The Wisconsin Responsive Education for All Children (REACh) initiative was launched by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in 2006 with funding from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The REACh initiative was the result of a decision to combine two grant projects, the Reading Excellence and Demonstration of Success initiative, implemented in the state from 1999–2005, and the Early and Ongoing Collaboration and Assistance initiative, implemented in the state from 1998–2006. REACh was designed to refine and expand these previous initiatives. A primary goal of REACh was to create a framework for implementation of early intervening services and response to intervention (RTI) in Wisconsin’s schools. Through the initiative, small competitive grants were awarded to a limited number of schools within the state for implementation of the REACh framework. Key components of the framework included creation of a shared vision and commitment within the school, resource mapping (to identify existing resources to support RTI implementation), collaborative planning, data-driven decision making, student progress monitoring, tiered interventions, and family and community involvement.
In 2008, Wisconsin DPI issued a contract to conduct a five-year comprehensive evaluation of the REACh initiative. During the 2008–09 school year, the formative phase of the evaluation was conducted, with the evaluation team surveying teachers and REACh leadership team members at all schools currently participating in the REACh initiative and conducting case studies at six schools, which were selected using a stratified random sampling procedure that included school level (elementary, middle, and high) and locale (rural, suburban, or urban) as strata. The first-year report identified components of the REACh framework that were well implemented as well as those components that schools had more difficulty implementing, allowing Wisconsin DPI the knowledge needed to build on the initiative’s strengths and address its weaknesses.
The first-year evaluation indicated that the REACh initiative was successful in increasing the capacity of schools to implement an RTI framework but that the initiative was too limited in scope—schools wanted substantially more district support. Wisconsin DPI decided to suspend funding for the REACh initiative and to instead launch a statewide RTI initiative. As part of this initiative, the Wisconsin RTI Center was established in 2009 to provide high-quality technical assistance and support for RTI implementation to districts throughout the state. AIR was subsequently awarded the contract to conduct a formative evaluation of the Wisconsin RTI Center.