Education researchers share data on new reform efforts
A husband-and-wife research team discussed with an Elon University audience Wednesday night their work on a type of education reform that shows promise for elementary school students who need more help with reading and math concepts than is typically offered in the traditional classroom.
Professors Lynn Fuchs & Douglas Fuchs of Vanderbilt University addressed “Responsiveness-to-Intervention” to a crowded Whitley Auditorium made up of education majors, faculty from the School of Education at Elon, local school teachers and officials from North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction.
“RTI represents an important education reform, and when done well, it will have strong value-added - but it is a complex system. It is machine with many moving parts,” Doug Fuchs said. “The practitioners who are going to use this successfully are going to be committed practitioners, and they’re going to be smart people who know how to ask good questions.”
Responsiveness-to-Intervention, or “RTI” for short, is employed in some schools as a system of tiers that increase in intensity and focus as student moves from classroom instruction to small group instruction to one-on-one tutoring, all based on whether the child is able to understand lessons.
“We know that we can promote better academic learning. Results show that at-risk students experience substantially (lower) outcomes if left in general education without secondary prevention, without such tutoring,” Lynn Fuchs said. “By contrast, at risk students who receive high quality secondary prevention make progress in catching up with classmates.”
Challenges remain for the future of RTI, Doug Fuchs said. About 10 percent of students will never benefit from the program, despite the best efforts of school administrators and teachers. Another challenge is that RTI, while shown to help children more than their peers who never receive small group help or one-on-one tutoring, doesn’t necessarily bring slower learners up to speed with classmates who grasp ideas right away.
And that inherently raises a third challenge, Doug Fuchs said. No consensus exists between school systems on what, exactly, constitutes responsiveness. “This challenge really requires us to come together and find out what the best way is to measure responsiveness,” he said.
Lynn Fuchs is a noted researcher on the instructional practice and assessment of student progress for students with reading disabilities and with disabilities. She she co-directs the Kennedy Center Reading Clinic at Vanderbilt and has published more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals.
According to his official biography, Doug Fuchs’ research interests include instruction of at-risk students, peer-mediated learning, classroom assessment, school improvement and school reform, urban education and special education policy. Like his wife, Fuchs has authored or co-authored more than 200 journal articles, and he has won best paper awards for several of these publications.
The April 13, 2011, visit was sponsored by the School of Education, the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program and Kappa Delta Pi.