Engaging Families in RTI
This Talk has now concluded.
Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to view the questions and the expert's answers.
Effective home-school collaboration begins with open communication and involvement of parents in all stages of the learning process. Educating families about your school's RTI process is the first step to engaging them as active partners.
Join Markay L. Winston, Ph.D., Director for the Department of Student Services with the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), during our next RTI Talk as she answers your questions about creating positive, engaged relationships that center around supporting student learning, sharing of data and decision making, interventions, and collaborative problem-solving. Dr. Winston will also offer tips based on lessons she learned while educating parents about and collaborating with them on CPS’s RTI model, the "Pyramid of Interventions."
Read more about Markay Winston, Ph.D.
We also trained a small group of parents to serve as trainers for other parents during our district roll out. Parent guides were distributed to our families at each of our schools. We typically offer an annual parent school summit where we invite parents and school teams to jointly participate in trainings on relevant topics such as RTI. Our parents developed our Pyramid of Interventions Parent Guide to help parents to understand the process so that they could have meaningful participation in this initiative within their child's school.
The teacher is key in that they are able to implement the interventions within the school setting, collect data to show the student's progress, and then actively engage the parent in collaborative decision making about what works while seeking visible signs of parental support. Another key is open, consistent and ongoing communication while remembering that every parent only wants the best for their child.
Then, once you have identified some parents to participate, put them to work and listen to their points of view. Offer to provide them with the same type of training that is provided to your school staff so that you can get early buy-in and support. Once your parents understand that RTI is good for all students, they can be some of your best supporters and advocates. The earlier you have parent support, the better.
We successfully supported our parent committee members in training other parents- this was successful beyond our wildest imaginations! Also, make sure that you have parents that represent your student population and are in a position to bring along the support of other parents.
Ideally, it would be great if all parents had the opportunity to hear about this RTI effort at one of the opening parent meetings for the school year so that it will be less threatening later on. In fact, it might be nice to do a brief overview presentation at the beginning of the school year so that parents know what to expect and have an understanding that they play a critical role throughout the entire process.
I don't think it is unrealistic to ask what their expectations are for parent involvement in RTI. Sometimes, I have found that school staff struggle with the implementation of RTI, yet don't want others to know that they might not have all of the answers. For sure, RTI is not easy and requires a lot more time, planning and organization than one might expect. Perhaps you could get your child's school to start small so that it does not feel so overwhelming.
For example, if your daughter's school has appropriately engaged in conducting reading screenings at the beginning of the school year, I would expect that there would be data talks or data reviews that show how much progress your daughter is making based on the specific intervention that is in place to strengthen her reading skills. She should continue to receive core instruction on grade level along with the other children. If she needs more support to be successful, then I might expect her to receive small group pull out intervention support in the area of reading 2 or 3 times per week for approximately 30 minutes each session (this is just an estimate and would need to be tailored to meet your daughter's unique needs).
As a result of this level of frequency, I would expect the school to be collecting data on a weekly or biweekly basis, and charting it in a graph so that you can see pretty quickly if the intervention is working. Many researchers and practitioners might suggest doing this intervention for approximately 8-10 weeks. The outcome of the progress will influence whether you continue with the intervention, change the intervention or stop the intervention. I realize your concern with not wanting to wait too long and risk her falling further behind.
If done properly, the data that is collected can be used to determine if there is a suspected disability or if the intervention is effective. The biggest thing to do is to keep looking at the data and making changes accordingly. Ideally, RtI should allow you and the school team to find out how much support or intensive intervention is necessary in order for your daughter to succeed. Hope this helps a little bit!
2E children are extreme puzzles and if a teacher observes first weakness I assume RTI will begin as planned, but what if a child if first noted for extreme strengths (i.e. gifted) and not until much later hits the wall/struggles/ begins to having failing grades--perhaps as early as 4th grade. How will RTI address a 2E-twice exceptional child?
Most students should perform with this level of instruction alone (approximately 80-90%). If a school or district conducts universal screenings in core content areas, they should be able to identify students who might need more support. For those students who continue to exhibit difficulties and require support beyond the core, then a more targeted approach might be helpful. In the instance of a twice exceptional learner, the same principles and approaches to problem solving should be considered.
Again, I think that one of the biggest considerations is making sure that the school has a good curriculum, that all students have access according to their learning needs, and that the curriculum is been implemented with integrity while being responsive to the types of scaffolding that a child might need (e.g., accommodations needed to help the learner comprehend the material).
The key thing to remember is that data should be collected on how well the student responds to the intervention that is in place. Sometimes, you might know early on that the selected intervention is not effective, say after 4-5 weeks. At that point in time, the team needs to come back together and decide how to modify the intervention while making a plan to continue to progress monitor. You might decide to continue this second intervention for 4-6 more weeks while seeing significant progress.
In some instances, I have heard of school teams doing Tier 2 and 3 interventions for months and months across multiple school years and I do not believe that is the best way to implement RtI. Instead, I think that it is appropriate to have some general guidelines as a district while finding ways to support school teams in making good decisions without having unnecessary delays. All told, I would suggest that the school team allow the data that is being collected on the student's progress guide the length of time that a child should continue to receive supplemental supports.
Similarly, we fully expect to see comparable language in the reauthorization of ESEA (Title I) that will also support RtI. These two funding sources could serve as a nice way to creatively and flexibly support the development of district structures, professional development, and delivery of intervention supports within a high-quality core curriculum. We have also seen great opportunities in using Title III (English Language Learners) funds to support this type of effort.
This type of an approach makes certain that the wrong kids are not being referred for intervention simply because they have not been taught. In other words, the most successful RtI models are those that fully invest in Tier 1—to the point that only a small percentage of students will even require Tiers 2 or 3. Title I administrators should figure out how they can pool resources and beef up Tier 1 as it will benefit all learners (e.g., gifted, disabled, English Language Learners, at-risk, etc.).
Although RtI has many roots in the field of special education, it is still a general education framework. In our district, parents are engaged at the very beginning and are part of the decision making as to when, or even if, the conversation needs to shift to a suspected disability. At any point in time in our process, the school team is able to indicate if they suspect a disability and then they would proceed accordingly.
As a district, we have made a commitment to an RtI model and have made efforts to move away from the discrepancy formula. So, in all honesty, we have embraced RtI and continue to provide the necessary professional development so that all of our staff acquire the skills necessary to use curriculum-based data and other types of data to guide our decision making based on how our students perform within district curriculum.
That concludes our RTI Talk for today. Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful questions and thanks to our expert, Dr. Markay Winston, for her time today.
Related Reading from RTINetwork.org:
- Schools, Families, and Response to Intervention by Amy Reschly
- A Parent Leader's Perspective on Response to Intervention by Debra Jennings
- Engaging Families in Early Childhood Education by the University of North Carolina's FPG Child Development Institute
- NCLD's Parent Advocacy Brief: A Parent’s Guide to Response-to-Intervention
- Cincinnati Public Schools' Parent Guide to the Pyramid of Interventions