The Impact of a "Response to Intervention" Initiative on Teachers' Efficacy with Students of Color in a Voluntary Desegregation Program
This qualitative case study focused on a Response to Intervention (RTI) literacy initiative in a suburban elementary school near an urban area in New England. The initiative incorporated professional development about RTI and implementation of components of an RTI model. The participant-researcher analyzed teachers' feedback regarding the professional development and the RTI model, as the initiative developed, with a specific focus on the teachers' perceptions about the impact of the initiative on the school's capacity to effectively instruct urban students of color who are participants in a voluntary desegregation program. The professional development about RTI incorporated three features which are recommended for professional learning communities: content which is research-based, process which includes reflection and dialogue, and context which is job-embedded. The RTI model utilized the "problem-solving" approach, and incorporated progress-monitoring and interventions. The findings from the study indicated that the combination of three elements (sustained professional development about RTI, implementation of RTI in the school setting, and conversations and questions about addressing the needs of urban students of color) resulted in increased teacher confidence in their ability to provide effective instruction to this population of students. Further, the interaction of these three elements resulted in identification of next steps which the teachers believe will specifically address these students' needs. However, several teachers questioned whether RTI was adequate to address the complex issues of students of color in a voluntary desegregation program. They recognized that they needed more information about effective instructional strategies to match the learning profiles of this population of students. Combining the results of this case study with the recommendations of the professional literature about culturally responsive teaching, it appears that Response to Intervention has the potential to address the learning needs of urban students of color, but only if practitioners incorporate some basic principles of culturally responsive teaching. Integrating the results of this study with the professional literature about Response to Intervention, culturally responsive teaching, and effective professional development, the participant-researcher recommends that policymakers and educators should consider incorporating culturally responsive teaching into their RTI models in order to truly make RTI effective for addressing the achievement gap. Further, the researcher recommends that schools should provide sustained professional development (with content based upon research, process which includes reflection and dialogue, and context which is job-embedded) to increase teachers' understanding about Response to Intervention and about culturally responsive teaching.