Our high school is launching headlong into an RTI initiative this year, so lately I’ve been attending training sessions and reading everything I can find on the topic to help make this work. For years, the special education teachers I know have been lamenting the lack of time and permission to address deficits in foundational knowledge and skills. Since the launch of No Child Left Behind, we have been told to teach grade level standards and provide accommodations such as reading texts aloud and modifying grades. We lost our focus on education in special education.
Now, special and regular education teachers will be given extra time to pull students into small groups and teach out-of-grade-level foundation skills to fill in the gaps when students lack prerequisite skills. What a relief. And yet, I have so many questions and concerns.
- How will intervention classes be graded? High schools are so centered around assigning grades and issuing credits that we sometimes forget that our primary purpose is student learning. Can grades and deep learning coexist?
- Will high school kids buy into the system? Many students who’ve spent years struggling in academic classes will now be asked to spend more school time in English or Math coursework. Will they resist, or is there a way to convince them that they will benefit from the extra help?
- Will high school teachers be able to effectively teach foundation level skills like basic literacy and numeracy? Few of our teachers have had specific training in this type of instruction.
I’m beginning this series to document our progress as we put this system into practice. I don’t know if my optimism is just crazy dreaming or if this might be the start of something that makes a difference. Who else had tried RTI in high school? How has it worked?