistically significant impacts of interventions for struggling readers on the spring reading scores of students just below the threshold for intervention.

This reminded me of a paper about RTI written by Prof. Schutz:
RTI: 'Response to Intervention', 'Really Terrible Instruction,' or 'Re-Tasking Intelligence' ... id=1829302
The framework accepts at face value that the instruction is high quality in Tier 1, evidence-based in Tier 2, and more intense in Tier 3. The full burden for meeting the challenges the framework entails is with the student. If a student fails Tier 3, this is viewed as evidence the child has a learning disability and the child is relegated to Special Education. Few students who enter Special Education ever come out of it; they remain disabled for life.

The Response to Intervention framework was devised as an alternative to the discredited IQ/Achievement Discrepancy “Model” for the designation of “Learning Disability.” Schools and teachers find the newer “Model” attractive because it takes the “problem kids” out of mainstream instruction while sustaining present instructional practices and maintaining the turf of psychologists and “Special Education” specialists. Parents find it attractive because the children involved are receiving increased personal and specialized instructional attention. By the time a child has gone through Tier 3, the child, parents, and school personnel are thoroughly convinced that the child has a “disability.” The tragedy/travesty is that the “problem” the child had when first identified as “at risk” has morphed into a “really big problem”--for which the child bears the full responsibility.

Which brings me to this:
R+P interventions- flogging a dead horse? ... f=1&t=6004
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Re: Response to Intervention or Really Terrible Instruction?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Nov 20, 2015 1:48 am

Kerry Hempenstall flagged up Robert E. Slavin's response via the DDOLL network:

Response by Slavin to the MDRC evaluation of RTI:

Robert E. Slavin Director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University
Response to Intervention and Bob's Law

Posted: 20/11/2015 ... =Australia

The problem in education reform isn't a lack of good ideas. It's a lack of good ideas implemented with enough clarity, consistency and integrity to actually make a difference in rigorous experiments (and therefore in large-scale application). A recent large-scale evaluation of Response to Intervention (RTI) illustrates this problem once again.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a strategy for helping students who are struggling to keep up with ordinary classroom teaching. The idea is that following initial instruction (Tier 1), teachers provide mild assistance to students who are having difficulties (Tier 2), such as small-group remediation. Those who continue to struggle might receive more intensive assistance (Tier 3), such as one-to-one tutoring.
RTI has been common in U.S. classrooms for 20 years, and was virtually mandated as part of No Child Left Behind. So it is distressing that a recent study by MDRC, a respected independent research organization, found no positive effects of Tier 2 services in grades 1-3 reading. In fact, there were slight negative effects for first graders receiving Tier 2 services.

Philosophically, I am a supporter of RTI, but I'm even more of a supporter of rigorous evidence. Yet here's a very large, well-done (though not randomized) study of RTI that finds no benefits.

I think the findings of the RTI evaluation speak to a broader problem of education policy. Often, national, state or local policies promote or require uses of broadly defined strategies. RTI is a perfect example. Everyone understands the general idea, but there are thousands of ways to implement RTI in practice.

Studies of broad teaching concepts almost always find that they make little if any difference. The reason is that general concepts are implemented differently from class to class and school to school, and end up on average looking a lot like what teachers were doing before, or are doing in schools that do not claim to be implementing the broad concept. That is, the "experimental" classes are not terribly different from the "control" classes.

As a good example of this problem, in the 1970s and '80s, Madeline Hunter was extremely popular, and she spoke everywhere suggesting effective classroom strategies. Yet several studies found that when teachers were given training and coaching in Madeline Hunter strategies, it made no difference in achievement. Why? The studies also found that control teachers were already using strategies much like those in the Hunter model. It may well be that Madeline Hunter's theories were so popular precisely because they were appealing descriptions of what teachers already were doing. Everyone likes to hear that what they've always done turns out to be supported by research. So, exactly what made Hunter's prescriptions popular also made them no more effective than ordinary teaching, because they were ordinary teaching.
In the case of RTI, the MDRC researchers documented some differences between schools using RTI and those that were not, but there was enormous overlap.

So here's a proposal for what I'll call Bob's Law: General teaching strategies subject to substantially varying interpretations by individual teachers are likely to be transformed into practices much like ordinary teaching. For this reason, they are unlikely to produce better outcomes than the control group does.

This does not mean that ordinary teaching methods are bad, or that teaching methods informed by general concepts are bad, but what it does imply is that if you want to see marked improvements in student achievement across many teachers and schools, you have to have programs that are well-conceived, well-specified and well-supported by top-quality professional development and materials. Even then, not all programs work, but success is at least possible if programs bring about systematic and sensible change in teaching methods.

Back to RTI, I remain hopeful that RTI's strategies can improve student outcomes. However, the approaches to this concept that are likely to work are ones that are specific about all key aspects of the design and help teachers implement approaches that are markedly better than whatever they were using before.

I've included this piece by Slavin because I am so aware of the need to be able to identify the reality of what teachers provide in the classroom compared to the training they have received and the materials/programme they are using. As a programme author and trainer/consultant myself, I often despair when observing schools already 'trained' in the programme/s and rationale because of the worrying variance of delivery/use of the programme and guidance. Teachers are inclined to stick with what they know, as noted above, or to 'adapt' the programme and guidance 'for these children' which really means they are not following the programme or guidance at all! This can be both frustrating and upsetting because it often means that there is a lower expectation of what 'these' children can really achieve.

Slavin says, " have to have programs that are well-conceived, well-specified and well-supported by top-quality professional development and materials..." and he is right.

For all these conditions to come together, it is truly challenging. :roll:
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Susan Godsland
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Re: Response to Intervention or Really Terrible Instruction?

Postby Susan Godsland » Wed Jun 22, 2016 11:22 am

COPAA have issued this policy statement re. RTI
COPAA: Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
''Protecting the Legal and Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities''

Response to Intervention Policy Statement

Furthermore, recent research on the efficacy of RTI has shown that it has little positive effect and may have negative impact for first through third graders, calling into question the entire RTI initiative
Dick Schutz

Re: Response to Intervention or Really Terrible Instruction?

Postby Dick Schutz » Thu Jun 23, 2016 9:31 pm

The thing about "Response to Intervention" is that the "response" is on the shoulders of the students who have the problem rather than on the adults who are providing the "Intervention" that is supposed to resolve the students' problem. When the problem becomes more profound, rather than undoing the damage the failed "intervention"has done to the students, the adults lay on even more stringent "intervention" until such time that "professionals" can stigmatize the child with psycho-babble labels that damage the student for life. Ironically, COOPA's gripe is that students are being "deprived" of this treatment.

The tragedy is that "instructional risk" can be easily identified and addressed in infancy even before children can utter their first word. "Baby Signs" enable an infant to engage in communication before the baby is able to talk:
This instruction can begin as early as 4-6 month, and it taps the same sectors of the brain that are later involved in converting text to speech and meaning. If a baby can communicate with sign, the infant's brain has the capability of later learning to read. This potential can be thwarted by flawed reading instruction, but that is mal-instruction and should be regarded as such.

That's the Tier I of Risk Treatment Intervention.

Any child who can speak in complete sentences and participate in everyday conversation has the necessary prerequisites to be taught how to read text with understanding equal were the communication spoken. The instruction can begin as early as age 3-4--earlier for girls than boys, but for "all" by Kindergarten/Reception Entry.

That's Tier II.

Tier III is satisfied by the Alphabetic Code [Phonics] Screening Check administered at the end of Year/Grade 1. A child who can read all 40 items on the Check does not require any further formal instruction in reading per se. England sets the cut-off for "pass" at 32. That's not unreasonable, but it's arbitrary, and a cut-score is unnecessary. Kids know when they "can read," teachers and parents know, and other kids know. Young children are "tender readers," just as they are tender in all other respects. We cut them a bit of slack for this reason. How much slack to cut is a situational judgement call that should not rely on a cut number.

"Redefining the role and use" of RTI consistent with current brain research and child development research is easy. The thing is, the reformulation gores the oxen of all the powerful interests who now benefit from the current "role and use."

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