It Takes a Well-Organized Village: Implementing RTI/MTSS Models in Secondary Schools

It Takes a Well-Organized Village: Implementing RTI/MTSS Models in Secondary Schools

Susan G. Porter (National University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8322-6.ch002


Response to intervention (RTI) and multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) are educational initiatives designed to increase the success of all students in general education and reduce the number of students referred for special education services. RTI and MTSS have resulted in improved outcomes for students. Successful implementation of RTI and MTSS relies upon collaboration between teachers and other school personnel. Lack of collaboration and consistency between members of MTSS teams can compromise the fidelity of the interventions, which can lead to poor student outcomes. Secondary RTI and MTSS models are difficult to implement due to several factors, including student diversity, curriculum complexity, and high student-staff ratios. This chapter investigates recent research on the implementation of RTI and MTSS models in secondary schools and focuses on the interdisciplinary efforts required to implement these models with fidelity and with student success.
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Response to Intervention (RTI) is an educational reform designed to reduce the numbers of students identified and referred for special education services. RTI is considered an important general education initiative that will improve instruction and achievement for students in general and in special education settings. Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), which evolved from RTI, is designed to support all students—both academically and behaviorally—so that they can succeed in school. The success of RTI and MTSS depends on a unified approach to assessment and instruction that is supported by administration at the school and district level.

MTSS is supported at the federal level. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004) specifically advocates for the use of RTI models for assessing and identifying students with mild disabilities. Educational advocacy panels and national organizations have also acknowledged RTI as a major general and special education initiative (National Association of State Directors of Special Education, 2006; National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2005). All 50 states have incorporated RTI into their State Development Plans, and most states have adopted a state RTI framework. It is estimated that over 70% of elementary schools in the United States are using some type of RTI model to identify at-risk students and assist them in catching up with their same-grade peers (Sparks, 2015). The majority of states offer financial support for districts that wish to implement districtwide RTI models (SEDL, 2008). On the other hand, clear procedures from the state and federal government on how to implement RTI models have been slow to reach the district and school levels (Samuels, 2016; Sansosti & Noltemeyer, 2008). In fact, the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—also called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—only mentions broad guidelines for tiered support systems in its advisement to districts and schools regarding support for student success. Its advisement to schools states that the schoolwide program plan must be

developed with the involvement of parents and other members of the community to be served and individuals who will carry out such plan, including teachers, principals, other school leaders, paraprofessionals present in the school, administrators, the (district), . . . and, if appropriate, specialized instructional support personnel, technical assistance providers, school staff, (and) . . . if the plan relates to a secondary school, students and other individuals determined by the school. (ESSA, 2015)

Clearly, collaborative and interdisciplinary leadership teams are critical to the consistency and success of RTI models. School and district leadership is another key factor in the successful implementation of comprehensive school reforms like MTSS and RTI (Dulaney, 2012). However, RTI also demands that leaders understand both the technical features and the adaptive changes required for RTI models to be successful at the secondary level (Mellard, Prewett, & Deshler, 2012).

This chapter outlines some of the challenges to implementing MTSS and RTI models in secondary schools and explores how site interdisciplinary leadership teams can assist in the implementation of successful RTI/MTSS models in their schools.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): A process by which teachers and administrators work collaboratively to plan student learning and to enhance their effectiveness for students’ benefit. PLCs are based on the premise that teacher leadership and involvement in school improvement efforts are the most effective way to reform and improve schools.

Positive Behavior Supports/Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) Model: Proactive instructional models that focus on creating positive learning environments in classrooms and across school settings to encourage appropriate student behaviors. PBIS is now considered part of an effective multi-tiered system of support for schools.

Response to Intervention (RTI): A model adopted by schools and districts for the support and identification of students who are at risk for special education referral and/or placement. RTI models use the following to support at-risk students and to determine whether they are eligible for special education services: (1) a screening tool to determine students academically or behaviorally at risk, (2) a tiered system of intervention and support, (3) evidence-based programs and interventions tailored to individual student needs, and (4) progress monitoring of student responses to instruction and intervention.

Problem-Solving RTI Model: RTI method that utilizes a more individualized approach to planning and monitoring interventions throughout the RTI process and is especially suited for older students or for situations that require multidisciplinary teams and strategies for the individual student.

Interdisciplinary Teams: School site teams consisting of site administrators, school psychologists, school counselors, regular and special education teachers, parents, and other qualified individuals who are invested and knowledgeable about school success for all students. These site teams design and lead implementation of schoolwide systems of support such as MTSS and RTI and then review student outcome data on an ongoing basis to determine the success of the support and make changes as needed.

Standard-Protocol RTI Model: Traditional RTI approach that uses regular screening of all children in the general curriculum to monitor progress in key curricular areas (e.g., reading and math); tiered instruction of increasing intensity; research-based curriculum/intervention materials prescribed for each tier; and highly standardized procedures for providing interventions to ensure treatment fidelity across teachers and settings (hence, the name “standard protocol”).

Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS): A framework adopted by many PK–12 schools to address the academic and behavioral needs of students. While MTSS models offer academic and behavioral supports to all students in accordance with Universal Design for Learning, these supports are increased incrementally (i.e., in tiers) for students showing greater need. Besides differentiating supports and interventions for students, MTSS models also include the following features: universal screening, ongoing progress monitoring, and adjustments to the model in accordance with student outcome data.

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