RtI is the New Black

I have a confession. I’ve been spying on you. I can see what search terms people use to get to my blog. I get many people to my blog through “School Psychologist Blog” which makes sense, but there are some people who are confused when the search term “Ugliest Girl in School” gets you to me. The top search term lately though has been “School Psychologist and Response to Intervention.” I have a dual reaction of “Yea! People want to know about prevention!” and then guilt for only having a few posts on the topic.

Truth be told, RtI overwhelms me.Also, the majority of my assignments are at middle schools because I love the tween angst. Therefore, the concept of RtI isn’t even being discussed much. In fact, I’ve never heard the term uttered once in my school this year, and it’s February. I think the problem is that RtI in middle school is even more amorphous than in elementary schools.

What could RtI look like in the middle schools?

No seriously, I’m asking you. I have no idea. Would it be a glorified SST process in which there are real interventions that are documented, implemented with treatment fidelity, research-based, and followed-up upon? Don’t we theoretically already have that system in place? Unfortunately, I think the direct instruction in areas of academic need intervention in middle school is usually non-existent, except for maybe homework club after school or remedial or study skills classes.

I’ve dug around in the research, and found mostly large-scale interventions about “What Works” that will in fact not work in my schools on Monday without district-support and major paradigm shifts. So I’ll instead take the big idea of RtI down to something I can do on Monday. Please, feel free to include any experiences you have at your schools with RtI that have worked so we can learn from each other.*

RtI Strategies for School Psychologists in Secondary Schools

Big Idea #1: Become knowledgeable in curriculum-based measurement and academic interventions already in place at your school site. See what is being done and make it even better.

Realty: I have a general sense of what the academic interventions are for kids at my sites. They are pretty much remedial reading classes, computer-based interventions for targeting basic skills, and “in-class support” from intervention specialists and resource teacher. To my knowledge, there is no systematic curriculum-based measure for tracking progress other than grades. I could investigate further and offer consultation on how to track progress for target classrooms or students in a cute little graph with a trend line.

Big Idea #2: Think of your role as moving from “tester” to “intervention specialist.” Provide students with counseling, assist teachers with data collection, and consult with staff about appropriate academic interventions.

Reality: Dear God. When will I have time to intervene with anything while I’m only at my school one day a week and have to do testing? I suppose I can start with supplementing what I’m already doing. I already go to SSTs so I could meet with key SST team members, and write down every intervention available at our school site to identify gaps. It could be our “Menu of RtI Interventions.”** Then I could help my school site locate community-based organizations that may fill these gaps. And if our RtI Menu only has one appetizer, one main, and no dessert, then at least we will know what to advocate for down the road.

I could also procure a cloning machine, and clone self to have the time to be my school site’s RTI Consultant.*** If I locate such a machine, or get more days at my site, I will definitely consult with The RtI Wire.

Big Idea #3: Focus assessment on Curriculum-Based Measurements and RtI Interventions**

Reality: Our district still requires using the discrepancy model. So for initials, I could add a paragraph in my “background history” of my report on any RtI Interventions that have been attempted. If I’m feeling saucy, I can make a graph of curriculum-based interventions with trend lines, if said interventions have taken place. If not, refer back to Big Idea #2.

Triennials have a bit more leeway with what an assessment looks like if the kid has already been tested several times and the disability is well established. By the time the student is in 10th or 11th grade, it is less helpful for parents and teachers to know that the student still has an auditory processing deficit. They have known that since probably 3rd grade. Ask the parent what they are interested in knowing for the triennial and focus on that. For example, I had a parent who told me she could care less about the kid’s letter-number-sequencing abilities and cognitive test scores. She was worried about her son’s life after high school and if he could learn to fill out job applications and write cover letters. I focused the triennial on the student’s transition plan and work backwards to what can be done now.

*Don’t try to hide! I see your visiting and non-commenting ways. Don’t be scared, share your wealth o’ information!

**I know, the name “Menu of Response to Intervention Interventions” sounds like it came from the Department of Redundant Department, but “Menu of RtInterventions” sounds weird.

***Someone told me once that sarcasm is a form of anger, disguised as humor. Apparently, I’m bitter about the lack of mental health resources for children in our public schools.

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Comments on RtI is the New Black

  1. After last night’s Oscars, I was getting the idea that pregnancy is the new black! At least among celebrities, it is. 🙂

    Your entry hits on what I am picking up on as a real challenge with RTI. Elementary schools are more nimble than middle schools and high schools at being able to implement school-wide changes, but it’s a hard process even there. I interviewed a UC-Santa Barbara professor, Michael Gerber, for a story I did recently. I think I could safely say he believes RTI is being oversold. And one of the reasons, he thinks, is because people aren’t taking school culture into account.

    But maybe what you’re doing here, imagining the process broken down into manageable chunks, is the way to start. RTI at the upper grades is just not going to look the same way as it does with kindergarteners…the trick is to somehow adapt the process and keep it strong, not to somehow change the culture of middle and high schools. I just don’t see that happening.

    I’ve got to go out and visit some middle/high schools that are doing this!

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