If an Elementary School is already implementing RTI in academic subjects, what is the best way for them to begin to incorporate behavior interventions?

Question: If an Elementary School is already implementing RTI in academic subjects, what is the best way for them to begin to incorporate behavior interventions?

Joe Wehby: If a school is already implementing RTI at an effective level then I think beginning the same process with behavior should be fairly straight forward. I think the basic structures about creating an environment in which there’s a common set of evidence-based practices for the entire school is already established, and that’s really the main message in terms of behavior is that, much like academic growth, students at elementary schools also need the behavior supports in place to make the same sort of progress. So, from a perspective of RTI the first stage would be to identify and evaluate where the components of an effective, school-wide program that are already existing. So, whether that might be a character education program, maybe a school has established a system of expectations that are appropriate for the entire school and those things are taught and evaluated. But, basically, to assess at what level do a common set of practices, expectations, reinforcers exist for the entire school building and once that is established, and there are tools from the PBIS Center that can be used to evaluate the current status of an individual school’s school-wide program around behavior support, then the same steps in terms of looking at students who aren’t responding for tier 2 and tier 1 can be established. One difference that I think behavioral RTI program differs from an academic one is the issue about how do you monitor non-responders? Whether the context of PBIS programming a common tool that is used is office discipline referrals, that’s only one of several that schools may implement but in some ways an elementary school would have to capture progress for those students that are responding to that tier 1 or that universal behavior support level as well as looking at those students who might be in need of additional behavior support and again whether or not that data system is office discipline referrals, whether it’s some sort of behavioral screening, the whole concept is that again to take ownership of these students’ deficits and identify ways to support them. From that context, just like you would create a secondary level intervention around reading or math for students who are low-performing, of those students who might need additional behavior support, there are secondary interventions that are in place, many of these programs involve mentoring from other adults in the building, whether it’s the teacher, a custodial person, an administrator, but students have been identified in a database sort of way and that secondary level of support is provided. Once that’s been established and implemented then, much like RTI, we’re looking for students who might not be responding again using the same sort of evaluation measurement system and for those students they might move into an intensive individualized intervention. Currently in most elementary schools that practice involves some sort of functional, behavior assessment, which an individualized assessment is developed and evaluated. So, I think the process is the same, so for a school that has RTI in place for academics, I think that following a similar plan is, the framework is there so just using the planted framework to social behavior makes it easier for that transition to occur, or for that co-occurrence to occur. I think some of the things that we differ on is that while there may be more specific decision rules from moving from one tier to the next around academics we lack those same sort of decision rules around behavior, primarily because of assessment reasons. So, again, there are some rules of thumb about office discipline referrals, there are behavioral screeners that may suggest who’s not responding but the precision in which movement from one tier to the next is made is less precise in a school-wide PBIS or behavioral RTI model than in academics. And then the connection between secondary level interventions and individualized interventions also differs a little bit for an RTI model around reading while there are issues I think there’s more sort of direction about what might be the next step to take and often times that movement to a more individualized intervention starts with a behavioral platform or a reading platform from the secondary level. For behavior we often don’t make that connection and so when you see a child not responding to the secondary level intervention they move to maybe a completely different looking individualized intervention. And so the transition between tiers is just less smooth in the behavior piece. That being said I think that the mindset that students need different levels of support, if that’s recognized at the academic level then it’s, the leap to behavior levels is very easy to make.