Education Letter to the Editor

Thoughts and Questions on ‘Response to Intervention’

February 23, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Some observations on using “response to intervention” in departmentalized middle, junior, and senior high schools (“High Schools Try Out RTI,” Jan. 28, 2009):

RTI’s origins are in elementary, skill-driven schools, and the strategy follows a clinical instructional model: assess, gather data, prescribe, monitor, and retest. Therefore, it is only natural that when RTI is tried in knowledge-based, departmentalized schools, it is imported and implanted. Since departmentalized schools do not have the same goals as elementary schools, a different set of questions must be asked:

Intervention in what? In knowledge-based schools, students enroll in content courses such as literature (not reading), the sciences, mathematics, history, geography, and a wide range of technology courses. Does RTI define intervention in terms of success or failure in these? Can it be used in courses in which reading is not the primary means by which students encounter content?

Who is involved? Is RTI for all students? If an honors or Advanced Placement class in European history is encountering achievement problems, will RTI respond? Or, is it a program to deal only with basic-skills-identified students?

What is being monitored? Is the monitoring data source basic-skills achievement or the requirements of academic courses? A literature course, for example, will focus on goals that are not shared by basic-skills testing.

How is progress measured? The course needs in a departmentalized school are not those found on standardized tests.

Staffing for what? Are literacy specialists assigned to RTI centers ready to move quickly and decisively into mathematics, science, and technology courses in which language demands are entirely different from RTI data sources?

Finally, what are the goals for RTI centers? Achievement for all students on all external examinations, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, SAT reasoning and subject tests, and the ACT exam? Instead of or in addition to basic-skills tests required for No Child Left Behind reports and high school graduation?

Response to intervention can work in departmentalized settings and help all students achieve if its advocates recognize and adjust to the tribal and discrete worlds of non-elementary schools.

Harry Stein

New York, N.Y.
The writer teaches at Manhattan College and the City University of New York City College.

A version of this article appeared in the February 25, 2009 edition of Education Week as Thoughts and Questions on ‘Response to Intervention’


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP