Adventures in RTI and Teamwork

Also known as Adventures in RTI part 3…More commonly known as Huh? I have to do  RTI?

I’ve been pondering RTI a lot since my conference in June. It’s hard to believe it’s been a month! While reading people’s comments about my previous post and talking with other SLPs, I’ve realized a couple of things: 1) There is a lot of confusion about RTI, 2) it’s not just my school that’s confused, and 3) There is a lot to RTI beyond the surface appearance. Hopefully, my post cleared up some confusion or at least didn’t generate too much new confusion.

Recently I was going over some of the information that I received at the conference, trying to formulate some ideas for the upcoming school year, when I happened across a handy little reference page from National Professional Resources, Inc.. Looking over the website, there are a lot of the laminated pages that would be very helpful. I’m definitely going to be requesting a few for my school (the one on data looks particularly promising). But, believe it or not, this post is not a free advertisement for the handouts (even if I do like them). It’s to talk about the teamwork required for RTI to be successful.

The RTI Team consists of school professionals who meet on a regular basis. Personally, I think that this sort of takes the place of the Building Level Support team or the Child Study Team of years gone by.  Obviously the purpose of the group is to meet the educational needs of the child (and provide support to the teachers). According to the handout, the RTI Team needs to:

  • evaluate students’ performance and teachers’ concerns
  • review baseline data that has been collected
  • determine goals and progress monitoring methods
  • review and monitor
  • develop a plan to discuss performance with parents

The RTI Team will vary depending on the needs of the school. However, it typically includes the:

  • Principal or Assistant Principal
  • Reading Teacher
  • School Psychologist
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • General Education Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

At the RTI Conference, one of the speakers suggested the need for an RTI Coach. Someone who is trained in the laws regarding RTI (yes there are laws – who knew?) and who is able to help avoid the RTI Paralysis that always seems to set in at some point (but that’s the subject of another post). While I hate to add jobs to an already busy workload and I know most SLPs have more work than time….it may be that the SLP is uniquely skilled to be the “coach.”

According to the handout, the role of the SLP is as an expert in understanding the elements of “speech” and language development. As we all know, it’s impossible to solve a story problem in math, read a book, etc. without language. I believe the SLP’s role in RTI goes beyond this “speech” and “language” and encompasses the teamwork necessary for successful RTI.

The SLP’s role is also to help lead the collaboration that’s necessary. Many individuals have trouble with task analysis and determining where to start with a skill. Many teachers aren’t used to taking data the way it needs to be done for RTI. They may need help figuring which skill is lacking (is it vocabulary? is it decoding? is it attention? Is it reading fluency or comprehension?). The SLP is slightly outside the typical circle of educators and we have a unique perspective. Often we can see the whole picture where the teachers are too close (or overwhelmed) to see clearly.

In addition we, as SLPs, know when to say enough is enough and change interventions. To look critically at data and say “yes! the goal has been met” or “Yes, if we continue this way, we can expect the goal to be reached,” and “No. This kid is working hard but we are just not making enough progress and we need to change how we approach the problem.” We analyze data regularly to determine whether goals will be met, skills have been learned, and if it’s time to back off and reduce cueing. We are invested in the child, not the program or the mode of learning…or the ego. As educators, we need to remember to say, “If you haven’t learned this skill – I need to change the way I teach it” not “you’re not trying hard enough”…and that’s what RTI is all about.

As I prepare the next installment of this RTI series…I challenge each of you to think about how you can help the RTI process in your school. What is your role now? How can you do more to help build the collaborative team working together to help your students? What role do you feel SLPs have to play in RTI?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Until then…Adventure on!


5 thoughts on “Adventures in RTI and Teamwork

  1. I’m very involved in RtI at my school, and in Florida, students are identified with language impairment through the RtI process. I am on the “core team” that meets weekly to discuss each student who might need an intervention plan and to monitor students who are already on an intervention. I collaborate with all teachers who have students with language interventions. I do not provide any interventions myself, but I do write the plan, support the teacher with implementation, and monitor the student’s progress. I really believe in the RtI process, and while we have had some major growing pains, I think it is the best for our kids. The biggest challenge is changing the way people think, because it certainly is a different way of doing things.

      • I mean I don’t do the intervention myself. I choose the intervention and consult with whoever is providing the instruction, usually the classroom teacher. I do not do language therapy until students are identified as language impaired and have an IEP. Does that even answer your question? lol

  2. I wish the RTI team at my valued my expertise. We started RTI last year for middle school students (6, 7, 8) and I was initially placed on the math team! Quickly made that change! Half way through the school year due to budget cuts, I was taken off the RTI team and worked with speech/language IEP students. This year they have assigned me to the “Literacy Lab” which is actually for the students NOT needing RTI. They will be reading a self selected book and journal writing about that book for 30 minutes. I will monitor this classroom as they read and write. The 6, 7, 8 classroom teachers will be implementing the RTI along with two ed. techs and a literacy coach. I have expressed my concerns to the Special ed. director but I don’t know if it will make a difference.

  3. Oh Diane, how very frustrating!
    It seems to me like you’d be better off on the math team – at least then you’d be able to see if language problems were the cause for the math challenges… being with students who don’t need RTI seems like a waste of a valuable resource. I wonder what their rationale is for placing you with the students not in need of RTI. I’m sure your caseload is large enough you could be doing other things than monitoring capable students.

    Maybe this year will make the difference. Perhaps they simply didn’t know where to place you and some guided suggestions to the principal will help? Good luck…I’d love to know how it goes this year for you.

    I’ll be posting a few more thoughts on RTI…maybe you can let us know how the year goes.

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