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Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools Newsletter

November 2007

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Understanding the Relationship between RTI and SCS

By Randy Sprick

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is generating a lot of interest these days. People often ask me about it and how it relates to our Safe & Civil Schools approach, so I thought a short article on the topic might be warranted.

What is RTI?

Simply put, the RTI model is a multitiered process through which struggling students receive services and targeted interventions at increasing levels of intensity. The data that results from each intervention provides direction that guides further intervention.

RTI arose in response to problems associated with identifying children with specific learning disabilities. However, it is not just a diagnostic tool, nor is it restricted to one set of students. And, while the term RTI is relatively new in the educational consciousness, the concepts that inform it have been in use for some time in the area of behavior management.

By reviewing its features, we can see the parallels between RTI and a proactive, positive behavior support system like Safe & Civil Schools.

While there is no one widely practiced RTI model, the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities has defined its more common attributes:

  • Universal (schoolwide) screening
  • Multiple tiers of increasing levels of intervention
  • Progress monitoring/data-based decision making
  • Research-based interventions/fidelity of implementation


RTI for Behavior Support

Universal — An RTI approach to behavior support must first emphasize the importance of universal interventions at the schoolwide (Foundations) and classroom (CHAMPs) levels. This baseline level of intervention, designed to meet the behavioral and emotional needs of most students, includes any early-stage interventions (such as planned discussions, data collection, and goal setting) that have been agreed upon by all teachers and staff interventionists (school psychologists, counselors, and so on). Only when such universal supports are in place can we know that a student exhibiting chronic behavior problems needs individualized intervention.

Multitiered — Once universal supports have been established, we can summarize an RTI process as: (a) try the easiest intervention that has a reasonable chance of success, (b) use data to determine the effectiveness of the intervention, and (c) if the easy intervention works, move on — otherwise, initiate subsequent tiers, each one bringing more resources to bear upon the situation both for problem analysis and for implementation of further interventions. [For a more in-depth description of behavioral tiers, please see Behavior Support and Response to Intervention: A Systemic Approach to Meeting the Social/Emotional Needs of Students, by Randy Sprick and Mike Booher in Communiqué, Vol. 35. #4 (December 2006).]

Progress Monitoring — When you go in for a routine physical examination, your doctor gathers a variety of information (pulse, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and so on). Your doctor evaluates this objective information (along with the subjective reports you supply about how you feel) and makes a judgment about your overall health. This analogy applies to a student's academic and social/behavioral health as well. Any intervention applied to either an academic or a social problem must be monitored (data collected and evaluated) to determine if the intervention has been successful. "We believe that one of the requirements of professionalism [in education] is making informed decisions based on objective information." (CHAMPs, p. 234)

Research-Based — It is entirely possible that a particular child struggles academically because the instruction he has received has been inadequate for one reason or another. Therefore, RTI demands the use of "effective" intervention, i.e., instruction that has a sound research base. This is true in the behavioral field as well. Any behavioral intervention a teacher uses should have a record of successful implementation in the research literature with evidence that shows its efficacy. Furthermore, with systematic staff development, general and special education teachers should be trained in planning and implementing this sequence of evidence-based interventions to ensure fidelity of implementation (i.e., that the intervention is applied as it was designed to be applied).

RTI and Safe & Civil Schools — While this analysis has been short and simple, it should be clear that the Safe & Civil Schools model is analogous to RTI. Both models rely on a multitiered approach with universal supports and increasingly intensive levels. Both models depend on data to drive decisions about subsequent interventions. Both models require evidence-based interventions that are implemented with fidelity. The Safe & Civil Schools model is RTI.

Benefits of an RTI Approach

Using an RTI approach to behavior support ensures that the people closest to the problem (i.e., the teacher, student, parents) are actively involved in the problem-solving process at the beginning and that other service personnel are not brought into the process until less intensive interventions have proven ineffective.

An RTI approach counters the "wait to fail" model currently in use, where students must experience increasing failure before they receive help. With RTI, help (intervention) is actually part of the process of determining if more intensive help (intervention) is needed.

An RTI model with effective schoolwide and classroom intervention options in place decreases the number of students who will need more intensive intervention services.

And finally, the RTI model can create a common language among those professionals involved. Within this framework (and assuming effective staff development), teachers (general and special education), counselors, administrators, school psychologists, and others can all talk about data-driven intervention design and implementation, function-based intervention, and so on, thereby creating a team-based approach. Without a common language of interventions and problem-solving processes, there are unnecessary communication gaps between general education teachers, special education teachers and the intervention experts.

Conclusions on RTI

RTI (and therefore, Safe & Civil Schools) provides a structure to ensure that behavior support interventions are delivered at the earliest onset of chronic problems resistant to universal interventions. Teachers should be trained to implement an agreed-upon set of evidence-based interventions, moving to subsequent tiers if early-stage interventions are unsuccessful. Each subsequent tier involves more time, expertise and personnel, creating a direct match between the severity and complexity of the problem and the social services available. The ultimate goal of RTI (and therefore Safe & Civil Schools) is to reduce the chance that any student falls through cracks in a district's delivery of behavior support procedures.


Thought you'd like to know...

A new study from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) has determined that the national cost of teacher turnover could be over $7.3 billion a year. Read the press release!




SCS National Conference — We have changed the name of our Train the Trainer conference and its venue! On July 7-11, 2008 when you come to Portland, you will be attending the Safe & Civil Schools National Conference at the Hilton Portland. As always, we will be offering new classes, so watch our website for updates. Please remember to sign up early — registration is limited!


In the Driver's SeatPacific Northwest Publishing is pleased to announce the release of the new Safe & Civil Schools bus discipline program. This revision offers video narration, demonstration scenarios, and interactive exercises to help your drivers learn effective strategies to prevent and correct student misbehaviors. You can find more information and order online at Pacific Northwest Publishing.


Taming the Tardies–Every Minute Counts — The National Middle Schools Association (NMSA) has published an article by Randy Sprick in their October 2007 Middle Ground magazine. In the article, Randy describes his positive sweep strategy and how it differs from more traditional sweeps. If you are a member of the NMSA, you can read the article online.


Safe & Civil Schools Exhibits — We will be exhibiting at these national conventions next year:

  • NASP – February 6-9, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • NASSP – February 22-24, San Antonio, Texas
  • ASCD – March 15-17, New Orleans, Louisiana

Please stop by our booth and let us know how we can help you improve your school climate!


Upcoming Events — Randy Sprick and Safe & Civil Schools associates continue to provide presentations across the country. Some of these offer open registration. Registration may be limited and/or may involve a fee. Contact information is provided for each on our website.



As the holidays approach, the staff at Safe & Civil Schools wish you a productive and positive school year!

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