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Response to Intervention: Instructional Challenges for Teachers in High Need Contexts


by Sharon L. Nichols, Felicia Castro-Villarreal & Amanda Ramirez — 2017

Background: This study adds to our understanding of how elementary school teachers in culturally and linguistically diverse contexts think about the implementation and impact of Response-to-Intervention practices.

Purpose of Study: The purpose of this study is to understand elementary school teachers’ beliefs about the challenges associated with RTI implementation with high need, high risk student populations.

Research Design: This was a semi-structured interview study with eight elementary school teachers.

Findings/Results: Interview data indicate that while teachers noted the potential of RTI systems and processes, most expressed dissatisfaction with implementation variability, inadequate training, slow matriculation through the tiers, and widely diverse student learning needs. Teachers also noted challenges associated with having to differentiate instruction and management with widely diverse learners while at the same time being pressured to meet accountability targets.

Conclusions: We conclude that although RTI has become more widely understood and recognized, there remain serious implementation challenges and confusion in contexts that serve culturally and linguistically diverse students. We recommend improved training at the university and preservice level to prepare teachers for work in tiered problem-solving frameworks and to help teachers better understand the academic, social, and affective needs of our increasingly diverse student population.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 9, 2017, p. 1-30
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22041, Date Accessed: 12/17/2017 8:33:43 AM

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About the Author
  • Sharon Nichols
    University of Texas at San Antonio
    E-mail Author
    SHARON L. NICHOLS is an associate professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio located in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Nichols has authored over three dozen books, journal articles, and book chapters related to youth development and motivation and educational policy. She is editor of Educational policies and youth in the 21st century: Problems, potential, and progress (Information Age, 2016) and coauthor of Collateral damage: How high-stakes testing corrupts America’s schools (with D. C. Berliner, Harvard Education Press, 2007). Her current work focuses on the impact of test-based accountability on teachers, their instructional practices and adolescent motivation and development.
  • Felicia Castro-Villarreal
    University of Texas at San Antonio
    E-mail Author
    FELICIA CASTRO-VILLARREAL, Ph.D., LSSP, is an Associate Professor of School Psychology and School Psychology Program Coordinator at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research interests include multicultural issues in school psychology, culturally responsive assessment, therapy, and consultation practice, and the real-world application of RTI and PBIS in contemporary school settings. She has published in numerous outlets exploring these issues.
  • Amanda Ramirez
    University of Texas at San Antonio
    E-mail Author
    AMANDA RAMIREZ is a graduate student in the School Psychology program at University of Texas at San Antonio. She taught for 10 years in early childhood and elementary settings. Her research interests are in diverse families, the implications of early education for minority students, and assessments for at-risk populations.
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