Effects of a response to intervention program for middle school students with reading and math difficulties

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Rowan University Rowan Digital Works Theses and Dissertations Effects of a response to intervention program for middle school students with reading and math difficulties Jeri Hendrickson Follow
Rowan University Rowan Digital Works Theses and Dissertations Effects of a response to intervention program for middle school students with reading and math difficulties Jeri Hendrickson Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Special Education and Teaching Commons Recommended Citation Hendrickson, Jeri, Effects of a response to intervention program for middle school students with reading and math difficulties (2012). Theses and Dissertations. Paper 236. This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by Rowan Digital Works. It has been accepted for inclusion in Theses and Dissertations by an authorized administrator of Rowan Digital Works. For more information, please contact EFFECTS OF A RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION PROGRAM FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS WITH READING AND MATH DIFFICULTIES by Jeri A. Hendrickson A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Educational Services/Instruction College of Education In partial fulfillment of the requirement For the degree of Master of Arts in Learning Disabilities at Rowan University May 10, 2012 Thesis Chair: S. Jay Kuder, Ed.D. 2012 Jeri A. Hendrickson Dedication I would like to dedicate this manuscript to my husband, Herbert B. Hendrickson. Acknowledgements I would like to express my appreciation to my Lord Jesus Christ for the opportunity He has given me to become an LDT-C, to my husband, Herbert B. Hendrickson for his support, understanding, encouragement, and love throughout every part of this graduate program, to Pattie Bacon, my daughter, for her support, assistance, and encouragement, to my professors from Rowan University, to teachers, staff, and administrators of the two schools in the study, and to Professor S. Jay Kuder for his guidance and help throughout this research. iv Abstract Jeri A. Hendrickson EFFECTS OF A RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION PROGRAM FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS WITH READING AND MATH DIFFICULTIES 2011/12 S. Jay Kuder, Ed.D. Master of Arts in Learning Disabilities The purpose of this descriptive study was to determine whether a response to intervention program (RTI) would be beneficial to students in the middle school population. Classes in two urban schools were observed and data were collected to decide the effectiveness of the RTI strategies and interventions which were given to the students. The first class was a language arts class and the second class was a math class. The students in the language arts class responded very well to the interventions the teacher taught them and all but one in this class were able to earn the grades that would allow them to remain in general education. The second class was a math class. These students also responded well to the interventions taught by the teacher. Most of these students showed a consistency in their grades and maintained their grade level throughout the first two marking periods. All but six students maintained their grades or better, and most of them remained at grade level. v Table of Contents Abstract List of Figures List of Tables v vii viii Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Research Problem 5 Key Terms 5 Implications 6 Chapter 2: Literature Review 8 Background 8 The Implications of the RTI Program 12 Effectiveness of RTI Programs 20 Changes in Academic Performance Overall 31 Caution 33 Referral Rates 36 Chapter 3: Methodology 44 Subjects 44 Development of Intervention and Materials 48 Procedure 52 Chapter 4: Results 55 Summary 55 Chapter 5: Discussion 64 List of References 72 vi List of Figures Figure Page Figure 1: Socioeconomic Status of Two Urban Schools 45 as Documented by Enrollment in Free or Reduced-Price Lunch Program vii List of Tables Table Page Table 1: Materials and Purposes 48 Table 2: Survey for Teachers and Coaches 53 Table 3: Growth Report Read Table 4: Comprehension Skills Grouping Report, Group 1, Read Table 5: Comprehension Skills Grouping Report, Group 2, Read Table 6: Comprehension Skills Grouping Report, Group 3, Read Table 7: Gradebook Spreadsheet Report 59 Table 8: Part One of Teacher Survey 60 Table 9: Part Two of Teacher Survey 61 Table 10: Part Three of Teacher Survey 62 Table 11: Part Four of Teacher Survey 63 viii Chapter 1 Introduction Response to intervention (RTI) is used as a tiered system to identify struggling learners who might be referred for special education, usually at the elementary school level, but not always. RTI uses many strategies to identify students who struggle academically and who have problems with reading performance and other academic problems, including reading disabilities, learning disabilities and math disabilities. This is crucial for students who have disabilities because their reading problems may be the basis for their disabilities. My interest in RTI is to help the student who is at-risk of failing school and subsequently failing in life. Others might be concerned for the same reason. When a person is successful in school academically they are likely to be a more satisfied person. In the middle school, students academic failures have often already been established. For this reason it is easier to design middle school assessments which create differences among students who have larger and smaller deficits (Fuchs, et al., 2010). It is because of this that it does not seem plausible to use scarce resources for screening purposes in identifying students at the middle school level who are at risk for failure academically. What makes sense is to rely on already-existing assessment data. This may be generated from the classroom teacher s Curriculum-based Assessments (CBAs), standardized assessments and teacher nomination. Students poor performance on these 1 measures have already been identified as those who are at-risk academically. Fuchs, et al., is saying that the testing that has already been done with the students can be used in lieu of the learning evaluations that a student goes through by the Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant (LDT-C) and others. Therefore, testing them again is not necessary because poor performance is already documented. The strategies that are used to help these at-risk students include interventions such as curriculum-based measures and validated instructional programs, tutoring programs, word study strategies, vocabulary, grammar, phonics, fluency, and comprehension strategies, etc. Their struggles academically may be caused by neurological deficits or they may be caused by other problems, such as social or emotional problems, etc. Curriculum-based assessment, which is considered part of RTI, is one that has been used by many educators. Several researchers have produced models of CBAs which are useful in the instructional planning of the students curriculum, using components of the RTI approach. Where did RTI come from? The whole concept of RTI was first suggested in 1983 from the publication, A Nation at Risk. This article caused states, local districts, and the federal government to focus on how to improve student performance through changes made in the public school systems around the country. The federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997, was one of the first pieces of legislation that brought about changes to the regular and special education classroom. In November 2004, this law was reauthorized and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). One of the important things that this reauthorized law did was to remove the reliance on I.Q. testing as a required criterion of the identification of 2 students with learning disabilities. This law mandates the provision of early intervention, special education and related services to all of the children in the United States who have disabilities. That includes more than 6.5 million infants, toddlers, children and youth who have been diagnosed with disabilities of some kind or another. Why might RTI have the potential to identify at-risk students and improve reading performance? The concept of RTI is built on levels, or tiers of testing and instruction and is normally launched in the early elementary grades. In RTI there are three or more tiers. In Tier 1, all of the students in the primary grades from kindergarten through third grade are given instruction in basic reading skills, including phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Instruction is delivered by the general education teacher. The students who do not respond to Tier 1 interventions move on to Tier 2. They are given studies supplemental to the Tier 1 basic reading program. These students are taught by the general education teacher, special education teacher, or other professionals possibly from the Child Study Team (CST). The Tier 3 level is for the students in Tier 2 that did not respond to the supplemental instruction. At Tier 3 the students are either given more intensified instruction or are referred to the Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) team to be assessed for identification of SLD or another type of disability. This is the point where the student will be identified with a disability and placed in a special education classroom or found to not have a disability and allowed to continue in a general education classroom. It is more likely that the student will be found to need special education services since he or she has already been struggling with the intervention strategies that have been given them. The reasons for their difficulties will be identified in the assessment process. 3 In contrast, the focus for this thesis is to follow the middle school-aged student who is struggling academically to see how RTI may identify them for at-risk learning problems. Even though RTI was initially developed as an early intervention for the elementary students in kindergarten through third grade, it is hoped that implementing it at the middle school level may help the older student as well. Research on the effectiveness of reading interventions for middle school-aged students has shown that it is possible for an adolescent to improve their reading comprehension skills. Reading problems occur because the student has not been able to learn the basics of reading, including phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and other problems that are associated with reading and, therefore, fall behind other students who have been able to keep up with their age and grade level. This research has shown promise toward making improvements in the reading comprehension abilities of these students. Other researchers have studied reading programs that were designed for the struggling adolescent reader. They concluded that reading programs, which included large-group, small-group, and computer-assisted individualized learning, were effective and had positive results. They also suggested that instructional-process programs using cooperative learning were effective as well. They discovered that computer-assisted instruction and reading strategy programs that were given to the struggling adolescent reader, but did not include cooperative learning, were not as effective. Their findings give insight into the current research regarding the effectiveness of the strategies that are best practices for the literacy of the adolescent reader. They do, however, conclude that largerscale and more rigorous studies are needed to corroborate the findings of these current studies (Cantrell, et al., 2010). 4 Research Problem The overall question to be answered in this study is as follows: Can the implementation of an RTI program help struggling readers in sixth through eighth grades to improve their reading and math skills? Specific questions to be answered are: Does the RTI program in a middle school decrease the rate of referrals to special education? Have there been any changes in the students academic performance in reading and overall academic performance as a result of their involvement in the RTI program? It is hypothesized that this study will show that referral rates will decrease and their grades and academic performance will improve as the students in the middle school population will be able to learn how to read as a result of the RTI interventions that they are given. Key Terms Response to intervention (RTI) is a tiered-level-of-teaching method using strategies and interventions that are appropriate for the individual student for testing and instruction. It is used to identify students for referral to special education. Curriculum Based Assessment (CBA) is an assessment that is based on the curriculum that the teacher is using. It is used to measure the levels of a student s performance. 3-Tiered Approach to Learning is an approach which begins at Tier 1 with basic and simplified learning strategies for both testing and instruction, then moves on to the next level of difficulty at Tier 2, and ends at an even more difficult level with Tier 3. Its purpose is to find the levels of academic performance of a student. It is part of the RTI method of identifying students for special education services. Child Study Team (CST) is the team that comprises the Learning Disability Teacher- Consultant, the School Psychologist, the Social Worker, the Speech and Learning Therapist and any other discipline that the student may need to rely on for his/her educational needs. 5 Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) Team is the team who meets to decide which students should be referred for special education services. It should be comprised of general education teachers, academic coaches, guidance counselors, etc., who have been appointed by the principal of the school. Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is a diagnosis of a learning disorder that has neurological impairment implications. Special Education is a term used for the program where students who need specialized educational strategies and interventions are grouped together for specialized education. General Education is the term used for the program where students who do not need specialized education are taught by a teacher who has been trained to teach the regular education student. Interventions are strategies that are given to students in order to teach concepts in a clear manner. Strategies are ways of teaching topics such as phonics, math, and reading in order to make them easy to understand. Lexiles are units of measures of growth in reading, including comprehension and fluency. Implications The implications of using RTI as an identification tool for special education are many. Either the students will learn to read using the strategies and interventions which the teachers are teaching them, making them eligible to remain in general education or they will struggle with these same interventions, causing them to be identified for special education. This will include different reading programs and other strategies that the teachers decide would be the best teaching tool for the students. They will be easy for the students to learn from and also will be something that peaks their interest. If they do find themselves struggling, then the teacher will test their skills and decide whether they should back up and regroup, using easier-to-understand strategies and interventions until the students can achieve the level in which they are struggling. 6 Summary The purpose of this research project is to find out how the process of response to intervention benefits the students at the middle school level who are struggling in the areas of reading and math. The problem is that the students never achieved grade-level reading skills. The implications are that they still can learn to read using research-based strategies and interventions. The students will be observed as they work on these strategies and interventions. Their responses will be recorded and the results of their interventions will be documented to see if these strategies had any effects on their reading levels. The teachers will be able to give input into how they are using their interventions and strategies to help their struggling readers. Will response to intervention help the struggling reader in middle school? It is hoped that the answer is yes. 7 Chapter 2 Review of Literature This literature review will include a review of studies relating to the implementation of response to intervention (RTI) programs in the middle school population. It will also consider the pros and cons of these programs and how effective they are in light of the adolescent students reading performance and overall academic performance in these upper grades. Also considered will be whether the RTI interventions and strategies have had any impact on the rate of referrals to special education in a middle school. To begin with, the beginnings of RTI will be explored and the endorsements for this movement will be investigated. Background Before RTI was developed the discrepancy approach, which is the traditional process of identifying students who have learning problems such as specific learning disabilities and reading disabilities, was used to identify students who may have a specific learning disability with a discrepancy between achievement and aptitude. The discrepancy approach says that the struggling learner must wait until he or she has failed before they are evaluated or assessed to identify potential problems they may be experiencing. If they fail consistently in the first, second and third grades they will be referred for evaluation and depending on the results of these assessments, they will be put into a special education classroom with a diagnosis of Specific Learning Disability or Reading Disability or some other disability. Their IQ testing will have shown that they are intellectually able to succeed educationally, but their academic evaluation shows that 8 they are at-risk for failing. This is based on the fact that they did not show through the testing that they were able to read, to understand phonological awareness phonics, decoding, vocabulary or are able to read with fluency or comprehension. They may have also failed in the math and writing categories. This is called the wait to fail approach or the discrepancy approach because their IQ, which was average, did not match their learning ability. For obvious reasons this approach is unsatisfactory. One, a student must wait until they are past the third grade in order to be identified as having a specific learning disability and until they can begin to receive interventions to help them. In the interim, they are continuing to lose ground academically, falling so far behind that they will find it very difficult to catch up to the academic level for their age and grade level. In about 1983, when response to intervention was proposed, the idea was to find these struggling learners as early as possible. As stated in Chapter 1, RTI was first suggested in 1983 from the publication, A Nation at Risk. From this article pointing to the problem of students experiencing learning problems in our schools, the federal government began to focus on how to improve student performance through changes made in the public school systems around the country. From this focus, the federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997, was voted on and became the first piece of legislation which brought about changes to the regular classroom. Later, in November 2004, this law was reauthorized and became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). To recap, the main thing that this law did was to take the reliance on I.Q. testing out of the equation and it was no longer used as a required criterion of the identification of students with learning disabilities. It suggested the importance of early intervention, 9 special education and related services to all of the children in the United States who have disabilities and, in fact, mandated these services. So now the focus has become early intervention through the response to intervention approach as o
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