By Joanne Allain & Nancy Eberhardt
In our previous entry, we proposed that RtI and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiatives share a common goal: increased rigor for all students. The next step is to ensure that we seize the golden opportunity to use existing RtI structures and systems to facilitate the implementation of CCSS, the “new initiative on the block.”
Let’s take a look at a couple ways in which we can capitalize on the complementary aspects of these two initiatives.
Analyze and Improve Tier I
We know that without strong Tier I instruction, RtI will become a system of never-ending interventions rather than excellent first instruction. Given the importance of this strong foundation, a necessary component of a successful RtI system is to analyze and improve Tier I instruction. Part of that analysis will be to develop curriculum, instruction, and assessment based on the Common Core State Standards.
With a CCSS-based curriculum in place, assessment data will highlight student strengths and weaknesses. Through analysis of this Tier I data, the need for instructional adjustments will emerge. For example, if many students are referred to Tier II intervention in the primary grades for spelling deficits, then that instructional hole must be filled in Tier I to ensure that as many students as possible become proficient with first instruction. Assessment data based on the skills and concepts in the CCSS will help to identify opportunities to improve Tier I instruction.
For a comprehensive RtI system, the implementation of Common Core State Standards provides the impetus to focus on an effective Tier I to ensure that intervention isn’t a consequence of a weak foundation. For emerging or fledgling RtI systems, the opportunity arises to integrate the new standards with the development of an RtI system designed to meet the needs of all students
Differentiate for All Students
In addition to using the CCSS as an opportunity to fine-tune Tier I content and instructional practices, we know that RtI requires that we serve all students within and beyond the parameters of the Tier I curriculum. In order to achieve this goal, we need to view the standards as having a range of accessibility and importance, much as students have a range of learning abilities and needs.
How students meet the CCSS expectations varies along a continuum according to a range of needs from concept development for students who also receive Tier II or Tier III intervention (what must they know) to enrichment (what could they know) (Allain and Eberhardt, 2011). As the following graphic illustrates, our response to instruction and intervention must consider the needs of the full range of learners.
Response to Instruction and Intervention
As we begin to implement the CCSS, we have an obligation to remember this full range of student needs. But, how do we do serve all learners with the Common Core? Let’s take a look at an example using a standard from the CCSS. The same standard can be addressed for all students but to different levels.
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.*
Students who also receive intervention
Students who are proficient or close to proficient
Students who are advanced or could be advanced
|Describe how multiple or conflicting motivations of one complex characterdevelop over the course of a text, interact with another character, and advance the plot or theme. Use supplementary materials as necessary.||Describe how multiple or conflicting motivations of complex characters develop over the course of the text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme. Use grade-level materials.||Describe and analyze the relationship of multiple or conflicting motivations of a complex character and other characters in the development of plot and theme. Use grade-level and above-grade-level materials.|
*Grade 9-10 Common Core State Standards: English/Language Arts
Note that at each point along the continuum, the intent of the standard is addressed. We differentiate the variables—product and process, such as the level of analysis and the difficulty level of the reading material—but stay true to the focus of the standard. In this way, students who are receiving instruction to improve reading skills at another time of the day (e.g., during Tier II intervention) are still receiving the benefit of instruction in the CCSS—but with accommodations at their skill level.
What we see in this example is the fact that no matter what defines the goal of instruction—be it the CCSS, a purchased curriculum, or local goals and objectives—the need to differentiate instruction on this continuum from “must” to “could” will always exist. Frankly, it isn’t about having RtI or CCSS. It is about understanding and using the power of the structure of RtI to facilitate the implementation of CCSS.
An Opportunity to Change
If we continue to view each initiative—new or not—as a separate entity, we are playing out the common silo-esque approach to implementing innovation. Our observation is that, rather than integrating a new initiative into the existing structures so that it has a multiplier effect on impact and efficiency, we all too often view new needs or initiatives as a linear process. A linear process works from a “limited capacity” mind-set—as the next initiative comes online, another must be bumped out of line. Tragically, when we do this, we throw the baby out with the bath water. We can and must change this trend. The implementation of RtI and CCSS provides the golden opportunity to have these initiatives complement each other rather than compete for our limited resources.
See our previous blog for a discussion on RtI and CCSS.
Joanne Allain, M.A., works with states, districts, and schools across the country to develop, implement, and coach customized RtI systems. Her career experience at both the classroom and district level provides the perspective of a practitioner in real schools with real students. She is the author of Logistics of Literacy Intervention: A Planning Guide for Middle and High School and Logistics of Literacy Intervention: An RtI Planning Guide for Elementary Schools as well as coauthor of RtI: The Forgotten Tier. You can contact Joanne at Joanne.Allain@3tliteracygroup.org
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 coauthor, on LANGUAGE! (Editions 2–4). Most recently, she coauthored RtI: The Forgotten Tier with Joanne Allain. Nancy can be contacted at nancy.eberhardt@3Tliteracygroup.org.
Books by Joanne Allain: Logistics Of Literacy Intervention