RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION (RTI) IN MIDDLE SCHOOL: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF STAFF PERCEPTIONS AT TWO MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Alarcon Jr., Freddie Punzalan
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As school divisions across the country toil with closing achievement gaps and work towards finding a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of all learners, many have turned to the implementation of multi-tiered response to intervention (RTI) models. While RTI initially surfaced as an alternative to the IQ discrepancy model used to identify students with specific learning disabilities, it is now being used by school divisions as a systemic framework for responding to the needs of all students. The difficulty, however, for many school divisions as they move forward with the implementation of such a model is the conceptualization of what RTI should look like, especially at the middle school level. The purpose of this study is to assess and compare the perceptions of faculty and staff (teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and social workers), and administrators at two middle schools in the same school division regarding the fidelity of implementation of key RTI components in their schools. The study utilized school administrator interviews and teacher focus group interviews to make comparisons and draw conclusions about similar challenges and successes. The researcher used a combination of descriptive and inferential procedures to determine the perceptions of fidelity of RTI implementation in two middle schools within a school division in southeastern Virginia. The two overarching research questions for the study were: How does the integrity tool survey completed by faculty and staff reflect the concerns and successes perceived when interviewing faculty and staff? What, if any, similarities and differences were identified in the implementation of RTI between two middle schools in a school division in southeastern Virginia? In addition to the interviews, an integrity survey was utilized as a method to identify levels of fidelity to the key features of the RTI program. Implementation profiles were developed for each participating school, and comparisons were made through the surveys and interviews to determine if strategies, barriers and infidelity features could be identified as a means to direct overall school feedback, growth and facilitate RTI implementation at the middle school level. The findings from the study indicated that both middle schools are implementing the various components of an RTI framework, although at relatively low levels of implementation fidelity. Because of the complexity of such a system and lack of empirical evidence regarding systems change for RTI implementation, schools are still struggling with attaining higher levels of fidelity of implementation with all RTI components.
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