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Questioning RTI


Doug Noon expresses skepticism about his district's adoption of a Response to Intervention framework for the new school year. What bothers him, from his veteran teacher's point of view, is the seeming prescriptiveness and detachment of the program:

We were told that we’ll need to find some half-hour blocks where we can do “interventions” with groups of students who are not making adequate progress on the one-minute reading “fluency” tests, and that fidelity to any adopted programs will be critical to student success. This did not play well with veteran teaching staff who question the aims and practicality of this approach to reform. While I am in favor of formative assessment, I do not believe we should confuse reading rate with reading fluency, and I hope we do not make reading rates a district-wide instructional objective at the elementary level. ...
These sorts of initiatives serve a constructive purpose when they get us talking to one another and trying new things. But when our practical knowledge is discounted, incoherence is sure to follow. We need to build capacity for teachers to exercise professional judgment, and not simply train them to follow a manual.

It's an effort to teacher-proof the intervention.....

You are right, it's a clear attempt to work around a teacher's best judgement, in great part because teachers' judgement isn't trusted or valued.

On the other hand, Mrs. Ris, as a parent, I have been through IEP processes that asked what interventions had already been tried by the classroom teacher (in order to arrive at both a sense of the problem and a workable solution). Some teachers actually did carefully think through responses to lagging performance and apply them systematically. Others could just sort or recall things that generally went on as a matter of course in the classroom. These latter were more frequently the ones favoring "we've already tried everything, just get this kid out of my classroom."

If practice were already universally (or even predominantly) sound in this area, there wouldn't be folks targetting it for reform. There are in fact real problems in WHO is diagnosed with learning disabilities, HOW they are diagnosed, WHAT responses we have to those who are diagnosed, HOW FAITHFULLY they are administered, evaluated and how we decide what to do next.

Phrases like "the teacher's best judgment" leave me with a queasy feeling that there's a lot of by gosh and by golly thinking going on.

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