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Title: RTI%20Challenge:%20Clearly%20Defining%20Student%20Academic%20and%20Behavioral%20Problems%20Jim%20Wright%20www.interventioncentral.org

RTI Challenge Clearly Defining Student Academic
and Behavioral ProblemsJim Wrightwww.interventi
Resources from this workshop series can be
downloaded from
  • http//www.interventioncentral.org/dcboces.php

RTI Academic Interventions Shakedown Cruise
  • Definition a period of testing or a trial
    journey undergone by a ship, aircraft or other
    craft and its crew before being declared

Source Shakedown cruise. Wikipedia. Retrieved
from http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakedown_cruise
DC BOCES RTI Elementary Team Trainings
  • Monday 2 November 2009
  • Wednesday 16 December 2009
  • Thursday 25 February 2010
  • Thursday 8 April 2010

What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guide Study
Organizational Skills
Source Pashler, H., Bain, P., Bottge, B.,
Graesser, A., Koedinger, K., McDaniel, M., and
Metcalfe, J. (2007) Organizing instruction and
study to improve student learning (NCER
2007-2004). Washington, DC National Center for
Education Research, Institute of Education
Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved
from http//ncer.ed.gov.
RTI Assumption Struggling Students Are Typical
Until Proven Otherwise
  • RTI logic assumes that
  • A student who begins to struggle in general
    education is typical, and that
  • It is general educations responsibility to find
    the instructional strategies that will unlock the
    students learning potential
  • Only when the student shows through
    well-documented interventions that he or she has
    failed to respond to intervention does RTI
    begin to investigate the possibility that the
    student may have a learning disability or other
    special education condition.

RTI Pyramid of Interventions
Complementary RTI Models Standard Treatment
Problem-Solving Protocols
  • The two most commonly used RTI approaches are
    (1) standard treatment and (2) problem-solving
    protocol. While these two approaches to RTI are
    sometimes described as being very different from
    each other, they actually have several common
    elements, and both fit within a problem-solving
    framework. In practice, many schools and
    districts combine or blend aspects of the two
    approaches to fit their needs.

Source Duffy, H. (August 2007). Meeting the
needs of significantly struggling learners in
high school. Washington, DC National High School
Center. Retrieved from http//www.betterhighschool
s.org/pubs/ p. 5
RTI Interventions Standard-Treatment vs.
There are two different vehicles that schools can
use to deliver RTI interventions Standard-Protoco
l (Standalone Intervention). Programs based on
scientifically valid instructional practices
(standard protocol) are created to address
frequent student referral concerns. These
services are provided outside of the classroom. A
middle school, for example, may set up a
structured math-tutoring program staffed by adult
volunteer tutors to provide assistance to
students with limited math skills. Students
referred for a Tier II math intervention would be
placed in this tutoring program. An advantage of
the standard-protocol approach is that it is
efficient and consistent large numbers of
students can be put into these group
interventions to receive a highly standardized
intervention. However, standard group
intervention protocols often cannot be
individualized easily to accommodate a specific
students unique needs. Problem-solving
(Classroom-Based Intervention). Individualized
research-based interventions match the profile of
a particular students strengths and limitations.
The classroom teacher often has a large role in
carrying out these interventions. A plus of the
problem-solving approach is that the intervention
can be customized to the students needs.
However, developing intervention plans for
individual students can be time-consuming.
Tier I Instruction/Interventions
  • Tier I instruction/interventions
  • Are universalavailable to all students.
  • Can be delivered within classrooms or throughout
    the school.
  • Are likely to be put into place by the teacher at
    the first sign that a student is struggling.
  • All children have access to Tier 1
    instruction/interventions. Teachers have the
    capability to use those strategies without
    requiring outside assistance.
  • Tier 1 instruction/interventions encompass
  • The schools core curriculum and all published or
    teacher-made materials used to deliver that
  • Teacher use of whole-group teaching
    management strategies.
  • Teacher use of individualized strategies with
    specific students.
  • Tier I instruction/interventions attempt to
    answer the question Are classroom instructional
    strategies supports sufficient to help the
    student to achieve academic success?

Tier 1 Classroom-Level Interventions
  • Decision Point Student is struggling and may
    face significant high-stakes negative outcome if
    situation does not improve.
  • Collaboration Opportunity Teacher can refer the
    student to a grade-level, instruction team, or
    department meeting to brainstorm ideas OR
    teacher seeks out consultant in school to
    brainstorm intervention ideas.
  • Documentation Teacher completes Classroom
    Intervention Form prior to carrying out
    intervention. Teacher collects classroom data.
  • Decision Rule Example Teacher should refer
    student to the next level of RTI support if the
    intervention is not successful within 8
    instructional weeks.

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Tier 2 Supplemental (Standard-Protocol Model)
  • Tier 2 interventions are typically delivered in
    small-group format. About 15 of students in the
    typical school will require Tier 2/supplemental
    intervention support.
  • Group size for Tier 2 interventions is limited
    to 4-6 students. Students placed in Tier 2
    interventions should have a shared profile of
    intervention need.
  • The reading progress of students in Tier 2
    interventions are monitored at least 1-2 times
    per month.

Source Burns, M. K., Gibbons, K. A. (2008).
Implementing response-to-intervention in
elementary and secondary schools. Routledge New
Tier 2 Supplemental Interventions
  • Decision Point Building-wide academic screenings
  • Collaboration Opportunity After each
    building-wide academic screening, data teams
    meet (teachers at a grade level building
    principal reading teacher, etc.) At the meeting,
    the group considers how the assessment data
    should shape/inform core instruction.
    Additionally, the data team sets a cutpoint to
    determine which students should be recruited for
    Tier 2 group interventions. NOTE Team may
    continue to meet every 5 weeks to consider
    student progress in Tier 2 move students into
    and out of groups.
  • Documentation Tier 2 instructor completes a Tier
    2 Group Assignment Sheet listing students and
    their corresponding interventions.
    Progress-monitoring occurs 1-2 times per month.
  • Decision Rules Example Student is returned to
    Tier 1 support if they perform above the 25th
    percentile in the next school-wide screening.
    Student is referred to Tier 3 (RTI Team) if they
    fail to make expected progress despite two Tier 2
    (group-based) interventions.

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Scheduling Elementary Tier 2 Interventions
Option 3 Floating RTIGradewide Shared
Schedule. Each grade has a scheduled RTI time
across classrooms. No two grades share the same
RTI time. Advantages are that outside providers
can move from grade to grade providing push-in or
pull-out services and that students can be
grouped by need across different teachers within
the grade.
Anyplace Elementary School RTI Daily Schedule
Classroom 1
Classroom 2
Classroom 3
Grade K
Classroom 1
Classroom 2
Classroom 3
Grade 1
Classroom 1
Classroom 2
Classroom 3
Grade 2
Classroom 1
Classroom 2
Classroom 3
Grade 3
Classroom 1
Classroom 2
Classroom 3
Grade 4
Grade 5
Classroom 1
Classroom 2
Classroom 3
Source Burns, M. K., Gibbons, K. A. (2008).
Implementing response-to-intervention in
elementary and secondary schools Procedures to
assure scientific-based practices. New York
Tier 3 Intensive Individualized Interventions
(Problem-Solving Model)
  • Tier 3 interventions are the most intensive
    offered in a school setting. About 5 of a
    general-education student population may qualify
    for Tier 3 supports. Typically, the RTI
    Problem-Solving Team meets to develop
    intervention plans for Tier 3 students.
  • Students qualify for Tier 3 interventions
  • they are found to have a large skill gap when
    compared to their class or grade peers and/or
  • They did not respond to interventions provided
    previously at Tiers 1 2.
  • Tier 3 interventions are provided daily for
    sessions of 30 minutes. The student-teacher ratio
    is flexible but should allow the student to
    receive intensive, individualized instruction.
    The academic or behavioral progress of students
    in Tier 3 interventions is monitored at least

Source Burns, M. K., Gibbons, K. A. (2008).
Implementing response-to-intervention in
elementary and secondary schools. Routledge New
Tier 3 RTI Team
  • Decision Point RTI Problem-Solving Team
  • Collaboration Opportunity Weekly RTI
    Problem-Solving Team meetings are scheduled to
    handle referrals of students that failed to
    respond to interventions from Tiers 1 2.
  • Documentation Teacher referral form RTI Team
    minutes form progress-monitoring data collected
    at least weekly.
  • Decision Rules Example If student has failed
    to respond adequately to 3 intervention trials of
    6-8 weeks (from Tiers 2 and 3), the student may
    be referred to Special Education.

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Advancing Through RTI Flexibility in the Tiers
  • For purposes of efficiency, students should be
    placed in small-group instruction at Tier 2.
  • However, group interventions may not always be
    possible because due to scheduling or other
    issuesno group is available. (For example,
    students with RTI behavioral referrals may not
    have a group intervention available.)
  • In such a case, the student will go directly to
    the problem-solving process (Tier 3)typically
    through a referral to the school RTI Team.
  • Nonetheless, the school must still document the
    same minimum number of interventions attempted
    for every student in RTI, whether or not a
    student first received interventions in a group

Target Student
Dual-Discrepancy RTI Model of Learning
Disability (Fuchs 2003)
Intervention Case Study What Tier?
  • Angelina is delayed in her phonological awareness
    skills. A paraprofessional had previously been
    assigned for an hour per day to push into
    Angelinas classroom to provide additional help
    to the classroom teacher for literacy
    instruction. The teacher designs a special
    reading center for Angelina and 2 other students
    that is overseen by the paraprofessional. In that
    reading center, the students work on activities
    to strengthen their ability to distinguish the
    phonemes that make up words.What Tier is this

Intervention Case Study What Tier?
  • Answer Angelinas intervention falls at Tier 1.
    Even though her instruction is highly targeted to
    specific skill delays, her teacher has the
    resources to individualize for this student
    during core literacy instruction using available
    classroom supports.

Intervention Case Study What Tier?
  • Rick was referred to the RTI Problem-Solving Team
    because he failed to make adequate progress in
    his supplemental Wilson reading group. The RTI
    Team consulted with the classroom teacher and,
    with his input, developed an intervention plan
    that included
  • Additional classroom strategies that the teacher
    could implement to promote student phonics
  • Reducing the size of the students Wilson
    supplemental reading group to 3 students.
  • Enlisting the parent to implement additional
    research-based fluency building strategies at

Intervention Case Study What Tier?
  • Answer This is a Tier 3 intervention, because it
    was reviewed by the RTI Problem-Solving Team. The
    intervention for Rick contains elements that
    separately could be considered Tier 1 (classroom
    teacher) and Tier 2 (supplemental reading group)
    interventions. However, the entire collection of
    intervention ideas comprise a single Tier 3
    Intervention Package.

Intervention Case Study What Tier?
  • Donald is a 3rd-grade student. At a data
    meeting after the fall RTI schoolwide literacy
    screening, Donald was found to require a
    supplemental reading intervention because of
    delays in reading fluency when compared to his
    grade peers. The school had developed a program
    in which adult volunteer tutors were trained to
    use the paired reading strategy with students.
    The tutoring program was developed and overseen
    by the schools reading teacher. Donald met 3
    times per week for a half-hour to work with the
    tutor.What Tier is this intervention?

Intervention Case Study What Tier?
  • Answer Donalds intervention falls at Tier 2 for
    two reasons. First, he was assigned to that
    intervention in a data meeting, an efficient
    means of Tier 2 intervention assignment. Second,
    Donald was placed into an intervention tutoring
    program (paired reading) that follows a
    standard treatment protocol.

NYSED RTI Guidance Memo April 2008
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The Regents policy framework for RtIDefines
RtI to minimally include Appropriate
instruction delivered to all students in the
general education class by qualified personnel.
Appropriate instruction in reading means
scientific research-based reading programs that
include explicit and systematic instruction in
phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary
development, reading fluency (including oral
reading skills) and reading comprehension
strategies.Screenings applied to all students
in the class to identify those students who are
not making academic progress at expected rates.
Instruction matched to student need with
increasingly intensive levels of targeted
intervention and instruction for students who do
not make satisfactory progress in their levels of
performance and/or in their rate of learning to
meet age or grade level standards.Repeated
assessments of student achievement which should
include curriculum based measures to determine if
interventions are resulting in student progress
toward age or grade level standards.The
application of information about the students
response to intervention to make educational
decisions about changes in goals, instruction
and/or services and the decision to make a
referral for special education programs and/or
Written notification to the parents when the
student requires an intervention beyond that
provided to all students in the general education
classroom that provides information about the
-amount and nature of student performance data
that will be collected and the general education
services that will be provided-strategies for
increasing the students rate of learning
and-parents right to request an evaluation for
special education programs and/or services.
The Regents policy framework for RtIDefines
RtI to minimally include Requires each school
district to establish a plan and policies for
implementing school-wide approaches and
prereferral interventions in order to remediate a
students performance prior to referral for
special education, which may include the RtI
process as part of a districts school-wide
approach. The school district must select and
define the specific structure and components of
its RtI program, including, but not limited to
the -criteria for determining the levels of
intervention to be provided to students, -types
of interventions, amount and nature of student
performance data to be collected, and -manner
and frequency for progress monitoring.
RTI Intervention Key Concepts
Essential Elements of Any Academic or Behavioral
Intervention (Treatment) Strategy
  • Method of delivery (Who or what delivers the
    treatment?)Examples include teachers,
    paraprofessionals, parents, volunteers,
  • Treatment component (What makes the intervention
    effective?)Examples include activation of prior
    knowledge to help the student to make meaningful
    connections between known and new material
    guide practice (e.g., Paired Reading) to increase
    reading fluency periodic review of material to
    aid student retention.

Core Instruction, Interventions, Accommodations
Modifications Sorting Them Out
  • Core Instruction. Those instructional strategies
    that are used routinely with all students in a
    general-education setting are considered core
    instruction. High-quality instruction is
    essential and forms the foundation of RTI
    academic support. NOTE While it is important to
    verify that good core instructional practices are
    in place for a struggling student, those routine
    practices do not count as individual student

Core Instruction, Interventions, Accommodations
Modifications Sorting Them Out
  • Intervention. An academic intervention is a
    strategy used to teach a new skill, build fluency
    in a skill, or encourage a child to apply an
    existing skill to new situations or settings. An
    intervention can be thought of as a set of
    actions that, when taken, have demonstrated
    ability to change a fixed educational trajectory
    (Methe Riley-Tillman, 2008 p. 37).

Core Instruction, Interventions, Accommodations
Modifications Sorting Them Out
  • Accommodation. An accommodation is intended to
    help the student to fully access and participate
    in the general-education curriculum without
    changing the instructional content and without
    reducing the students rate of learning (Skinner,
    Pappas Davis, 2005). An accommodation is
    intended to remove barriers to learning while
    still expecting that students will master the
    same instructional content as their typical
  • Accommodation example 1 Students are allowed to
    supplement silent reading of a novel by listening
    to the book on tape.
  • Accommodation example 2 For unmotivated
    students, the instructor breaks larger
    assignments into smaller chunks and providing
    students with performance feedback and praise for
    each completed chunk of assigned work (Skinner,
    Pappas Davis, 2005).

Core Instruction, Interventions, Accommodations
Modifications Sorting Them Out
  • Modification. A modification changes the
    expectations of what a student is expected to
    know or dotypically by lowering the academic
    standards against which the student is to be
    evaluated. Examples of modifications
  • Giving a student five math computation problems
    for practice instead of the 20 problems assigned
    to the rest of the class
  • Letting the student consult course notes during a
    test when peers are not permitted to do so
  • Allowing a student to select a much easier book
    for a book report than would be allowed to his or
    her classmates.

Engaging the Reluctant Teacher Seven Reasons Why
Middle High School Instructors May Be Reluctant
to Implement Classroom RTI Literacy Interventions
Jim Wrightwww.interventioncentral.org
Teacher Tolerance as an Indicator of RTI
Intervention Capacity
  • I call the range of students whom teachers
    come to view as adequately responsive i.e.,
    teachable as the tolerance those who are
    perceived to be outside the tolerance are those
    for whom teachers seek additional resources. The
    term tolerance is used to indicate that
    teachers form a permissible boundary on their
    measurement (judgments) in the same sense as a
    confidence interval. In this case, the teacher
    actively measures the distribution of
    responsiveness in her class by processing
    information from a series of teaching trials and
    perceives some range of students as within the
    tolerance. (Gerber, 2002)

Source Gerber, M. M. (2003). Teachers are still
the test Limitations of response to instruction
strategies for identifying children with learning
disabilities. Paper presented at the National
Research Center on Learning Disabilities
Responsiveness-to-Intervention Symposium, Kansas
City, MO.
Engaging the Reluctant Teacher Seven Reasons Why
Instructors May Resist Implementing Classroom RTI
Literacy Interventions
  1. Teachers believe that their job is to provide
    content-area instruction, not to teach vocabulary
    and reading-comprehension strategies (Kamil et
    al., 2008).
  2. Teachers believe that they lack the skills to
    implement classroom vocabulary-building and
    reading-comprehension strategies. (Fisher, 2007
    Kamil et al., 2008).
  3. Teachers feel that they dont have adequate time
    to implement vocabulary-building and
    reading-comprehension strategies in the
    classroom. (Kamil et al., 2008 Walker, 2004).

Engaging the Reluctant Teacher Seven Reasons Why
Instructors May Resist Implementing Classroom RTI
Literacy Interventions (Cont.)
  1. Teachers are not convinced that there will be an
    adequate instructional pay-off in their
    content-area if they implement literacy-building
    strategies in the classroom (Kamil et al., 2008).
  2. Teachers are reluctant to put extra effort into
    implementing interventions for students who
    appear unmotivated (Walker, 2004) when there are
    other, more deserving students who would
    benefit from teacher attention.
  3. Teachers are afraid that, if they use a range of
    classroom strategies to promote literacy (e.g.,
    extended discussion, etc.), they will have
    difficulty managing classroom behaviors (Kamil et
    al., 2008).

Engaging the Reluctant Teacher Seven Reasons Why
Instructors May Resist Implementing Classroom RTI
Literacy Interventions (Cont.)
  1. Teachers believe that special education is
    magic (Martens, 1993). This belief implies that
    general education interventions will be
    insufficient to meet the students needs and that
    the student will benefit only if he or she
    receives special education services.

Ideas to Build Teacher Understanding and Support
for RTIJim Wrightwww.interventioncentral.org
Offer RTI information to teachers in a series of
short presentations or discussion forums
  • A common mistake that schools make in rolling out
    RTI is to present their teachers with RTI
    information in a single, long presentationwith
    little opportunity for questions or discussion.
    Instead, schools should plan a series of RTI
    information-sharing sessions with teachers
    throughout the school year. Any large-group RTI
    training sessions (e.g., at faculty meetings)
    should be kept short, to ensure that the audience
    is not overwhelmed with large volumes of
    information. Consider using smaller instructional
    team or department meetings as a vehicle for
    follow-up presentations, discussion, and teacher
    questions about RTI.

Offer RTI information to teachers in a series of
short presentations or discussion forums
  • ACTION STEP Create a year-long RTI
    information-sharing plan. Determine what RTI
    information your school would like to present to
    staff, as well as the degree of faculty input and
    discussion needed. Then draft a year-long plan to
    communicate with staff about RTI. Each year,
    update the plan to keep faculty updated about
    implementation of the RTI model.

Present RTI as a coordinated, schoolwide approach
to address long-standing teacher concerns about
struggling students
  • Schools should consider framing RTI as a broad,
    schoolwide solution to help teachers to better
    instruct, motivate, and manage the behaviors of
    struggling learners. Teachers want fewer class
    disruptions, more uninterrupted instructional
    time, higher performing students, targeted
    supplemental academic help for students who need
    it, and better communication among educators
    about the needs of all students. As schools make
    the case for RTI, they should demonstrate how it
    will help teachers to manage the day-to-day
    challenges that they face in their classrooms.

Present RTI as a coordinated, schoolwide approach
to address long-standing teacher concerns about
struggling students
  • ACTION STEP Get feedback from teachers about
    their classroom concerns. Find opportunities to
    engage teachers in productive discussions about
    what they see as the greatest challenges facing
    them as instructors. Note the teacher concerns
    that surface most often. For each teacher
    concern, generate ideas for how an RTI model in
    your school might help teachers with that issue.
    Craft these ideas for instructor support into
    talking points and include them in your
    schools RTI presentations.

Solicit teacher input when building your schools
RTI model
  • Teachers are a valuable resource that schools
    should tap when implementing RTI. When schools
    solicit teacher questions about RTI, include
    teachers on planning teams to help to develop the
    RTI process, and treat teacher objections or
    concerns about RTI as helpful feedback rather
    than stubborn resistance, those schools send the
    message that teachers are full partners in the
    RTI planning process.

Solicit teacher input when building your schools
RTI model
  • ACTION STEP Include teachers on the RTI
    Leadership Team. One of the best ways to ensure
    that teachers have input into the RTI development
    process is to include teacher representatives on
    the RTI Leadership Team, the group that oversees
    the districts implementation of RTI.

Link all significant school and district
initiatives to RTI
  • RTI is a comprehensive, proactive model to
    identify and assist struggling students. Yet
    teachers may erroneously perceive RTI as just
    another program that is likely to last for only
    a short time and then disappear. Any RTI training
    for staff should make the point that RTI is not a
    single-self contained program but is actually an
    all-inclusive and flexible framework for student
    support that encompasses all existing student
    support programs and strategies.

Link all significant school and district
initiatives to RTI
  • ACTION STEP Organized all school programs under
    the RTI framework. Schools should present RTI as
    an elastic multi-tier problem-solving framework.
    First, the school lists all of its significant
    current programs or initiatives intended to
    assess or intervene with students with academic
    or behavioral needs. The school then assigns each
    of the programs or initiatives to Tier 1, 2, or 3
    in the RTI framework. The message for staff is
    that, while specific programs may come and go,
    the overarching RTI model is both adaptable and
    durable--and that much of the power of RTI rests
    on its potential to integrate a series of
    isolated programs into a larger unified and
    coordinated continuum of student support.

Defining Student Problem Behaviors A Key to
Identifying Effective Interventions Jim
Defining Problem Student Behaviors
  • Define the problem behavior in clear, observable,
    measurable terms (Batsche et al., 2008 Upah,
    2008). Write a clear description of the problem
    behavior. Avoid vague problem identification
    statements such as The student is disruptive.
  • A well-written problem definition should include
    three parts
  • Conditions. The condition(s) under which the
    problem is likely to occur
  • Problem Description. A specific description of
    the problem behavior
  • Contextual information. Information about the
    frequency, intensity, duration, or other
    dimension(s) of the behavior that provide a
    context for estimating the degree to which the
    behavior presents a problem in the setting(s) in
    which it occurs.

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Defining Problem Student Behaviors
  1. Develop examples and non-examples of the problem
    behavior (Upah, 2008). Writing both examples and
    non-examples of the problem behavior helps to
    resolve uncertainty about when the students
    conduct should be classified as a problem
    behavior. Examples should include the most
    frequent or typical instances of the student
    problem behavior. Non-examples should include any
    behaviors that are acceptable conduct but might
    possibly be confused with the problem behavior.

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Defining Problem Student Behaviors
  1. Write a behavior hypothesis statement (Batsche et
    al., 2008 Upah, 2008). The next step in
    problem-solving is to develop a hypothesis about
    why the student is engaging in an undesirable
    behavior or not engaging in a desired behavior.
    Teachers can gain information to develop a
    hypothesis through direct observation, student
    interview, review of student work products, and
    other sources. The behavior hypothesis statement
    is important because (a) it can be tested, and
    (b) it provides guidance on the type(s) of
    interventions that might benefit the student.

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Defining Problem Student Behaviors
  1. Select a replacement behavior (Batsche et al.,
    2008). Behavioral interventions should be focused
    on increasing student skills and capacities, not
    simply on suppressing problem behaviors. By
    selecting a positive behavioral goal that is an
    appropriate replacement for the students
    original problem behavior, the teacher reframes
    the student concern in a manner that allows for
    more effective intervention planning.

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Defining Problem Student Behaviors
  1. Write a prediction statement (Batsche et al.,
    2008 Upah, 2008). The prediction statement
    proposes a strategy (intervention) that is
    predicted to improve the problem behavior. The
    importance of the prediction statement is that it
    spells out specifically the expected outcome if
    the strategy is successful. The formula for
    writing a prediction statement is to state that
    if the proposed strategy (Specific Action) is
    adopted, then the rate of problem behavior is
    expected to decrease or increase in the desired

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Defining Student Problem Behaviors Team Activity
  • As a team
  • Review the student behavioral concern that you
    developed in the previous activity.
  • Consult the five step process and organizer form
    in your packet (pp. 5-9). Use the 5-step process
    to better define and understand the student
  • Five Steps in Understanding Addressing Problem
  • Define the problem behavior in clear, observable,
    measurable terms.
  • Develop examples and non-examples of the problem
  • Write a behavior hypothesis statement.
  • Select a replacement behavior.
  • Write a prediction statement.

Defining Academic Problems Get It Right and
Interventions Are More Likely to Be
EffectiveJim Wrightwww.interventioncentral.org
Defining Academic Problems Recommended Steps
  1. Be knowledgeable of the school academic
    curriculum and key student academic skills that
    are taught. The teacher should have a good
    survey-level knowledge of the key academic skills
    outlined in the schools curriculumfor the grade
    level of their classroom as well as earlier grade
    levels. If the curriculum alone is not adequate
    for describing a students academic deficit, the
    instructor can make use of research-based
    definitions or complete a task analysis to
    further define the academic problem area. Here
    are guidelines for consulting curriculum and
    research-based definitions and for conducting a
    task analysis for more global skills.

Defining Academic Problems Recommended Steps
  • Curriculum. The teacher can review the schools
    curriculum and related documents (e.g.,
    score-and-sequence charts curriculum maps) to
    select specific academic skill or performance
    goals. First, determine the approximate grade or
    level in the curriculum that matches the
    students skills. Then, review the curriculum at
    that alternate grade level to find appropriate
    descriptions of the students relevant academic
    deficit. For example, a second-grade student
    had limited phonemic awareness. The student was
    not able accurately to deconstruct a spoken word
    into its component sound-units, or phonemes. In
    the schools curriculum, children were expected
    to attain proficiency in phonemic awareness by
    the close of grade 1. The teacher went off
    level to review the grade 1 curriculum and found
    a specific description of phonemic awareness that
    she could use as a starting point in defining the
    students skill deficit.

Defining Academic Problems Recommended Steps
  • Research-Based Skill Definitions. Even when a
    schools curriculum identifies key skills,
    schools may find it useful to corroborate or
    elaborate those skill definitions by reviewing
    alternative definitions published in research
    journals or other trusted sources. For example,
    a student had delays in solving quadratic
    equations. The math instructor found that the
    schools math curriculum did not provide a
    detailed description of the skills required to
    successfully complete quadratic equations. So the
    teacher reviewed the National Mathematics
    Advisory Panel report (Fennell et al., 2008) and
    found a detailed description of component skills
    for solving quadratic equations. By combining the
    skill definitions from the school curriculum with
    the more detailed descriptions taken from the
    research-based document, the teacher could better
    pinpoint the students academic deficit in
    specific terms.

Defining Academic Problems Recommended Steps
  • Task Analysis. Students may possess deficits in
    more global academic enabling skills that are
    essential for academic success. Teachers can
    complete an task analysis of the relevant skill
    by breaking it down into a checklist of
    constituent subskills. An instructor can use the
    resulting checklist to verify that the student
    can or cannot perform each of the subskills that
    make up the global academic enabling
    skill.For example, teachers at a middle school
    noted that many of their students seemed to have
    poor organization skills. Those instructors
    conducted a task analysis and determined that--in
    their classrooms--the essential subskills of
    student organization included (a) arriving to
    class on time (b) bringing work materials to
    class (c) following teacher directions in a
    timely manner (d) knowing how to request teacher
    assistance when needed and (e) having an
    uncluttered desk with only essential work

Defining Academic Problems Recommended Steps
  • Describe the academic problem in specific,
    skill-based terms (Batsche et al., 2008 Upah,
    2008). Write a clear, brief description of the
    academic skill or performance deficit that
    focuses on a specific skill or performance area.
    Here are sample problem-identification
  • John reads aloud from grade-appropriate text much
    more slowly than his classmates.
  • Ann lacks proficiency with multiplication math
    problems (double-digit times double-digit with no
  • Tye does not turn in homework assignments.
  • Angela produces limited text on in-class writing

Defining Academic Problems Recommended Steps
  • Develop a fuller description of the academic
    problem to provide a meaningful instructional
    context. When the teacher has described the
    students academic problem, the next step is to
    expand the problem definition to put it into a
    meaningful context. This expanded definition
    includes information about the conditions under
    which the academic problem is observed and
    typical or expected level of performance.
  • Conditions. Describe the environmental conditions
    or task demands in place when the academic
    problem is observed.
  • Problem Description. Describe the actual
    observable academic behavior in which the student
    is engaged. Include rate, accuracy, or other
    quantitative information of student performance.
  • Typical or Expected Level of Performance. Provide
    a typical or expected performance criterion for
    this skill or behavior. Typical or expected
    academic performance can be calculated using a
    variety of sources,

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Defining Academic Problems Recommended Steps
  1. Develop a hypothesis statement to explain the
    academic skill or performance problem. The
    hypothesis states the assumed reason(s) or
    cause(s) for the students academic problems.
    Once it has been developed, the hypothesis
    statement acts as a compass needle, pointing
    toward interventions that most logically address
    the student academic problems.

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