Denver-area school district implements ambitious Response to Intervention (RTI) program

Education Week reports:

Located on the east boundary of Denver, Aurora is Colorado’s third largest city. It has a student population of 34,000 and operates 54 schools. Aurora faces the challenges of many urban districts: Sixty-four percent of its students receive free or reduced lunch and 34 percent are English-language learners who, all told, speak 95 different languages…

Midway through their first year of district-wide implementation, Aurora district officials see early signs of success with their RTI model, but admit to some growing pains, including the familiar complaints about excessive paperwork and time demands…

Since RTI is mandated by Colorado, using the framework was not a choice for Aurora. But district instructional leader Charlotte Butler believes that the 10 or more years the district has spent emphasizing “good first instruction”—informed, reflective instruction that is often synonymous with Tier 1 best practice—and student progress monitoring has helped to smooth the K-12 transition to RTI. “We’re already far along the road, in terms of what we already have in place to support all students as learners,” she explains.
Classroom Support

To support the disparate learning needs of its students, APS took the state’s three-tiered RTI model and tweaked it—mostly noticeably, by adding a fourth tier, between the conventional Tiers 1 and 2. Lisa Escarcega, chief accountability and research officer, describes the insertion of a “Tier 1a,” which is intended to prevent or delay Tier 2 placement for at-risk students, as a path to “encourage success.” Tier 1a includes providing classroom teachers with coaching support on intervention strategies.“It keeps the focus back on good instruction at that first tier level until our achievement improves,” Escarcega explains.

Read more about Aurora, Colorado’s RTI program on their district Web site here.

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