Education Northwest







New IES-Funded Study of RTI

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Models of Response to Intervention in the Northwest Region States

Response to intervention (RTI) is a framework for improving educational outcomes that focuses on monitoring student learning so as to modify instruction and provide interventions that are matched to students' needs. Interest in RTI is growing in the Northwest region and the nation because it is emerging as a promising approach to ensuring effective instruction for all students.

A new report from Education Northwest provides information on the RTI models supported by state education agencies in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The study—titled Models of response to intervention in the Northwest Region states —also examines the resources, policies, and activities that the states provide to support implementation of RTI.

“Over the past few years, RTI has been generating a lot of interest,” says Jennifer Stepanek, one of the authors of the study. “All 50 states have some form of RTI, but there hasn’t been a lot of information available about what those efforts look like. Our study is an attempt to provide a better picture of what the SEAs in our region are doing to support RTI.”

When Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, systems such as RTI were authorized as an approved method for identifying students with specific learning disabilities. As a result, RTI is often associated with special education. However, the study findings indicate that all five states in the Northwest Region were promoting RTI as a means of improving general education for all students. For example, Alaska uses the term “response to instruction/intervention” instead of “response to intervention” to emphasize that RTI is for all students. Idaho, Oregon, and Washington identified RTI as both an overall system for school improvement and a framework for identifying and evaluating students for special education.

The rationales that states gave for promoting and supporting RTI varied somewhat. In Alaska and Montana, the flexibility of the RTI framework is an important benefit. Because RTI does not require specific materials or programs, it lends itself to local adaptation, a key consideration for those states’ diverse populations. SEA representatives from Montana, Oregon, and Washington emphasized that RTI is a means of promoting collaboration between special education and general education, with the goal of strengthening education programs for all students.

The findings from the Northwest study demonstrate that the states are supporting models of RTI that included many common components and reflect practices identified in the RTI literature. All five states provided guidance on research-based curriculum and instruction, collection and analysis of assessment data, research-based interventions, implementation fidelity, and school- and district-level decisionmaking teams.

“One of the exciting things about our project is that it dovetails with other studies on RTI from REL Southeast and REL West,” says Stepanek. “The three projects help to form a more complete description of RTI at the state level.” However, she emphasizes that the studies do not address the effectiveness of the approach. “People are interested in RTI because of its potential. If it works as intended, it will help schools establish systematic policies and procedures for improving teaching and learning for all students, especially those who are struggling. More research is needed to determine if that potential will result in positive outcomes for students and schools.”

Models of response to intervention in the Northwest Region states was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). More information about IES and the Regional Educational Laboratories—including the RTI studies from REL Southeast and REL West—is available at the IES Web site.