What other considerations should Mr. Brewster and the other school professionals be aware of when implementing RTI?
Page 9: Addressing Diversity
Language and culture affect all learning. Considerations for culturally and linguistically diverse learners—including reading instruction tips, testing considerations, and RTI’s potential advantages over the IQ-achievement discrepancy model—have been addressed throughout this RTI series. Additionally, some students have disabilities that may also impact their reading abilities. All of these issues of diversity must be examined within the context of the RTI approach.
Cultural and Linguistic Diversity
As was mentioned in the IRIS Module RTI (Part 1): An Overview, a criticism of the IQ-achievement discrepancy model for identifying students with learning disabilities is that the process often results in an overrepresentation of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in special education. To prevent similar outcomes with the RTI approach, the process must be constantly monitored to ensure that it meets the needs of students from diverse backgrounds.
Reading instruction must be evidence-based and culturally responsive. The table below outlines elements of culturally responsive instruction along with examples of how Mr. Brewster incorporates these elements into his daily reading lessons.
|Elements of Culturally Responsive Instruction||Examples from Mr. Brewster’s Lessons|
|Recognize that culture influences classroom learning and experiences.||Acknowledges and includes activities, stories, and books from different cultures|
|Teach students to understand and appreciate their own and others’ cultural heritages.||Includes stories and biographies on individuals like the doctor and medical researcher Charles Drew and the astronaut Ellen Ochoa, emphasizing the valuable contributions from various cultures|
|Identify students’ home languages and understand how cultural and linguistic influences affect literacy foundation.||Surveys students and parents to gather information regarding their home literacy environments|
|Incorporate home and community literacy practices into the curriculum and reading instruction.||Incorporates oral storytelling, an activity common in many students’ home cultures, in various reading lessons|
|Incorporate multicultural knowledge into lessons.||Incorporates words from other languages in his reading instruction and reads stories that reflect different cultures (e.g., Abuela, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters)|
|Utilize instructional materials that reflect the diversity of the class.||Includes activities and games from various cultures (e.g., Loteria, a Mexican game similar to Bingo) in his learning centers|
|Inform parents of expectations for literacy activities in the home, and provide them with information and strategies necessary to enhance their children’s reading success.||Sends home suggestions for literacy activities that parents can engage in with their children|
As noted in the table above, Mr. Brewster provides culturally responsive reading instruction. He is also aware of the importance of providing culturally sensitive assessments, which can lead to valuable insight into his students’ instructional needs.
For more specific examples of how Mr. Brewster addresses cultural considerations in instruction and assessment, consider the elements that he has used to address Paloma’s cultural and linguistic background. Paloma moved to the United States from Mexico, is a native Spanish speaker, and receives ESL services. Mr. Brewster includes books in English about various Mexican and Central American cultures and also has books in Spanish for independent reading in his story center. Mr. Brewster also includes Spanish-English vocabulary activities on the computer during learning-center time. Furthermore, Mr. Brewster pays specific attention to the administration procedures and materials used to assess Paloma’s abilities and instructional needs. He recognizes that Paloma’s pronunciation differences are related to her native Spanish language, and distinguishes them from misread words when he administers progress monitoring probes.
Culturally sensitive assessments should reflect classroom students’ multiple backgrounds. In this audio clip, Thea Woodruff shares an example of how a culturally sensitive reading probe can impact student assessment scores (time: 1:11).
Thea Woodruff, PhD
Director, Professional Development and Technical Assistance Teams,
Vaughn Gross Center’s Reading First Project
University of Texas, Austin
Teachers must be aware that there are other disabilities that can directly or indirectly affect classroom performance and that they must provide necessary accommodations for students who have those disabilities. Mr. Brewster has several students with special needs and has made the following accommodations for each, to promote academic success.
Harris uses a wheelchair. Although this does not impact his ability to benefit from reading instruction, it may impede his ability to participate in various classroom centers. Depending on the activity, Mr. Brewster may need to modify his classroom or center arrangement. If, due to space considerations, some of the materials must be placed on high shelves or in other areas where Harris cannot reach them then an assigned student can become the designated “materials partner” to bring the required materials to Harris.
Susie has profound hearing loss. In kindergarten and first grade, her hearing loss impacted her ability to learn sounds and sound out words. Although her reading is on grade level, her hearing loss still affects her ability to replicate certain speech sounds (e.g., /s/) and subsequently her pronunciation of words containing those sounds. Mr. Brewster keeps this in mind during Susie’s weekly reading probes. He also makes accommodations so that Susie can access information visually. Finally, because lip-reading becomes difficult and exhausting in a group, Mr. Brewster makes sure to give Susie breaks every 30 minutes or so during group activities.
Misty and Sammy have ADHD. Although ADHD is not listed as a separate disability category in the law, students may receive special education services if the characteristics of ADHD significantly interfere with their ability to learn. Although neither student requires special education services, Sammy has a 504 plan that specifies the accommodations he needs to be successful in the classroom. Mr. Brewster makes the following accommodations:
- Prompting the students to keep them on task when they become distracted
- Implementing strategies to help Sammy improve his work performance, given that he has a tendency to rush through his assignments, resulting in sloppy and incomplete work
- Partnering Misty with another student during center activities to help maintain her attention, keep her motivated, and provide her with a natural support for finishing activities
Keep in Mind
In order to increase the effectiveness of the RTI process, educators should analyze the following:
- Student context – To what extent is an instructional practice or program validated on students from diverse backgrounds?
- Classroom context – To what extent is the classroom supportive of diverse students’ needs?
- School context – How well do individual schools address diverse students’ instructional needs and promote their success?