Components of Response to Intervention
Response to Intervention introduced a perspective on teaching and learning that is different from the traditional approach used in schools. The differences include varied instructional settings and assessment and intervention targeted to individual student needs. The goal of RTI is to intervene and teach students who show delays in their learning without the need for labels and expensive programming. The research on RTI in schools has shown that a successful RTI program reduces the need for special education while increasing the effectiveness of instruction for all students.
In the historical perspective, we learned two important facts. First, too many students were failing and/or dropping out of school and most likely all of these students are not truly disabled (Lyon et al., 2001). Second, in order to judge if a student had been exposed to high quality instruction, we need to identify and clarify exactly what is high quality instruction.
Reading researchers from universities across the nation were invited to Washington, D.C. and under the guidance of the National Institutes of Health, to review current research and determine how to define quality instruction. Since most students who struggled or who were referred to special education were students who had not yet learned to read well, the group was asked to focus on the area of reading first. This research group became known as the National Reading Panel and released their review of the research in 2000. This panel of experts performed one of the most exhaustive research reviews of reading instruction ever undertaken. They were careful to base their opinions and highlights on articles that fell into the category of peer reviewed research. This allowed them to focus on evidence from a higher standard, while allowing journal articles that lacked experimental design, methodology, control groups and statistical data analysis to serve as background and context, but not to drive their results.
This review of evidence-based or peer-reviewed studies on the development of reading, led the panel to classify their findings into five major components. These components were later known as the Big 5 Areas in Reading and became the driving components for the National Reading Initiative known as Reading First. The five components are:
- Phonemic Awareness – These skills enable students to hear a word as a whole and to produce the individual sounds that make up that word.
- Phonics – These skills link the sounds of the words to the visual features of that same word when written. They are also known as the alphabetic principle or orthographics.
- Comprehension - The ultimate goal of reading to translate the words from the page into language and knowledge.
- Vocabulary - These skills allow students to recognize a word and know the meaning, as well as knowing the component parts of words such as prefixes, suffixes and roots in order to derive meaning and classify words by like-meaning.
- Fluency – Students are able to decode print effectively and efficiently.
Federal money came in waves to school districts across the nation. The Reading First initiative encouraged schools to begin to do something they had never done before - compare their daily reading instruction practices to the evidence from the National Reading Panel. Centers for quality reading instruction on behalf of general populations were established at a number of universities. Some of the centers that were established during this movement were:
- DIBELS at the University of Oregon (https://dibels.uoregon.edu)
- The Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University (http://www.fcrr.org)
- The Vaughn Gross Center at University of Texas (http://www.meadowscenter.org/vgc/)
- Children’s Learning Center in Houston, formerly as The CARS Center (http://www.childrenslearninginstitute.org/)
The National Reading Panel reported that Reading First was a good start, and that much more research was still needed. America’s 21st century schools must have the ability to be flexible for student diversity. Schools needed to know which methods of reading instruction would be the most effective and efficient for student subgroups. This was an enormous challenge that is still very much in process as of 2010. Many centers for reading research across the nation focusing not just on a normative view of reading development for general populations, but also on how that normative view might shift when used with students of specific subgroups, including those with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, and students from poverty. Examples of such reading centers include:
Research Centers that have expanded the normative view and are engaged in finding answers for students of minority or disability subgroups include:
- University of Washington Multidisciplinary Learning Disabilities Center (http://education.washington.edu/research/centers/uwldc.html)
- The IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University (http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/)
- The Texas Center for LD at the University of Houston (http://www.texasldcenter.org)
- The Kansas Center at University of Kansas (http://www.ku-crl.org/)
- The Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC (http://www.cal.org/)