New AIR Study Finds that the Role of States Varies in Response to Intervention Implementation

Washington, D.C. – Response to Intervention (RTI) has the capacity to be both a system for providing early interventions to struggling students and a special education diagnostic tool for evaluating and identifying students with specific learning disabilities. A new report authored by researchers at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), as a partner in the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West, found that the role of the state in RTI implementation varies across the nine states studied.

The study, The Status of State-level Response to Intervention Policies and Procedures in the West Region States and Five Other States, contributes to the very limited literature on state-level approaches to RTI. AIR authors Jenifer J. Harr-Robins, Larisa S. Shambaugh, and Tom Parrish investigated how RTI is characterized in nine states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington.

The study revealed several key findings, including:

  • RTI was viewed by all nine states as an overarching conceptual framework guiding the state’s overall school improvement process for all students and described in terms that extended its application beyond special education.
  • All nine states cited the importance of establishing buy-in and ownership of RTI by general education.
  • State documents and respondents from six states cited the importance of implementing RTI with fidelity at the local level.
  • Respondents from four states remarked on the importance of understanding and incorporating the needs of geographically and demographically diverse student populations – including English language learners – when supporting districts in implementing RTI.

The study also provides specific examples from the states on how they implemented RTI frameworks and discusses their varying levels of implementation, fiscal supports, key components of the RTI framework, and state oversight of the RTI programs.

Most study respondents indicated that full RTI implementation was occurring in only a few schools and districts in their state. Also, the reported nature of the state role ranged from mandating use of RTI (two states) to the more permissive approach of encouraging the use of RTI at the local level (seven states).

The report concludes with considerations that state administrators report they have faced with RTI at the state level and how their state has addressed them.

The study was prepared for the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance within the Institute of Education Sciences.

About REL-West

The Regional Educational Laboratory-West (REL-West), one of ten federally funded Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs), is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to provide local, state, and regional stakeholders (including educators, policymakers and researchers) with solid research on education reform as well as access to information on research to practice. REL-West participates in the national network of laboratories and also specifically addresses educational research, information, and service needs in the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah.

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