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From screening to diagnosing to intervening to monitoring in 48 hours

We must state it again; there are no rules that dictate that we allow students to fail for 6 weeks while they receive “only” Tier 1 supports, before allowing them to fail while “only” receiving Tier 1 and 2 supports before we give them the intensive, Tier 3 supports that we always knew they needed. Furthermore, we must not allow paperwork and documentation (or the lack thereof) to be the barrier to a student receiving supports. If a Student Study Team does not feel as though “enough” has been done or with enough “fidelity,” who suffers? Students suffer as we delay providing them the supports they need. If a teacher, teacher team, or school is not providing the scaffolds and differentiated support that they must to ensure students successfully access and master the priorities of a course or grade level, let’s address this need. But let’s do so while we support students. Even the most heroic teacher and teacher team cannot scaffold and differentiate core instruction, provide more time and alternative supports that make up Tier 2, and catch a student up in reading when significant deficits exist…when they lack reading skills that should have mastered years ago. Such a student needs Tier 3 supports and they need it now.

One more thing before we describe what we mean by Tier 3 supports within 48 hours; we must not view RTI as a way to get a student into special education. The truth is, RTI will work most of the time. In other words, when immediate Tier 3 supports are provided (in combination with Tier 1 and 2 supports), students will, quite often, not end up needing special education supports. They will adequately respond to these supports and interventions and they will catch up.

We will describe each of the four primary elements of Tier 3 in more detail below, so we will simply describe a very common scenario that represents how we can provide Tier 3 supports within 4 hours for any student about whom we have serious concerns. And again, we are focused on reading.

To start, let’s describe what we could and should do for student brand new to your school. A new student enrolls in your school (whether at the beginning of the year or mid-year). Your school has a plan in place; an informal reading inventory (we prefer the Qualitative Reading Inventory for it’s low-cost and the presence of multiple equivalent form with passages for K-12) is used to screen the student. The student is asked to read a grade-level passage by a staff member, who listens to determine if the student is at-risk and, if she is, diagnose why the student is at-risk in the area of reading. For students at-risk, your school has a plan in place; intervention groups are in place throughout the day that specifically target a student’s diagnosed reading need and a schedule has been established to monitor student progress every two weeks.

We’ve left out the important details – they will be described in the next four sections of this chapter. And, we have only discussed a process for an individual student. RTI only works and works most powerfully when there is a systematic process that applies to all students and that is embraced and supported by all staff. But, the example described in the paragraph above can be applied to an entire school. The ways in which that can be done are also described below.

If the student at-risk reads fluently and accurately, you can deduce that they need a comprehension invervention even before asking the comprehension questions. The student was, after all, screened to be at-risk

If the student reads accurately but without expressiveness, or smoothly, or with lots of stops and starts and repetitions, or at a inappropriately slow rate, then they need a fluency support.

If the student reads inaccurately, then they need a phonics support first. Does the student make errors with simple, single-syllable words? Then, the student needs a simple phonics support. Does the student proficiently decode single-syllable words but guess, skip, or misread bigger, multi-syllable words? Then, the student needs an advanced phonics support.

That’s it. We must provide the most targeted support possible, so we must diagnose. But, diagnosing student needs need not be time-intensive, expensive, or complicated.

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