Recently, Congress has made substantial changes to our nation’s federal education laws, specifically the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004). Both pieces of legislation put a clear focus on the establishment of robust, evidence-based general education instruction and curriculum that is effective in helping a majority of students reach grade level benchmarks. Additionally, for those students who continue to struggle in the general education setting, intervening early is paramount with the revisions in both NCLB and IDEA.
A report by the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education (PCESE) entitled A New Era: Revitalizing Special Education for Children and Their Families made three major recommendations when reviewing the systems delivering services to our most needy students. The first recommendation was to focus on the services provided to all students and the resulting student outcomes rather than on matters of “process, litigation, regulation and confrontation.” Secondly, the report recommends a model of service delivery that prevents student failure through early intervention, commenting that the current model withholds service until a child is failing. Lastly, the report notes that “children placed in special education are general education children first,” recommending that general and special education share responsibilities to assure that students with additional needs receive additional supports through a seamless instructional system.
The movement away from accountability for process to accountability for student outcomes has led the legislature at both the national and state level to strongly support early intervening practices. Consistent with the themes of IDEA, NCLB, and PCESE are practices termed Problem Solving/Response to Intervention (PS/RtI). These practices have strong empirical support for their use with struggling students. PS/RtI operates within a systematic problem-solving model in which instructional decisions are made by a multidisciplinary team regarding student progress. A systematic problem-solving process uses the skills of professionals from multiple disciplines to develop and evaluate intervention plans to improve the academic and behavioral performance of all students.
The following sequential four steps of the problem-solving process are completed in all situations, whether addressing large groups (district or school-wide), smaller groups (grade level or classroom), or individual children.
- Problem Identification, entails accurately identifying the problem and the desired behavior for the student(s) experiencing academic or behavioral difficulty.
- Problem Analysis, involves analyzing why the problem is occurring by collecting data to determine possible causes of the identified problem.
- During Intervention Design & Implementation, evidence-based interventions based upon data collected previously are selected or developed, then implemented.
- Lastly, evaluating the effectiveness of interventions utilized is paramount in a problem-solving process. This fourth step is termed Response-to-Intervention. It is in this fourth step that a student’s or group of students’ response to our implemented intervention is measured so that we may evaluate the effectiveness of our instructional efforts.
The problem-solving process is self-correcting, and, if necessary, recycles in order to achieve the best outcomes for all students. This process is strongly supported by both IDEA and NCLB. Specifically, both legislative actions support all students achieving benchmarks regardless of their status in general or special education.
For more information on the individual steps of problem solving, click on the name of the step below.
|Step 1: Problem Identification
What is the problem?
|Step 4: Response to Intervention
Is it working?
|Step 2: Problem Analysis
Why is it occurring?
|Step 3: Intervention Design
What are we going to do about it?
The PS/RtI process is applied in a multi-tiered approach to providing services and interventions at increasingly intense levels based on student response to each intervention. The multi-tiered system involves three tiers of interventions for struggling students based upon level of need. The first tier (universal) consists of the core curriculum and general education program which is based on evidence-based practices. The initial task in this process is to assure that the core curriculum is effective for a major portion of the students.
After demonstrating that the core curriculum results in success for most students, the second tier (supplemental) consists of supplemental instruction in addition to the core curriculum to support the small groups of students who continue to struggle. Tier two interventions are delivered in a small group format using strategies known to be effective in addressing these learners.
Tier three (intensive) interventions are designed to be individualized, long-term interventions for students who have not responded to Tier I and Tier II interventions that have been delivered with a high degree of fidelity.
At all tiers, the four-step, PS/RtI process is used to maximize outcomes for students.
Thus, the PS/RtI methodology first assures the success of large numbers of children, then narrows focus to small groups, finally delivering maximum supports to individual students.