There are some basics that need to be in place to implement a model of Response to Intervention (RTI) in an early childhood classroom. The first is to be clear on the goals and intentions of implementing the model. What is your intended outcome for the students in your class? You might answer, “I want all of the children in my classroom to be on track for Kindergarten entry by the end of the preschool year.”
Reliable Universal Screening Systems
Then you need to implement a universal screening system which allows you to identify the students who are not on track to meet this intended outcome. For example, the IGDIs are a set of measures that have been designed explicitly to determine those children who are not on track toward meeting age-expected language and literacy outcomes that prepare them for Kindergarten entry. Universal screening should be conducted at the beginning of the school year, after children have been given an opportunity to get comfortable with the classroom, teacher and routines. Universal screening should be repeated twice more throughout the year. Typically, screenings are conducted in January, after returning from winter break, and in April, as an end of the year check of performance level. This screening will identify children who are making adequate performance and those who need more intensive levels of instruction and intervention.
Targeted Intervention Supports
Another essential component at this point is having the necessary intervention materials and resources to provide instruction matched to the level indicated for each child, as identified during the screening process. For instance, this means identifying space within the classroom routine and staffing resources to pull children into small groups or one-to-one interactions for explicit skills instruction. It also means having access to and training on evidence-based curricula that has been shown to produce improvements in the skill areas that need to be targeted.
Once the intervention structure has been identified and implemented, a progress monitoring system needs to be in place. This means, that for those child receiving increased levels of instruction, data should be collected weekly and should be examined to determine the degree to which the given interventions are producing an increase in targeted skill development. This data should be consulted frequently to determine the fit of the instruction to the child, and as such, the classroom needs to be flexible enough that additional changes to routines and staffing structures can be made to accommodate any necessary changes in levels of instruction needed by individuals or groups of children. Weekly team meetings are often required to engage in this process.
Data-based Decision Making Tools
Finally, a data system that allows teachers and teaching staff to easily record, track and graph relevant data is a necessary component of an early childhood RTI system. Because so many of the decisions that need to be made within an early childhood RTI system are data driven, an efficient, easy to understand data system is essential to ensure that data can be considered and acted upon in a timely manner.
To conclude, the necessary components of RTI in early childhood include:
- Clear identification of the intended goal of the system.
- A universal screening measure for the targeted domain(s).
- Evidence-based curricula to implement at all tiers of instruction (Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3).
- Adequate staff resources to allow for small group and 1:1 instruction at specific times of the day.
- Progress monitoring measures that have demonstrated validity for capturing growth in the targeted domain(s).
- An efficient and easy to use data system.