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Professional Development

Question 1: How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?
Question 2: Do you have suggestions for lesson plans to teach remedial reading?
Question 3: What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?
Question 4: I want to become a teacher. Are there any graduate schools offering programs in learning disabilities?
Question 5: What is RTI and what are the essential components that must be present for it to be implemented with fidelity?
Question 6: How can I get teachers and staff to buy in to the RTI process?

Question:

How should I teach beginning reading to primary students with special needs?

Answer:

Reading Rockets has a wealth of information about teaching children to read. Here are some articles that provide basic knowledge on this topic:

Reading Rockets offers strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn to read. Its resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in working with struggling readers who need some additional help developing these reading and comprehension skills. Our sister site, Colorín Colorado, which is designed for Spanish-speaking parents and educators of English language learners, also has excellent information for anyone interested in early reading instruction. You can also try TeachingLD, a site for Special Education teachers.


Question:

Do you have suggestions for lesson plans to teach remedial reading?

Answer:

The following article describes the nine elements of effective reading instruction. You may find it useful to develop your lesson plans from these elements:

The majority of students who struggle with reading have difficulty with phonics and decoding, so you will want to be particularly mindful that your students are getting direct, explicit, and consistent instruction in this area. These articles provide suggestions for differentiating instruction to accommodate students who are struggling with reading:

The following articles suggest activities and teaching strategies:

You may also find it helpful to post your question to other teachers as well as reading specialists on the LD OnLine online forums.


Question:

What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?

Answer:

There are many reading programs available to help struggling readers. Reading programs should address the individual needs of each child. Effective programs target the learning areas needing attention, and also present information in a way that is the most beneficial to the child’s learning preference.

There is no perfect method for teaching reading, and no one method works for everyone. However, there are several research-based programs that can help struggling readers. The following articles highlight some of these programs:

On Reading Rockets, there are several articles that address reading programs and their benefits for young children:


Question:

I want to become a teacher. Are there any graduate schools offering programs in learning disabilities?

Answer:

There are a few universities around the United States which offer graduate specializations in learning disabilities. Although there are not many which offer this as an option now, there likely will be in the future.

Each state has its own criteria for granting teaching credentials to those who wish to work with learning disabled students. The recent passage of the federal law known as "No Child Left Behind" has raised standards for teachers in all fields. Because of this, you should contact your state Department of Education and get a list of their requirements before you begin looking for an appropriate program.

Once you know what courses you must take in order to get the teaching license and endorsement you want, you can start looking for a college that meets your requirements.

The following sites may help you find the right school for your professional needs.


Question:

What is RTI and what are the essential components that must be present for it to be implemented with fidelity?

Answer:

Response from Whitney Donaldson

What is RTI? RTI is a multi-level prevention system designed for improving outcomes for all students. RTI can be used for special education eligibility but it's not specific to special education. RTI actually allows for all students to receive the support they need so they can succeed in school. The National Center on Response to Intervention has defined RTI as a practice that integrates assessment and intervention within a school-wide, multi-level, prevention system to maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems.

One of the key aspects of RTI is that it is multi-level and school-wide. You'll notice that we don't refer to tiers when we talk about RTI, we refer to levels of prevention. I'll talk more about this later. So if you look at the second part of the definition you'll notice that it starts with screening, or schools identifying students at-risk for poor learning outcomes. It then talks about monitoring student progress and providing interventions that are evidence-based, or in a sense, a multi-level prevention system. The definition goes on to say that the intensity and nature of interventions should be adjusted based on student responsiveness. This is data-based decision making, and it is the most important part of RTI.

Finally, the definition says that RTI may be used in the determination of specific learning disabilities or other disabilities, but note that is not the sole purpose of RTI. The National Center on RTI has created a graphic that represents what the RTI framework looks like. In the upper left corner you'll see the circle for screening.

Screening is one of the primary essential components of RTI. Using reliable assessments, in screening we identify students who are at-risk for poor learning outcomes. If you'll move to the right of the graphic you'll see progress monitoring. We use progress monitoring to monitor students progress in primary, secondary, and tertiary instruction.

At the bottom of the framework you'll see multi-level prevention system. The multi-level prevention system allows us to provide increasingly intense levels of instructional support. Many of you may associate the triangle graphic with RTI. The graphic of the triangle represents one component of RTI and that is the multi-level prevention system. The National Center on Response to Intervention describes three levels of prevention within an RTI framework.

The first level of prevention is primary. Within primary all students receive core instruction and core curriculum. All students are screened and some receive progress monitoring. In the secondary level of prevention, we provide more intensive supports for students who have been identified as at-risk for poor learning outcomes. These students may be progress monitored on a monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly basis. In our third level of prevention we provide students intense, targeted supports through what we refer to as tertiary prevention. Levels of prevention are different from tiers because you may have multiple tiers of support within each of the three levels of prevention. Looking again at the graphic, in the center you will notice the most important of the essential components, data-based decision making. Information from the other three components feeds into data-based decision making, and the decisions reached through data-based decision making impact the other three components.

Within data-based decision-making we make data analysis decisions at all levels, including the school, the class, and the grade and the student level. We establish routines and procedures so we can systematically make decisions about instruction, movement between tiers, and disability identification, in accordance with the state law. If you look on the outside of the graphic there are two circles. On the inner circle you see culturally responsive. That means the tools and practices used in the RTI framework are culturally responsive. You will also see evidence based. So within your RTI framework, the tools and procedures you use should be evidence based. With all of these components in place, you would expect to see what is in the outside circle, which is improved student outcomes.

If you want to learn more about RTI and the essential components, visit our website at www.rti4success.org. Here you will find the document, The Essential Components of RTI: A Closer Look at Response to Intervention.


Question:

How can I get teachers and staff to buy in to the RTI process?

Answer:

Response from Evelyn Johnson

So Larry Summer's is quoted as saying "in the history of man nobody has ever washed a rental car," and the point of that quote is that without ownership school staff probably isn't going to buy in, 100%, to the RTI process and without that ownership of the process they are much less likely to implement it well, and its much less likely therefore to be successful. And one way that we found to get teacher buy-in is to really ensure that all staff have an opportunity to voice their concerns about the process, to express their concerns about the changes in their roles that they make counter as a result of implementing the RTI process, and also to ensure that as schools shift from using data to make decisions about students, that the one component that is not lost is also getting the teacher's experience and knowledge base in their personal relationship with their students; not taking that part out of the equation.

In other words, we want to respect what teachers bring to this process, and if we don't do that then you are not likely to get the level of buy-in and ownership of RTI that you probably need in order for it to work well.

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." — Walt Disney