Trend Watch: Response to Intervention and ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 12, 2009 2 min read
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Two trends in professional development that are sweeping the country—Response to Intervention, or RTI, and the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP—will converge during a summer institute in Long Beach, Calif. The workshop is a sign that how to carry out Response to Intervention, an approach in which educators try various interventions before determining if students need to be evaluated for special education, for ELLs is a new hot topic on the horizon.

Jana Echevarria, a special education professor at California State University, Long Beach, and MaryEllen Vogt, an associate professor of education at the same university, are offering the workshop August 13-14 in Long Beach, Calif. Register here.

While these women have expertise in special education and reading, they are better known across the country for having created SIOP, along with Deborah Short, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Linguistics. That’s a set of 30 strategies based on research that regular classroom teachers can use to teach English-language learners.

Every time I turn around, it seems, I hear of some school district that is providing professional development in SIOP. The strategies include giving students a chance to practice speaking English, building on students’ background knowledge, using visuals and gestures, teaching with both a content objective and language objective, and making vocabulary development an intentional goal of every lesson.

Echevarria told me in a phone interview that, in general, “ELLs will probably perform better in a more engaging interactive setting than a traditional teacher-dominated one.”

She says the workshop is intended to help educators understand what special considerations need to be made for ELLs as they move through the three tiers of RTI. If teachers are using strategies such as SIOP to reach ELLs in the first tier, which takes place in the regular classroom setting, educators may find that a second tier, where short-term interventions are used either in the regular classroom or a separate setting, is often not necessary. The third tier of RTI may or may not be in a regular classroom and is considered special education.

The workshop’s goal, says Echevarria, “is hopefully to get districts to think about how they can meet the needs of ELLs and look at modifications to their standard RTI protocol.”

She’s written a research brief discussing RTI for English-language learners that will soon be published by the National Center for Research on the Educational Achievement and Teaching of English-Language Learners, or CREATE.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.