Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Responsiveness-to-Intervention: Definitions, Evidence, and Implications for the Learning Disabilities Construct

Fuchs, D., Mock, D., Morgan, P.L., & Young, C.L. (2003). Responsiveness-to-intervention: Definitions, evidence, and implications for the learning disabilities construct. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 157-171.

In the United States the method used to identify children with learning disabilities has been under discussion for a number of years. One of the most frequently discussed alternatives to the IQ achievement discrepancy model is responsiveness-to-intervention (RTI). RTI is a multi-tiered approach that incorporates early identification and increasing levels of support for students with learning and behavioural needs. Initially all children are provided high-quality instruction and screening within the general education classroom. For those students identified as struggling learners research-based instructional interventions at increasing levels of intensity are provided by the classroom teacher, special educators, and specialists. Progress is continuously monitored and interventions differentiated to meet individual student needs. Students who do not respond to the interventions provided are deemed to be in need of special education.

The authors of the present article review the effectiveness and feasibility of two different versions of RTI – the “problem-solving” model and the “standard-protocol” approach. A problem-solving model uses a variety of differentiated interventions that have been developed through a school team consensus process. The standard protocol approach employs the use of the same empirically validated treatment for all children presenting with similar difficulties. Fuchs and his colleagues evaluated the problem solving model by examining four programs considered to be exemplary by a number of educators. They found inconsistencies among the four programs in terms of team support, levels of treatment, and movement into special education. Additionally, they were unable to find sufficient evidence of the effectiveness of the RTI approach in any of these programs. Any studies that were carried out by the problem solving models involved small or undefined samples, with limited information regarding the type, accuracy, or effectiveness of the interventions. Fuchs, et al. then evaluated the standard protocol approach by reviewing the research of Vellutino, et al. (1996). Although they felt this study provided a strong model of evidence-based intervention they also questioned whether the use of a standard treatment protocol is appropriate for all struggling students since it deprives them of individually tailored or differentiated instruction. Overall they felt the standard protocol approach appeared more likely in principle to facilitate greater quality control while the problem solving model was more sensitive to individual student differences. A number of recommendations were made with regard to future RTI implementation.

This paper provided a good description of two versions of RTI while documenting the inconsistencies and lack of evidence based practice used in the implementation of these models. It also emphasized the need for further research.

Blogger: Rosine Salazer. Rosine is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Vice Principal currently on leave from the Thames Valley District School Board. She is interested in studying the impact of students’ narrative language abilities on student performance and provincial assessments.

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