We hear "Response to Intervention (RTI)" thrown around quite a bit, but the term is usually talked about solely from the perspective of an educator, i.e. "Identify which students belong in which tier, what is the exit criteria for tier 2, what is the overall objective of our RTI model, etc.".
Hey, we're guilty of focusing on the educator angle too! But, let's be clear, it is just as important to understand your RTI model from the student perspective as it is from your own.
All the best planning in the world (and your shot at helping students meet learning needs) goes out the window if a student begins to feel alienated or disengaged after shifting from whole-class instruction, to supplemental, to intensive intervention, and back through.
Okay, so what exactly should we take in account for students?
First and foremost, you must be aware that your students are usually unfamiliar with the term, “RTI” and what it means for their learning path and/or daily schedule. On the surface, the process just involves the occasional shift from one room to another or extra help and instruction here and there from a teacher or aide. But, your students may not know the "why" if you don't give them a transparent explanation.
Here's the deal: to be upfront with a student about how and why RTI will affect their daily learning, you first must understand what RTI looks like "in their shoes".
First, be cognizant of, and prepare for, the questions a student may ask to you or themselves:
- Do I really have to do this?
- Why are you taking me out of class and away from my friends?
- Do I have to leave class because I am stupid?
- Can I do extra credit to get out of having to move to another class for math help?
- Am I in trouble?
These type of questions are very tricky, but you can answer them with positive affirmations. By taking account of their social, emotional, and environmental learning process, you can better explain the reasons why extra action has been taken and the positive outcomes possible via a full buy-in to the process from both sides.
Time for a real-life example - what would you do?
Let's take a look at an example of how a Response to Intervention model may look to a student, and how that process can be improved from the educator's standpoint to ensure the student receives the needed reinforcement to get back on track.
"Johnny is a seventh grade middle school student. He has a history of success in elementary school, particularly in math. Last year, in sixth grade, he began to experience at-home problems that, in turn, affected his in-school participation. His grades suffered and he failed to meet the state’s standards for math.
This year, his home life has returned to a more stable situation, but he is missing quite a bit of the background knowledge that he struggled to master during sixth grade. Teacher observations, as well as his achievement data, pointed this out to you and your administrators."
Imagine you are Johnny's seventh grade math teacher. What's your plan of action within your RTI model? He seems like a great kid that just caught a bad break last year, but is willing to learn in the long term.
The logical steps would be to offer this student supplemental help via a tier 2 setting, but how do you convey this positive effort to the student so that he understands the value of the tier 2 supplemental learning without causing him to further disengage?
Take actionable steps to understand your student's perspective
Begin by taking a full account of his current, and past, learning environment. It's clear that when things are troublesome at home, he struggles in the classroom. That's a delicate situation and is obviously not to be taken lightly. However, when things are solidified at home, Johnny excels. Ask yourself, "Will removing him from the whole-class setting have a similar negative effect?" This is tricky stuff!
Explain to Johnny you understand (and respect) that times were hard last year, but he has an excellent opportunity to catch up (and even surpass) his needed learning goals. Additionally, ensure he understands that the supplemental time with a math coach or yourself is not punishment for his grade or actions, but instead encouragement!
Your main goal is to help him get back on track, so don't forget that your well-executed RTI model provides an amazing opportunity to do so. By helping Johnny see the gains he is making and constantly pointing towards the goal at the end of the tunnel (getting back to tier 1), you will see great dividends in student learning and meeting the goals of your model.
Share your RTi success stories!
Have you seen some great gains via RTI models? What have you learned about your students by looking at their perspective of the model?