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The Creators of SIOP Give Advice on 'Response to Intervention'

Two of the researchers who created one of the most widely used professional development approaches for how to teach English-language learners, known as "SIOP," have written a book on how "response to intervention," or RTI, can mesh with that approach.

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Jana Echevarria, a professor emerita at California State University, Long Beach, and MaryEllen Vogt, a professor emerita of education at California State University, Long Beach, have written a book that tells how the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP, which is a set of strategies for modifying instruction for English-language learners, can work with response to intervention. In RTI, students who are struggling are given academic interventions with the intention of preventing their having to be referred to special education.

The book, Response to Intervention (RTI) and English Learners: Making It Happen, delves into some topics I haven't yet seen discussed in the few research briefs or books that have come out on this subject. For example, it includes a section on how to use RTI with English-learners at the secondary level. For that section, it uses as a foundation some of the work the Pennsylvania Department of Education has done to guide educators in carrying out RTI. Echevarria and Vogt's contribution is to urge all teachers who provide instruction at the Tier 1 level of RTI to adopt strategies for working with ELLs. And ideally, the researchers say, all teachers providing interventions for Tiers 2 and 3 would use those strategies as well.

The researchers steer educators away from thinking of RTI for English-learners as just a new fad, and encourage them to think of the approach as a way of using a school district's existing resources, programs, and personnel to improve teaching and learning. I like a lot of the sidebars in the book that provide checklists that administrators or teachers can use to evaluate if they are making RTI work. Questions for administrators include: Are your teachers qualified to work effectively with English-learners? Are you supervising the RTI process by observing in classrooms?

This is the most practical and comprehensive book I've yet seen on how to carry out RTI for ELLs. Echevarria and Vogt acknowledge that RTI can be done badly. At one point, for example, they list everything that Tier 1 in the educational approach "is not." It's not core instruction where some students are successful and others are not. It's not reliance on teachers' aides to determine what students need and to provide remediation. It's not teachers working primarily on their own. It's not dividing students into fixed instructional groups with a high group, average group, and low group of achievers, they say.

Pearson, the publisher for the book, says it will go on sale this month for $42.99.

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