Many schools subscribe to an early-warning intervention model of some kind to help support the unique needs of students. Whether it’s called RTI, RTI2, MTSS, or something else altogether, there are core elements and best practices that run throughout each approach to intervention. Here we’ll explore five best practices for your intervention program (no matter which model you subscribe to), using an example of RTI2 as our guide.
1. Plan for students joining during the middle of the academic year
You have a regular cadence to administer assessments for students who spend all year at your school, but what about more transient populations or students who move midyear? Define procedures to ensure that these students also receive a universal screener and establish how data will be reviewed to determine the next steps. Additionally, ensure that you have a plan for how to secure records from the student’s previous school. Plans for students moving from a different city versus a different country will look different—do you have both accounted for?
2. Reinforce collaboration with regular parent or caregiver communication
Creating a culture of collaboration to support every child starts and ends with investing families in the process. Do you have a plan regarding who is responsible for making contact? How frequent or under what circumstances is contact necessary? A designated person who can help coordinate parent contact may be helpful. After all, a helper in this area can help organize automated phone systems, emails, and student-delivered communications. Additionally, there are certain activities in which it will be essential that parents are kept in the loop. These include meetings before initiating or discontinuing tiered interventions, written communication of progress every four to five weeks, referrals to special education, and dates and duration of universal screening.
3. Support all students—including English language learners
Intervention is a process focused on prevention and early involvement for all students, including English language learners (ELLs). Starting with the assessment, intervention should be culturally sensitive and free of bias. Thoughtful consideration should be given in interventions to provide supports that are proven to help non-English speakers. Finally, an ESL teacher should be part of the school-level intervention team if an ELL is being discussed.
4. Provide ongoing professional development learning opportunities
Every good school initiative includes some element of professional development, but what are some of the best options? Professional learning centered on intervention can occur during the school day weekly or biweekly. These activities may include analyzing student data, sharing instructional strategies, developing lessons, designing common assessments, and reviewing student work. Additionally, educators may require competency-based professional development focused on a deep understanding of knowledge and skills. These sorts of learning opportunities are most effectively delivered through classes, workshops, peer observations, mentoring, and online learning.
5. Commit to fidelity of instruction and monitoring
It’s important to think about operating with fidelity as the responsibility of all instructional leaders. Fidelity does not inhibit responsive instruction, ongoing decision-making, or differentiation, but rather, it helps determine the extent to which the delivery of an instructional method is supporting student learning goals. Fidelity of instruction is reflected in the use of research-based practices and standards-based instruction, and it can be measured during observations or through student outcomes. Fidelity of monitoring, on the other hand, requires that first, a high-quality data tool is used, and that second, the information obtained is analyzed and combined with observational data for a complete picture of student strengths and needs.