Increasingly, educators -- policymakers, administrators, teachers, and researchers – are viewing response to intervention (RTI) as an essential method of integrating instructional and assessment components into an effective prevention system. When educators systematically monitor students’ academic and behavioral progress to make data-based instructional decisions, educators teach more effectively and their students’ achievement increases considerably. This model, with its associated elements of screening, progress monitoring, and tiered instruction (utilizing universal, secondary, and tertiary interventions), has the potential to enhance student achievement and to reduce the prevalence of reading and math disabilities. Additionally, RTI holds promise that disproportionality in special education may be effectively addressed by integrating proven models for RTI with Early Intervening Services (EIS) for minority students who are not progressing in the general education curriculum.
However, significant challenges are contributing to the fact that RTI/EIS are promising practices that are significantly under-utilized. States and districts are sometimes implementing RTI and EIS without the benefit of sound information about evidenced-based tools, practices, and implementation strategies. Further, many general educators remain unaware of proven models, and too few families advocate for the use of these models with their children. Effective technical assistance and dissemination (TA&D) of evidenced-based RTI practices are indisputably necessary, if not sufficient, to bridge research and practice. Practitioners need information about how to translate research into clear, concrete, and feasible practices that can be implemented with fidelity. TA&D strategies must accommodate differences in teachers’ background, training, and beliefs as well as be compatible with the nature and philosophy of existing instructional programs and practices. This information must also be available in a variety of usable formats and at different levels of specificity.
To meet these challenges, the American Institutes for Research and researchers from Vanderbilt University and the University of Kansas -- through funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) -- have established the National Center on response to intervention. The Center’s mission is to provide technical assistance to states and districts and building the capacity of states to assist districts in implementing proven models for RTI/EIS. We have organized the Center's work into four service areas:
- Knowledge production activities that include a rigorous technical review to determine which tools, practices, and implementation strategies are deemed scientifically valid and appropriate for TA&D;
- Expert trainings and follow-up activities (both face-to-face and at a distance) to drive implementation supports for RTI/EIS on a broad scale;
- Information dissemination activities that will involve forming partnerships and reaching out to target stakeholders via ongoing communication, including web-based telecommunication; and
- A rigorous Center evaluation, with formative assessments to help improve the delivery of our services in states and districts across the country.
The Center is led by a team of nationally recognized Principal Investigators. A distinguished National Advisory Committee will provide conceptual support and feedback on the work of the Center. We have formed partnerships with over 50 national organizations and associations that represent the interests of the entire range of general and special education practitioners and families. A distinguishing feature of the Center’s approach is AIR's ability to capitalize on the three national TA&D centers we currently run – the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring, the Access Center, and the National High School Center. Through our efforts in these and other centers, we have worked in each of the 50 states and in scores of districts and schools. The Center’s team itself is diverse, with persons with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, and persons who are culturally and linguistically diverse having key roles on the Center’s team. Their involvement will help ensure that our services are practical and will be utilized to help improve results for children and families.