RTI: The Slow Response to Intervention

RTI is supposed to respond with interventions to students who need it regardless of their eligibility for special education services.  But what happens when the response to interventions doesn't happen in a timely manor.  As a kindergarten teacher, like all teachers, the academic ability of my students in my classroom is a broad spectrum.  Some of my students enter kindergarten already reading, some can't recognize their name in print..  Somehow, someway we manage to reach and teach our students. However, there may be that one student that no matter how hard you try, you just can't reach.  At what point do aggressive interventions need to occur?

It becomes clearly apparent after the first few months of school, which students need extra attention to help them learn.  Depending on your schools' process, it could take quite a long time before the RTI model is put into place for your student. 

At my school, we have a meeting with support staff and admin to discuss students who we think are struggling academically.  At our meeting we brainstorm ideas and possible specialized groups they can be placed in- this is the intervention.  But what happens when that extra, triple dipped intervention isn't enough?
RTI, Response to Intervention

Again depending on your school site, the options will vary.  At my site we can bring a student to the SST process to meet with the parents and the team, to find out some family background and just try to get a better handle on the siutaion.   These meetings can be very valuable.  Often the parents share important information that isn't told to us on the registration forms.  Important things like-
My child didn’t speak until the age of 4 or my child was premature or suffered an injury or severe illness prior to school age.

It is from this team meeting that the next steps for action NEED to take place. We NEED to add the cherry to the top of that triple scoop. We NEED to move forward with assessment for special education services.  We NEED to know what is causing this child to not succeed and access learning at the rate of his peers.
But what happens when they don't?  What happens when the results are "We will just monitor”.  We don't want to test a 5 year old and add a label.  What if you as the teacher just know that it is more than the student needing more time; there is more than they just need to acquire English as a second language. 

This is when the teacher becomes frustrated with the system.  This is when teachers are told don't worry; we know they need more, and it will happen, but not now. What am I supposed to do when a child is so far behind that nothing I do in the classroom is accessible to them because they still can't write their name and the rest of my class is reading? 

As a teacher I feel defeated.  I feel as if I have failed my student.  It becomes personal.  I do what I can to assist the student; I offer peer help and one-to-one. But when what we are doing is so far beyond where that student is, then it becomes a question as to what is he/she they getting out of being in my classroom? 

Next, you work hard to find curriculum, activities, apps and such so they can feel like they are a part of the classroom, but they still need guidance and assistance to complete anything you give them.  There comes a point when differentiation isn’t enough either.

What do you do if you feel you aren't being heard and then your colleagues’ state that they too have a student just like your student? So here we are it is almost March and we have several students who still can't write their name, they can't recognize any letters or numbers they are unable to count to ten.  This is when the RTI model fails the student.  

Do I as a teacher keep complaining and begging for more help.  Do I tell the parent privately that they have rights and need to be vocal?  My parents are mostly second language learners and many would never question anything for fear it could draw attention to them and their immigration status. 

I don't have answers, I don't have a crystal ball, but I can see the future and if we are putting these little ones on hold to give them the education they need and deserve, we are doing them a disservice.  It isn't right that a five year old doesn't like school.  They shouldn't be telling their mom they don't want to go to school because it is too hard. 

What Has RTI Done For Me Lately?
I don't want you to think that I'm completely against RTI- I'm not.  I am however against the parts of it that DO NOT work.  So, what has RTI done for me?  It has given support early on to students who probably don't have a learning disability but just needed a boost or a push to catch up academically.  It supports me by letting me have small groups to address the individual needs of my students.  Our specific RTI model and Learning center has allowed us to group our students for reading instruction to serve students at their reading level.  It not only serves the low performing students, but it also offers additional learning for those higher academic students who are frequently left out because they are high or at grade level. 

I think the idea behind RTI is a good one; its intentions were good.  But somewhere along the path the fear of over identifying students for special needs got lost in the shuffle.  Now we aren't identifying students and if and when we do they might have been in our school system for several year, floundering.  I do think there was a time that we may have over identified students, but we also need to look at the students we teach and know that kids are different today.  The statistics of students being on the autism spectrum is alarming.  Students are arriving to our classrooms often with so much baggage at the age of five that it is truly unthinkable that any child could have endured so much in such a short amount of time. But it happens, the stories are real and these kids are sitting in every one of our classrooms.

When we identify students, we also identify their specific needs and how they learn best. With the identification and knowledge of how they learn, we can serve them better as educators and in the process help them to become academically successful.  We can make the student a successful learner and not make the teacher feel like a failure in the process.


Beany said...

I would love it if they believed the kindergarten teachers and got help for these kids early on and not wait until they are so far behind that they have caused behavior issues and made learning hard for everyone.

Lindsey said...

This speaks to my classroom right now. I know what a typical 5 year is like. I know high ones and low ones. Most importantly I know what isn't typical. I wish "the team" would value my opinion more. I KNOW this child. I spend all day with him. I see his many small group, even 1:1 interventions all year and it just doesn't "click". "The team" refused testing in the fall, but we meet again next week. I'm told "the team" will agree to test and we'll wait 60 days (the end of the year!) to see if he is found to have a label. Mostly I just want others to see what I see everyday and be told, "No you're not crazy and your professional opinion was correct". Oh rant over :)

Tiffani said...

Thank you Beany and Lindsey for your comments. We as experienced teacher just "know" when something isn't right. the "teams" need to trust us. Why would we want to label a child unless we knew something wasn't right.

Unknown said...

I think sometimes students just need more time to mature and learn. I think it is sad that parents feel like they have to start their child when they are five. An extra year of preschool or even repeating kinder would help these little ones so much. I'm a first grade teacher and I see tons of kids pushed on that just aren't developmentally ready yet. There has to be a better way.