Friday, April 13, 2012

Kentucky: Statewide implementation of response-to-intervention

Reading proficiently by 3rd grade or bust! That seems to be the rallying cry in many states in recent legislative sessions. While a number of states have taken the route of retaining students who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade, research and experience make clear that early identification and intervention are absolutely critical if students are to become successful readers in the early grades--retention policy or no retention policy.

Kudos to Kentucky, where H.B. 69 was enacted Wednesday to require all districts to implement districtwide use of a response-to-intervention (RTI) system for students in grades K-3. The RTI system must be be for general, compensatory, and special education students, and must provide "interventions implemented with fidelity to scientifically based research" (like the "implemented with fidelity to..." rather than simply requiring interventions to incorporate scientifically based research, since interventions are not always implemented with fidelity!) Districts are to implement RTI systems over a few years, with reading and writing to be implemented by August 2013, math by August 2014, and behavior by August 2015.

Some of the other key components of this legislation:
  • The department of education must make technical assistance and training available to all districts in implementing the RTI system districtwide
  • Technical assistance must be designed to improve specified components critical to the quality and effectiveness of interventions
  • The department must develop and maintain a Web-based resource, to provide ongoing support to teachers in all of the targeted areas--reading, writing, math, and behavior
  • The department must encourage districts to use both state and federal funds as appropriate to implement the districtwide RTI system
  • The department is not going this road alone. The legislation encourages the department to collaborate with postsecondary institutions on "technical assistance and training on current best practice interventions", and is required to collaborate with specified existing entities, including postsecondary teacher education programs, and state-supported centers focused on literacy development mathematics, and instructional discipline, "to ensure that teachers are prepared to utilize scientifically based interventions in reading, writing, mathematics, and behavior."
  • This is no "set it and forget it" policy--there's a reporting component. By November 30, 2013, and each year thereafter, the department is required to report specified components to the interim joint committee on education, including "data on the effectiveness of interventions in improving student performance" in schools in the state.

The aforementioned ECS report makes clear that many retention policies focused on the early grades are likely to minimally impact their goal--widespread reading proficiency by the end of grade 3--without early identification of difficulties and prompt, appropriate interventions. Kentucky's new legislation provides a promising approach to ensuring early identification plus interventions, as the bill states, "matched to individual student strengths and needs."

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