There is no RTI if we cannot measure the extent to which students are responding to instruction and intervention. We must, every 2-3 weeks, gather numerical data that answers the question, “To what extent are students responding to supplemental supports? We call this progress monitoring and use various methods to gather feedback.”
Furthermore, progress monitoring allows us to measure the efficacy of our efforts on behalf of students. If progress monitoring data reveals that the majority of the students in, let’s say, a reading comprehension intervention group are not adequately responding to intervention, then we have to look in the mirror. Are we using the right intervention? Are we using the intervention well?
In K-9 reading, there is no reason for not using a curriculum-based measurement (CBM) like DIBELS. (DIBELS stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skill.) DIBELS is free, research-based, continually improved, easy to use, and quick to administer. While reading progress monitoring tests like DIBELS can be used in 10-12 (because we monitor progress at the student’s skill level, not the student’s grade level), schools may choose other monitoring options (listed in the Appendix) for some high school students.
But we need numerical data to compare a student’s current performance against past performance and against where they should be – the normal score that represents where a students ought to be reading. Anecdotal notes about a student’s progress are important, but students desperately at-risk deserve that we use research-based assessment tools, especially when they are free, high-quality, and efficient.
Assessments are evidence-gathering opportunities. Evidence is the engine that drives RTI. The only RTI is an effective RTI—it’s a self-correcting system. In other words, we should not hear, “We tried RTI (or MTSS) and it didn’t work.” We gather evidence to validate the appropriateness of instruction and intervention. We make changes if students are not responding appropriately. And we continue to help all students gain ever-increasingly successes in schools and to prepare them for a productive future.
One more thing. What about “adequate growth” or numerical goals that should be reached? Again, it’s common sense.
We advocate collaboratively identifying what the target is (WCPM, sounds correct per minute, independent reading level, etc.) and when it is reasonable for this target to be reached (24 months, 18 months, 18 weeks, etc.). Once these two numbers are determined, it’s a math problem. Where is the child now, and what would be the corresponding weekly progress? This can then be used to compare actual weekly, biweekly, or monthly growth to appropriate growth. e.g., the target for a third grader’s end of the year ORF is 110 wcpm. Given the student’s specific behavioral, social, familial, and reading needs, the team agrees that 18 weeks will be necessary for the student to meet this target. This third grade student is currently reading 56 wcpm on a third grade passage. Given the math (110-56)/18), appropriate growth would be 3 words per week. What if it is determined that a third grader will realistically require 18 months to reach the level of “normal” peers. We would recommend that the team consider the fourth grade goal – approx. 124 wcpm (on a fourth grade passage, recognizing that this kiddo’s current independent reading level may be first or second grade) Given the math (124-54/18), appropriate growth would be 3.8 words per month (again, respecting that the passage-level expectations will be increasing.
We must monitor, but it doesn’t have to be painful. Make it a priority, put in in the schedule, set aside time to analyze it, and get it done.