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At one point in my career, I had a principal call me and ask me for advice. She said, “Christie, I have a student who needs placement in special education. He has demonstrated some significant behavior concerns and his academics are suffering.” At that point, I began to ask my typical round of questions: what have you seen going on with the student in the classroom? What types of behavioral challenges is the student exhibiting? What types of interventions and/or consequences have you provided to support the student and try to correct the behavior?
The principal said the student was not being compliant during class, specifically during reading. As such, she gave the student detention during lunch and also called the parent to let them know of the concerns. Following that conversation, I asked one more question. “After those interventions, did the student’s behavior change?”
The principal reluctantly said, “No, that is why we need special education services.”
Unfortunately, this is a common perception when it comes to handling a student that doesn’t fit the perceived norm. The issue is students may exhibit some behaviors but not enough to qualify for special education and related services. To be eligible for special education, a student has to meet eligibility criteria in one of the areas defined by special education code, and further, be labeled as disabled. Most students referred to the Child Study Team for behavior are found ineligible. Furthermore, the problem still exists within the student’s current environment and requires attention for the student to be successful.
In my experience, the majority of behavioral situations can be addressed within the general education environment under the right circumstances. Setting up a tiered system of support and working with personnel who have expertise in behavior analysis (i.e. school psychologists, social workers, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) & school counselors) can help support individuals on the RTI team.
So why behavioral RTI and how does it help us as a district to better support students? Behavioral RTI is a systematic way to address students who exhibit problem behaviors” that impact his/her learning using a structured system of support. These behaviors can include inattentive behavior, aggressive behavior, and elopement behavior. Typically, districts begin with a tiered system of support for academics and address the behavioral side of the pyramid later. However, in order to see improvements in overall student achievement, both sides of the pyramid (academic and behavior) have to be integrated into a tiered system of support. Behavioral RTI is built on seven big ideas which include:
According to recent research from the RTI Action Network, there are several reasons why integrating academic and behavioral RTI support, particularly in the area of reading, can lead to improved student outcomes. There is a documented connection between low academic skills and problem behavior with evidence indicating problems in one area (reading and behavior) can predict future problems in other areas. Luckily for school administrators, the research-based outcomes of behavioral RTI yield positive results, not only for behavioral functioning in isolation, but also increasing the likelihood of academic interventions being effective.
The business world conducts research to determine whether an investment should be made based on a return or bang for their buck. To invest is to allocate money in the expectation of some benefit in the future. RTI is an investment that research has proven consistently has a solid rate of return on student achievement over time. Implementation of behavioral RTI in a systematic way yields returns such as a decrease in problem behavior in school (less referrals to the child study team); less need for high cost evaluations such as functional behavior analysis (FBA), behavior rating scales and psychiatric evaluations; and increasing the odds that all implemented academic interventions are given the greatest chance of success.
As you begin to implement your district’s behavioral RTI systems, the Magnolia Consulting Group can help. We have developed a behavioral RTI handbook that can be easily adapted and provide professional development virtually and in-person on behavioral RTI as well as numerous other subjects. With our resources and recommended data analysis platforms, we can help you make smart, “head” decisions to facilitate a greater student and faculty experience. Contact us at [email protected]!
Gorski, Deb. “Integrating Academic and Behavior Supports Within an RtI Framework, Part 1: General Overview.” Integrating Academic and Behavior Supports: Overview | RTI Action Network, www.rtinetwork.org/learn/behavior-supports/integrating-behavior-and-academic-supports-general-overview.