RTI in Early Childhood
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A compelling body of evidence affirms that early intervention support can prevent or mitigate the occurrence of language, literacy, social emotional, and academic learning difficulties in young children. Given the fundamental importance of early intervention and prevention for young children who face developmental learning challenges, the downward extension of RTI from school-age to pre-k is a logical step. It is essential that we expand our use of RTI to early childhood settings and program given the natural fit between RTI and early childhood practices and the importance of early intervention to place the child on a trajectory for success. However, while the critical features of RTI and Pre-K RTI remain similar, RTI approaches designed for school-aged children cannot simply be lifted and applied to younger children without modifications.
Join Donna Nylander and Jim Lesko during our next RTI Talk as they answer your questions about adapting the specific applications of RTI to fit within the early childhood culture and to address the developmental needs of young children. They will also offer tips based on lessons learned working with local schools to guide the development of a Pre-K RTI model, as well as policy recommendations to help build the state and local support needed to implement a successful model.
When thinking about RTI we are looking at situations in which the child has yet to be identified as needing special education support. In RTI, the system is still examining if the curriculum is being implemented with fidelity to make sure it is not general educational practices impeding learning. Second, in RTI the system is also looking at the impact more intensive instructional support may have on learning to rule out the need for special education.
It is critical to provide children with time in settings in which the curriculum is being implemented with sufficient fidelity and to monitor development through ongoing progress monitoring. After a time period, which we consider to be approximately 8 to 12 weeks, the team would look at the monitoring data and then make a determination if additional instructional intervention is needed or if it is simply a matter of continued exposure to effective instruction that will make the most impact on learning.
An important step is to first determine if the low language is due to less than positive prior experiences. A second question to ask is if the deficit due to a change in primary language usage and expectations. A key question is this area would be determining if the low language is also present in the child’s primary language, if that language is other than English. The answers to these questions will then direct the course for the next steps of intervention and instruction.
We have been using similar tier time periods of 6-8 weeks and looking at weekly monitoring data as a part of the decision-making process. A child coming from a poor prior experience background and low development may require more time for intervention to make a determination. A child coming from a rich background of experiences and making little to no substantial rate of progress may require less time to determine more assistance may be needed.
- First, elementary schools teams ( kindergarten teacher, inclusion support teacher, and assistant principal) come to EC to observe (January-March) the students that will be attending their schools. They also met with individual teachers and discuss the core curriculum indicators of learning, universal screening and how the students’ needs will be met in the kindergarten. We discuss how many minutes of support a student might need in Language & Literacy and Math. This process is done for IEP students and students at-risk. The data and documentation are very helpful. Knowing what interventions have been used and worked for the students has been helpful as well.
- Next, elementary staff attend annual reviews for IEP students (April-May), which provides a smooth transition and an opportunity to meet the parents. The discussions that happened in the winter are the foundations for the student to start the year.
- Then, in the fall (first 4 weeks of school) the EC Center start the year with a 4 -days- a- week schedule so teachers can go to the kindergartens and support the teachers with the former EC students. The teachers say they are very prepared for the students who come from early childhood.
You can use this tool to monitor process and rate of growth of students. We also use the Creative Curriculum Gold Assessment. The 38 Objectives for Development & Learning are implemented by the teachers for each student. The objectives focus on the following areas of development and learning: Social -Emotional, Physical, Language, Cognitive, Literacy, and Math. We monitor the students’ progress and rate of growth by completing the assessment three times a year. Once these assessment measures are analyzed, then it can be determined which students are in need of further interventions to make progress.
Is there a specific curriculum recommended or approved for preschool RtI?
- RTI Action Network
- Response to Intervention in Early Childhood
- Recognition and Response
- Center for Social Emotional Foundation and Early Literacy (CSEFEL)
- What Works Clearninghouse
- Council for Exceptional Children Division of Early Childhood
I attended the second annual RTI Early Childhood Summit in October 2010, which was sponsored by the Center for Response to Intervention in Early Childhood. Presenters who are doing cutting edge research presented their work. The PowerPoint presentations are available at the CRITEC Web site.
One particular presentation was given by Dr. Kathleen Roskos, Brandi Noll and Ruth Kaminski on Product Review Tools for Early Literacy Instructional Materials and Programs. In this presentation they describe a Preschool Curriculum Checklist, a tool for rating the strength of instructional design of early literacy curricula and the "Best Choice," a product review tool.
Another important intervention to use is the social emotional component as part of the curriculum. The Center for Social Emotional Foundations for Early Literacy (CSEFEL) is an excellent site. It offers 4 modules to provide Tier 1 support for students.
The other thing that may be different is that RTI in EC is more of a flexible, fluid tiered model. The vision can be a dotted line between the tiers so that students can move between tiers depending on their skills or learning style. A student can be a Tier 3 student and need more intensive interventions for one particular skill or for a period of time, but that does not mean he is destined to be a Tier 3 student throughout his early childhood years. The similarity is that a core curriculum is taught with consistency and integrity. There is a dynamic assessment system and a problem-solving team that supports the teacher with Tier 2 and 3 students. The Valley View EC problem-solving team, called the TIPS (Targeted Intervention Problem-Solving) Team, meets monthly with teachers to talk about the data collection and documentation. Strategies and interventions are suggestions in ways to adapt and modify the curriculum and instruction. With Tier 3 students, we provide additional support with support staff and progress monitor weekly for rate of growth and progress.
Essential Component 1- Tiered Model of service. Involves screening ALL children & monitor the progress of those who require targeted interventions. Universal screening within the first 2 months (NAEYC 2005) and 2 more times on a set schedule after that (winter, spring). Students have intentional instruction and interventions that match their needs.
TIER 1- Universal Instruction - MOST children meet criteria (approximately 80%)
TIER 2- Targeted Interventions- SOME children (approximately 15%) may need targeted interventions, along with progress monitoring (e.g. every 8-10 weeks).
TIER 3- Intensive Instruction - A FEW children ( approximately 5%) will need more individualized interventions & receive more frequent progress monitoring (e.g. 4-6 weeks).
Essential Component 2- Professional Development/Leadership Structure- Early Childhood Programs need to offer teachers opportunities to learn about RTI. Professional Learning Communities (PLC) need to be developed to offer opportunities to learn about this initiative. Identify areas of need, such as deciding on a research-based curriculum, a social-emotional program for students with challenging behavior, and an assessment system that assess the curriculum on an ongoing bases. Everyone should be involved in the process. Professional development should not be a one shot workshop, but one topic for an intense period of time. At Valley View training was provided on the Center for Social Emotional Foundation and Early Literacy (CSEFEL) model for 2 years to build a quality Tier 1 foundation for working with students with challenging behavior. There are 6 staff in each PLC Core Group. The universal Leadership Team has representatives from each PLC Core Group that leads the school community decision making.
Essential Component 3: Evidence based practices - Early Childhood beliefs and practices are aligned with core principals of RTI. A high-quality program with highly qualified teachers is a priority. Using best practices that are developmentally and individually appropriate are an important part of the model. A research based curriculum in important as well.
Essential Component 4: Develop a Problem-Solving Approach A problem-solving approach is essential to support teachers in the RTI process. Teachers will no longer be working in isolation. They will look to support staff and members identified on a problem-solving team to assist them with analyzing data and strategize to support students who need more intensive interventions. Data will be collected consistently by teacher at specified intervals. Build a collaborative relationships with support staff and redefine the roles of Psychologist, Social Worker, speech pathologist, occupational and physical therapists so there are more opportunities to intervene with identified students. Applying the problem-solving model created by University of Kansas (CRTIEC) is a very helpful model for teachers to understand the process.
Essential Component 5: Accountability for Student Outcomes Early Childhood teachers are being asked to take responsibility for student outcomes. Through the RTI process it will assist teachers in the data collection and documentation process through screening and assessment tools. Accountability for student learning is the expectation and goal that will give students the tools to be successful lifelong learners.
"The IDEA does not require, or encourage, an LEA to use an RTI approach prior to a referral for evaluation or as part of determining whether a 3-, 4-, or 5-year old is eligible for special education and related services." How are states and districts proceeding with RTI in early childhood without blocking early intervention services, which are often essential for remediation? In many cases I wish these students could receive this critical early intervention without identification, thru an RTI model, however, there is no funding attached and districts don't have early childhood resources if there is no funding. That is how all our EC intervention and specialists are funded. Kinda backwards.....please discuss
- The Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Early Childhood dedicated their August 1, 2007 newsletter, DEC Communicator, to RTI in Early Childhood: An Emerging Practice.
- OSEP put out a memorandum discussing this topic, particularly about not holding off services for students from Headstart. That was disseminated in the fall of 2010.
- A Joint Position Statement on RTI with NAEYC/DEC/NHSA - This is in the development stages. Keep updated on the position statement on the Web site: Response to Intervention in Early Childhood.
In the best of places practitioners become adept at providing instruction with fidelity and continuously adapt and modify instruction and practice (more small group and one-on-one engagement) to meet the individual needs of children. The instructional process becomes one of responding to the instructional needs of children, rather than only considering the children’s response to a particular and specific intervention. Instruction becomes a cyclical process with instruction being implemented, ongoing monitoring of children’s acquisition of skills, adapting and modifying instruction, and the cycle continues.
Some children will continue to need to receive specific and stronger support. However, if we can instead strengthen our general early childhood instructional practices through good professional development and strong administrative support and making available resources, then we can hopefully expect to see fewer children needing specific RTI support and stronger instructional practices supporting development.
I would also recommend you go to the Web site for the StarNet Statewide EC Professional Development System Region 2 to contact Kathy Slattery for information. Pam Reising Rechner, Senior Consultant at ISBE is another very good source and Brian Michalski, Director of the Illinois Resource Center/Early Childhood section will have information about schools implementing RTI in Preschool as well.
The question about training is broad. Training needs depend upon the expectations and responsibilities of each individual involved in the response process. Classroom teachers will need professional development about general child development, assessment, progress monitoring strategies, data analysis, interpretation of data into instructional strategies, classroom management to name a few. What I think is important to consider is that the “process” is not something expected of only the setting practitioner. It should be a process that involves a team of individuals, which can include the teacher, assistant teacher and center director or the teacher and instructional support team. All individuals involved in the process need to understand how to use assessment and instructional knowledge as a part of the broader instructional decision-making process. It is not a simple process, though it is a framework very doable by a committed group of individuals to ensuring that all children learn.
The opposite would be children spending time in a setting where the practitioner treats all children as similar without regards to individual learning needs--both strengths and challenges. The result would likely be children not keeping pace with expectations and lacking the opportunity for extra experiences that would strengthen their learning process. Whereas a supportive environment reflecting responsive practices results in learning environments that support a diverse group of learners at all levels through a variety of learning modes.
I see the most important strategy being professional development (PD) for practitioners involved in these programs. PD is needed around curriculum and instructional fidelity, how to implement effective performance-based assessment, collecting and analyzing classroom-based data, classroom organizational management around using small group and one-on-one teacher/child engagement, and embedding instructional targets across classroom routines is some of the most important PD topics that will help in settings. For children not in programs but where there may be a question about their development, I suggest accessing locally-funded prekindergarten programs as a setting for trying RTI-like strategies. If a child makes adequate gains then identifying funding sources to enroll that child in a community early education program is one alternative. If the child does not make adequate progress then a referral for a more comprehensive evaluation may be the most appropriate next step. It calls on practitioners to be creative in identifying alternatives to support children.
Often teachers reorganize the classroom, change their routines, learn new strategies to embed small group times, acquire skills in teacher reflection to enhance problem solving, learn how to take data and use it for instruction. Most often all of this takes time because it is often an add-on to what individuals are already doing. What we have seen are great results for adults and children. We have seen many children demonstrate great potential for learning. We have also seen many adults grow professionally in many ways. The benefits have outweighed the initial time burdens and everyone has agreed it was a positive experience for all.
- Raphael is a four year old, getting ready for kindergarten, who could not identify all the letters in his name. Louie needed Tier 3 Intensive Intervention: Each center in the class had specific activities for Raphael to identify letters in his name. At the block center letters were taped to blocks, at the sensory table he dug for letters in his name, at the house keeping center he baked cookies with the letters in his name, at the book center he identified letters in books, in music he chose songs that started with the letters in his name. The psychologist was in class everyday for 20 minutes to provide intention bombardment with letters in his name. The speech pathologist was in the classroom twice a week for an hour. The occupational therapist and the program coordinator also provided interventions. This type of intensive intervention was provided for 4 weeks. At the end Raphael could match, label, and identify the letters in his name.
- A Tier 2 intervention with a small group of students. Again the teacher brought the students and their data to a problem-solving meeting. The intervention was to have the students more engaged with shared book reading. One of the suggestions was to pre-read the story in a small group before it was read to the large group. Vocabulary and talking about the feelings of the characters were role played and the students became familiar with the story. Next the story was read in a large group. After 3 weeks of this activity, the small group of students started to answers questions and participate in large group discussions. They gained the skill and confidence to learn. Examples of interventions from the What Works Clearninghouse.
- Dialogic Reading is an interactive shared picture book reading practice designed to enhance young children's language and literacy skills. During the shared reading practice, the adult and the child switch roles so that the child learns to become the storyteller with the assistance of the adult who functions as an active listener and questioner. Two related practices are reviewed in the WWC intervention reports on Interactive Shared Book Reading and Shared Book Reading. Dialogic Reading was found to have positive effects on oral language.
- DaisyQuest is a software bundle that offers computer-assisted instruction in phonological awareness, targeting children aged three to seven years (or preschool to second grade). The instructional activities, framed in a fairy tale involving a search for a friendly dragon named Daisy, teach children how to recognize words that rhyme; words that have the same beginning, middle, and ending sounds; and words that can be formed from a series of phonemes presented separately, as well as how to count the number of sounds in words. The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) also reviewed the effects of DaisyQuest on the beginning reading skills of children in kindergarten through third grade and the findings are reported in a separate WWC intervention report. DaisyQuest was found to have positive effects on phonological processing.
We aim to develop the relationship between caregiver and child, to work from developing the ability to attach (attachment), to developing initiative and self-control.
As a quality pre-school environment, we intend on improving behaviors through relationships. Still, do you think that FBA assessment is approprate in situations where behaviors are severe? As I understand FBA's (Functional Behavioral Assessments), the focus is "behavioral" not "relational behavioral"... what do you think about the usefulness of FBAs in preschool programs?
Regarding does support staff support literacy, their services are all push in. They are part of the classroom. Also when they decide minutes for a student with an IEP, they add consultation as well as direct minutes. We also provide scheduled opportunities for the support staff to meet with classroom teams two times a month. The occupational therapist and speech language pathologist are also part of the problem-solving team.
That concludes our RTI Talk for today. Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful questions and thanks to our experts, Dr. Jim Lesko and Ms. Donna Nylander, for their time today.
Please also take a few moments at the completion of this event to give us your feedback by taking our survey!
Related Reading from RTINetwork.org:
- Center for Response to Intervention in Early Childhood
- Research Works: Tools for Improving Child Development
- Office of Special Education Program’s January 2011 memo