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Focus on Education

Response to Intervention - what is it?

Last spring the Lake Pend Oreille School District received a grant from the Idaho State Department of Education to become a pilot program in the implementation of a Response to Intervention process. In doing so, the district will become one of the first medium-to-large district to promote RTI as a district-wide focus. The state and other districts are watching us closely to gauge our progress because, if successful, others will adopt our efforts.

So what is RTI? The standard definition is that it is “the practice of providing high quality, standards-based instruction and research-based interventions, matched to individual student academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.” Whew!

What this really means when shedding the jargon of the education world is that we teach; we evaluate what students are learning; we adjust our teaching and add additional supports and interventions when needed.  It implies that we use data to drive our decisions, give students what they need to be successful and have clearly defined outcomes and steps to ensure students reach those outcomes. Data drives our decisions around what students need. 

In short, all of the above implies a shift from teaching to learning. For many years, educators taught the material and students either mastered the content or didn’t. In that system the focus was on teaching. RTI helps us to look more precisely at student learning. It is no longer enough to simply teach the material. We want students to learn the material. When they aren’t successful we must find out why and try to ensure they do. 

Of course, the above is easier said than done. It is difficult to know why some students do not master content. It could be lack of effort, specific learning disabilities, teaching practices, outside influences, and a host of other reasons. The goal is to find that reason and then double efforts to prevent failure.  We know that once students fall behind, the time and energy needed to catch up can be overwhelming. As a result, RTI, when implemented well, promotes early identification of those who may be at risk for failing to reach their potential.

We are told by others that full district implementation could take up to four years, with particular challenges at the high school level where students work with multiple teachers. However, we are working hard district-wide to move our implementation forward regardless of the challenges, and hope our efforts can be realized more quickly than the four-year window.

Our community will be hearing more about our progress as the year moves forward, as will other districts across the state. Members of our planning team have been invited to present to other interested school districts across the state in April.  We look forward to our process that is designed to help every student be successful in our schools.

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Author info

Dick Cvitanich Dick Cvitanich is the Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He has been an educator for 33 years, and became superintendent for LPOSD in 2006. He was educated at the University of Washington where he earned a BA in History and a Superintendent's Credential. He has been married to Diane for 32 years and they have raised three sons who "taught us as much as we taught them." "I have a passion for public education and the role it plays in our democracy. In my free time I read, ski ... come to think of it, I don't have that much free time."

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