RtI and the Common Core: A golden opportunity, not just one more thing to do! Part 1

By Joanne Allain & Nancy Eberhardt

The implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is upon us—oh no! I guess we will have to put Response to Intervention (RtI) aside to make room for the focus and resources needed to implement the Common Core. Budgets are tight; something has to go. RtI or MTSS (Multitier System of Supports) will take care of itself. Does this sound familiar?

The reality is that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will replace and/or enhance individual state standards and change grade-level instruction in scope, sequence, and methodology. In order to implement the new standards and the assessments that will accompany them, districts have begun to shift the focus of professional development to Common Core.

CCSS professional development is essential because teachers must be trained on the changes that will be expected of them. What seems to be missing from both the CCSS professional development and implementation planning, however, is seizing the opportunity to address the Common Core State Standards within the framework of RtI. This approach pits these initiatives as competing rather than complementary.

The following quotes from RtI and CCSS experts point out the interconnectedness between the two initiatives.

In the article Response to Intervention—The Promise and the Peril, the Council for Exceptional Children maintains that “It (RtI) has the ability to transform how we educate students—all students. With RtI, students may get the support they need as soon as they show signs that they are having difficulty learning, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.”

Let’s pair the previous statement with the “promise” of the Common Core State Standards from the webinar by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO): “These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards-based reforms. It is time to recognize that these standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep.”

Both initiatives urge educators to take the next step. RtI urges educators to meet the needs of all students—including those who are proficient and advanced. The implementation of CCSS urges educators to extend student learning of content and skills in Tier I to an application level. The common goal: increased rigor for all students.

The necessity and value of combining initiatives is further corroborated when we take into account what the CCSS do NOT define, yet the developers feel are important enough to identify as valuable instructional factors. Consider this list, provided by the NGA Center and the CCSSO, of things that the standards do not define:

  • How teachers should teach
  • All that can or should be taught
  • The nature of advanced work beyond the core
  • The interventions needed for students well below grade level
  • The full range of support for English language learners and students with special needs
  • Everything needed to be college and career ready

These instructional factors already exist within an RtI framework. They are, in fact, the heart and soul of RtI. Rather than viewing these initiatives—CCSS and RtI—as separate silos, we should view RtI as the structure within which to implement CCSS. How? The Common Core State Standards define what we should be teaching in Tier I; the other tiers in an RtI system exist to provide intervention when students need additional support.

In The New Meaning of Educational Change (2001), Michael Fullan stated: “Teachers and others know enough now, if they didn’t 20 years ago, not to take change seriously unless the central administrators demonstrate through actions that they should.”

If we push RtI to the side and treat CCSS as unrelated to RtI, educators will take that as a signal that RtI (MTSS) is one more reform that has fallen into the abyss.

Instead, let’s follow the example of those states, districts, and schools that have recognized the value of RtI and the importance of incorporating CCSS into RtI plans.  When citing in Wisconsin Response to Intervention: A Guiding Document the significant changes anticipated by the implementation of CCSS, Tony Evers, Ph.D., the state superintendent of Wisconsin in 2010, stated: “These initiatives are not separate of RtI; they are integrated in my vision of a high-quality RtI system.”

If we are to serve all students and prepare them for a 21st Century future, can we do anything less?

In our next blog, we will expand on how RtI and CCSS are complementary, not competing, initiatives.

Joanne Allain

Joanne Allain, M.A., is a national educational consultant specializing in the effective implementation of literacy intervention at the secondary level. She is author of Logistics of Literacy Intervention and a member of the National Council of LANGUAGE! Trainers.

Nancy Chapel Eberhardt

Nancy Chapel Eberhardt works with districts and schools to implement RtI systems focusing on literacy instruction and intervention. Her career in education has included roles as a special education teacher, mainstreaming associate, and administrator. She also worked extensively, as editor and co-author, on LANGUAGE! (Editions 2 – 4). Most recently, she co-authored RtI: The Forgotten Tier with Joanne Allain.Nancy can be contacted at nancy.eberhardt@3Tliteracygroup.org

About Joanne Allain

Books by Joanne Allain: Logistics Of Literacy Intervention

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Categories: Assessment, Literacy | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “RtI and the Common Core: A golden opportunity, not just one more thing to do! Part 1

  1. bpanitz

    Bravo! You have addressed the core of my question about how to implement the Common Core State Standards with special education students. Thank you for relating the two important topics of RTI and CCSS. http://www.scoop.it/t/implementing-common-core-standards-in-special-education

    • Thank you for your comment. We hope we have helped educators make this important connection. Stay tuned for Part 2.

      Joanne Allain & Nancy Eberhardt

  2. Holly Windram

    Absolutely. RtI is not a program, an intervention, or one item on the checklist of things to do. It’s the framework!

    • Joanne Allain

      Well said. We hope others see the connections that you do.

  3. Pingback: RtI and the Common Core: Seizing the Golden Opportunity—Complementary, Not Competing, Initiatives Part 2 « Sopris Learning

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