Response to intervention (RTI) is a framework that can help ensure the academic strengths and needs of students are met effectively and efficiently. Patterned on a public health model of prevention, the focus of RTI is on preventing and intervening for academic challenges through a system of increasingly intensive supports, where the least intensive but most effective option is the most desirable. RTI models consist of the key essential components of effective inclusive instruction, universal screening, progress monitoring, data-based instructional decision-making, tiered levels of evidence-based and culturally responsive interventions, and fidelity of implementation. When the RTI framework is well implemented, most students are successful in the general education environment. In the general education classroom, teachers provide quality core, or Tier 1, instruction for all students. Even with high-quality instruction, however, not all students will be successful. Between 10 and 15% of the student population will likely need more intensive academic support at some point during their schooling, typically referred to as Tier 2 intervention. Tier 2 provides a system of evidence-based intervention, designed to meet the needs of most students at risk for poor academic outcomes. Tier 2 interventions are meant to be short in duration, focused on improving skill deficits that interfere with students’ success, and comprised of systematic approaches to providing student support. For some students whose needs cannot be met through Tier 1 or 2 instruction, an even more intensive level of intervention will be required. Tier 3 consists of specially designed interventions to support the needs of students who require a more individualized, intensive instructional program. Through this multi-leveled prevention system, the RTI framework provides supports to students that are appropriate to their needs within an environment of equity, efficiency, and accountability. With a well-structured, rigorous implementation of RTI, schooling becomes much more fluid and responsive to meet student needs.
Evelyn S. Johnson
Developing numeracy skills from the beginning of one’s school career predicts academic achievement and correlates with life satisfaction in adulthood. For these reasons, all students should be afforded a strong early numeracy foundation. In school, teaching practices supporting diverse learners in mathematics should consider individual developmental capabilities and a growth mindset. Students should also be supported by a pedagogically knowledgeable and strengths-based collaborative team and accurate and ongoing assessment practices. With such supports, students may be afforded maximum opportunities to develop solid early numeracy skills, continue their development of conceptual and calculational knowledge in school mathematics coursework, and minimize anxieties regarding mathematics learning.
Diane Myers, Brandi Simonsen, and George Sugai
Actively engaging learners in the classroom has been associated with increases in learners’ academic and behavioral performance. Multiple empirically supported strategies exist for actively engaging learners, including increasing opportunities for learners to respond and planning highly engaging lessons. In support of these engagement strategies, educators also systematically implement empirically supported classroom management strategies to increase the likelihood of appropriate behaviors and decrease the likelihood of inappropriate behaviors. These classroom management strategies include: (a) maximizing structure, which includes both the physical (e.g., desk arrangement) and embedded (e.g., classroom routines) aspects of structure; (b) establishing, operationally defining, teaching, prompting, and monitoring students’ expected classroom behaviors; (c) developing a continuum of acknowledgment strategies to reinforce (i.e., increase the future likelihood of) those expected behaviors; and (d) establishing a continuum of responses for behaviors that do not meet expectations. In addition, educators collect relevant data to evaluate if learners are engaged and meeting academic and behavioral expectations. Finally, to create a classroom environment conducive to engaging all learners, academic and behavioral instruction and support must be: (a) contextually and culturally relevant for learners, and (b) differentiated to meet the diverse learning and behavioral needs within the classroom. If educators explicitly and routinely implement empirically supported academic and behavioral instruction and support for all learners, the majority of learners will engage in instruction and demonstrate behaviors that meet expectations, reducing the number of learners who require additional levels of support. Meanwhile, effective educators review academic and behavioral data to determine if learners require more intensive support at a group or individual learner level.
Increasingly, around the world, educators are being expected to draw upon research-based evidence in planning, implementing, and evaluating their activities. Evidence-based strategies comprise clearly specified teaching methods and school-level factors that have been shown in controlled research to be effective in bringing about desired outcomes in a specified population of learners and under what conditions, in this case those with special educational needs/disabilities taught in special schooling, whether it be in separate schools or classrooms or in inclusive classrooms. Educators could, and should, be drawing upon the best available evidence as they plan, implement, and evaluate their teaching of such learners. Since around 2010 there has been a growing commitment to evidence-based education. This has been reflected in: 1. legislation: for example, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act in the United States, which encourages the use of specific programs and practices that have been rigorously evaluated and defines strong, moderate, and promising levels of evidence for programs and practices; 2. the creation of centers specializing in gathering and disseminating evidence-based education policies and practices, brokering connections between policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers; and 3. a growing body of research into effective strategies, both in general and with respect to learners with special educational needs. Even so, in most countries there is a significant gap between what researchers have found and the educational policies and practices implemented by professionals. Moreover, some scholars criticize the emphasis on evidence-based education, particularly what they perceive to be the prominence given to quantitative or positivist research in general and to randomized controlled trials in particular. In putting evidence-based strategies into action, a five-step model could be employed. This involves identifying local needs, selecting relevant interventions, planning for implementation, implementing, and examining and reflecting on the interventions.
Students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) comprise a diverse group in terms of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Identification and diagnostic criteria and terminologies vary widely across and within many countries and school systems, resulting in a complex research base. Estimates of prevalence range from 4 to 15% of students meeting criteria for an emotional and/or behavioral disorder or difficulty. Approaches to teaching learners with E/BD have shifted since the turn of the 21st century from an individual, deficit-focused perspective to a more ecological framework where the environments interacting dynamically with the learner are considered. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) where the needs of most students can be met through universal preventative and whole-class approaches. Students who do not find success at the first level of supports receive increasingly specialized services including intensive, wraparound services that involve partners beyond school walls. MTSS are common across North America and beyond and are typically focused on externalizing behaviors; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is the most prevalent multi-tiered system currently being implemented. Since the mid-2000s, efforts have been made to focus on academic as well as behavioral goals for students, often through the inclusion of response-to-intervention approaches. Comprehensive strategies that combine academic and behavioral support while drawing on learner strengths and relationship-building are successfully being adopted in elementary and secondary settings. Approaches include social and emotional learning, mindfulness, peer-assisted learning, and a range of classroom-based instructional and assessment practices that support the academic, social, and emotional development of students with E/BD.