What are some of the challenges or implications of implementing RTI in Urban settings?

Question: What are some of the challenges or implications of implementing RTI in Urban settings?

Ed Fergus: Well, first, one of the realities around urban schools is that they’re challenged with a myriad of other issues. So, you layer RTI on top of that, you’re creating sort of a perfect storm of really wrong conditions. So, first we have to contend with the urban school setting issues. Part of it has to do with the financial difficulties that urban school settings are fraught with. So, the ways in which funding happens in urban schools tends to be more challenging in most states. I know in New York and New Jersey and other parts of the country there have been moments in which urban school districts have sought to sue the state education departments and the state governments for funding. So, funding is a major issue that has to be contended with. Another element that has to be considered is the capacity of staff. So, the breath and depth of teaching force that’s available for urban schools is not as sustainable as it is in suburban school settings, and I won’t even say rural school settings because rural has very similar issues around teacher capacity as well. So, urban schools are struggling with the teacher capacity issue, and not only in terms of how many are there but also the depth and the degree of turnover that happens in urban school settings. So, your ability to try to implement an RTI framework in which it relies on a really strong tier one, core instructional program, where you have school staffing, or a school that has 20 to 30% turnover rate really challenges your capacity to be able to sustain that model or framework. Another sort of condition that has to be considered around urban school settings is the dynamics that’s happening around low-income populations and racial, ethnic groups that are segregated in urban school settings and with that, it’s not that the kids are living those types of conditions but rather what we understand and how we interpret those sense of realities and bring that to bear in the school setting. So, those become some of the sets of conditions that are happening in urban school settings that have to be contended with before, or, in the midst of trying to develop a really strong RTI framework and those issues are issues that have been going on for decades so I think in this moment of time where RTI is forcing us to ask a very different question around instruction, which is how do we know that kids are receiving the types of instruction that they deserve based on the types of needs that they are exhibiting, is a great one, however, you couple that with those other sets of issues around urban schools; we really have a much bigger hill to climb here.