14 Slices
Medium 9781935249382

1 Understanding the Importance of RTI

Donna Walker-Tileston Solution Tree Press ePub

As educators and researchers have learned more about how students learn and the instructional practices that have the greatest positive effect on learning, laws have been modified to reflect those perceived best practices. The quest for higher achievement and fewer gaps among groups of students has led legislatures to look for alternatives to the procedures used in the past for identifying children with learning disabilities. Let’s examine some of the legislation affecting response to intervention and the policy shifts that have led to the creation of RTI models.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, Public Law 89-10) was enacted in 1965, and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA, Public Law 94-142) was passed in 1975. As the introduction noted, prior to that time, students with disabilities were often turned away from enrolling in public schools under the excuse that schools were not prepared to teach them. These laws gave all children the opportunity to a free and appropriate education and put the burden of providing appropriate modifications on the schools. Over the years, the intent of these laws has been clarified through reauthorization and new legislation, in particular the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004).

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Medium 9781934009246

Chapter Three: Building Teacher Background Knowledge

Donna Walker-Tileston Solution Tree Press ePub

Being student-centered also means connecting learning to students’ lives, using the student’s own culture, strengths (intelligences), interests, goals, and dreams as the beginning point for learning.

—Bonnie Benard

To begin the shift in beliefs and instructional practices necessary to differentiate instruction, we need to examine our own background knowledge and experience. This is especially true for the majority of us who are part of the dominant culture. The first step in our model is to build teachers’ background knowledge in order to expand the perspective provided by that culture. This is critical if we are to understand the needs of students from poverty and diverse cultures. As a way of examining our background knowledge as teachers, let’s look first at two competing value systems.

Well-documented studies have verified that two ways of thinking, or value systems—individualist and collectivist—have an impact on what teachers reward and punish in schools (Williams, 2003; Greenfield, 1994; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Our value system—collectivist or individualist—is grounded in our culture and determines how we view achievement and value social knowledge. These factors affect our relationships with parents and the community, our approach to classroom management and organization, and our approach to curriculum, instruction, and assessment—the key processes in education that define our work.

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Chapter Two: Differentiating for Economically and Culturally Diverse Learners

Donna Walker-Tileston Solution Tree Press ePub

Teachers not armed with effective instruction cost students 20 percent per year in achievement.

—David Berliner

Differentiated instruction means instruction that has been modified to address the needs of the diverse learners in the classroom. If you had Googled differentiated instruction early in 2008, you would have gotten 397,000 results! Identifying the unique needs of children and adjusting the learning environment so that they can all achieve at high levels is a tremendous challenge for teachers. We cannot build resilience for children of poverty without addressing the impact of their culture on achievement. When teachers try to differentiate instruction for children of poverty, they cannot ignore their diverse cultures, ethnicity, and race—the sources from which students draw their background knowledge and experience.

As administrators and teachers, we used to say, “If you rank the schools in our district based on the socioeconomic status of the parents, you’ll have the rank for student achievement as well.” Like many, we used to believe that we could not do anything about the achievement of children of poverty, because we couldn’t “fix” the poverty and therefore couldn’t “fix” the children. This reflects an old paradigm of looking at certain children as “problems”—as having deficits they need to overcome in order to succeed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Chapter Six: Differentiating Content and Product

Donna Walker-Tileston Solution Tree Press ePub

Eighty percent of students who are recommended for special education placement are below grade level in reading.

Sixty-three percent of African American fourth grade students are below grade level in reading.

Seventy-four million Americans read below the eighth grade level.

Eighty-five percent of juveniles coming before the courts are functionally illiterate.

Seventy percent of prison inmates are illiterate.

—Jawanza Kunjufu

In this chapter we will discuss the differentiation of content and product—two major pieces of the teaching and learning process. Our emphasis here is on content, because without quality and meaningful content, product does not matter. Content should lead to innovative and quality products that reflect understanding of the subject matter.

You may not think that you have much say about the content you teach in your classroom. After all, we live in an age of scrutiny in which we must teach to standards and prove that they have been taught. In this chapter, we will examine several ways that you can differentiate content to meet the unique needs of your students, yet still meet the expectations of standards. We will view content differentiation by looking at three key aspects of content in the classroom: relevance, rigor, and relationships, with our primary focus on relevance.

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2 Understanding the Impact of Poverty and Culture

Donna Walker-Tileston Solution Tree Press ePub

Volumes have been written about closing gaps in achievement, and millions of dollars have been spent trying to find ways to help all students be successful—yet achievement gaps persist for some groups of students. Many schools have implemented their own interpretations of response to intervention in an effort to close those gaps, but even if undertaken with the best intentions, these interpretations will not make the expected difference unless they address two hidden issues: poverty and culture. If RTI is to fulfill its promise—if educators are truly going to assess learning difficulties versus instructional mistakes, and then address those difficulties successfully—then we must direct more attention toward alleviating the effects of poverty and culture.

The Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal. And yet, because in many urban areas the more affluent have moved to suburbs, cities often have been left with segregated schools through attrition. Many urban facilities are older and lack the wiring capacity for newer technology. They often have younger, less-experienced staff and may lack the materials and equipment for high-quality learning.

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