Here’s a couple more new acronyms to add to your lexicon. These are not limited to special education. No, they are coming to regular education classrooms nationwide and especially (as far as I know) to the state of Georgia.
RTI is Response To Intervention, which is the latest buzzword burning across all levels of the educational spectrum. In fact, my blog traffic will probably jump just because I’m referencing it. Everyone is talking about it, or at least writing about it so I though I would throw in my two cents. POI is Pyramid Of Interventions, which might be Georgia’s tricky take on RTI. Here, the two seem to be used together and the state is basically mandating that the RTI/POI approach be used effective immediately. We just had a recent faculty presentation on it, and it certainly caused a lot of buzz amongst the teachers. At least for the regular teachers.
What RTI basically involves is a sort of approach that behaviorists have always used. Basically, if a student is falling behind in a subject, the teacher begins collecting data and tracks the students’ progress. There are some interventions that the teacher can try such as peer tutoring, extra practice, a graphic organizer or some other instructional strategy in order to help the student progress in the curriculum. If the student fails to respond to the intervention, then another intervention is attempted and the student is tracked some more. If the student makes progress, that’s great! If they do not, you progress up a level on the pyramid of intervention (POI). The intent is to keep students from falling behind and to keep them from having to go into special education. The goal is to have less than 5% of the school population in special education as opposed to the present rate which is about 13% in our system. This is a procedure not altogether foreign to most special educators because we tend to be more behaviorally oriented. However, the general education teachers are not from behaviorist backgrounds, so they almost instantly begin thinking in terms of learning styles, modalities, multiple intelligence and other assorted theories that may be very nice but are not really shown to be efficacious according to any sort of empirical research.
What really makes the regular ed. teachers groan (especially at the high school level) is the increased paperwork this is going to involve. Much of the load that us special educators have been carrying for years is being shifted to the regular teachers. And for a high school teacher who may teach 150 students per day, this is VERY substantial! This is why a collaborative model of instruction begins making more and more sense because well-trained special educators can help with the data collection and interpretation as well as help implement research-based interventions that might yield some results. However, this does not appear to be the way things are shaping up from what I can see in my school. Special education seems to be more and more marginalized, and the emphasis seems to be on trying to bypass and eliminate that exceptional subgroup altogether. Hey, if kids can learn better, I’m all for it! I have other areas I can (and will) teach. But regular education has been struggling with the load they already have. Increasing the non-teaching paperwork burden on those folks will not improve the special educator’s lot, nor will it improve teaching quality. It might make an already severe teaching shortage even moreso. Plus their concept of “research-based” is sort of loose compared to what I’m used to seeing in special education literature.
If you haven’t heard of RTI, you need to bone up on it. I’ll extend on the topic more (because we were guaranteed more in-service meetings on it) and provide a few resources to look at.