Response to Intervention (RtI) and
Instructional Consultation Teams (ICT):
Powerful School-Based Initiatives Join Forces in Stafford County Schools
By Donni Davis-Perry, M.Ed.
Stafford and Falmouth Elementary Schools in Stafford County are implementing response to intervention (RtI) and instructional consultation teams (ICT), two important initiatives supported by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
All elementary schools in Stafford County are expected to implement RtI, a comprehensive, student-centered assessment and intervention framework used to identify and address individual difficulties before referring students for special education evaluation (response to intervention).1 Because RtI is a framework, not a program, its implementation may take different forms in individual schools.
Stafford and Falmouth Elementary Schools have chosen to implement ICT to compliment RtI. According to the VDOE website, ICT is a school-level problem-solving team that focuses on improving and enhancing staff competence as a route to systems improvement as well as positive individual student outcomes. As such, implementation of RtI and ICT can address student difficulties before referral to special education. In addition, ICT addresses class and small-group needs and provides instructional support to the faculty. Teacher needs are met through ongoing professional development embedded within a case management structure and analysis of school-wide data to provide timely, targeted professional learning sessions (ICT). Many schools around the country are choosing to implement ICT as their RtI approach. ICT is currently being implemented in nine states and in more than 400 schools.2
This year Stafford County schools have focused on uniting these two important initiatives. To that end, the division-level leadership team provided 10 days of ICT readiness training to elementary school psychologists and educational diagnosticians. The training consisted of an overview of the foundations of ICT and critical case management skills in the areas of collaborative communication, systematic problem solving, and instructional assessment in reading. The current schools’ ICT expanded this fall from grade-level teachers to include the schools’ resource and specialist teachers. Stafford County Special Education Department members, school- based administrators, key stakeholders, and College of William and Mary Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) specialists have met throughout the year to develop and monitor plans for continued implementation improvement.
Stafford Elementary schools’ current implementation protocol is shown in the Figure 1.
Reprinted with permission from Meaghan Sekinger, M.S.; 2012 Stafford Elementary School, Stafford County, VA.
One route is taken when a teacher struggling to create an instructional or behavioral match for a student, group, or class requests the assistance of the ICT facilitator. For example, if Mr. Hernandez would like to see his students’ scores on their reading comprehension tests increase, he requests assistance from the ICT facilitator. A case manager volunteers to collaborate with him and the two meet to develop a plan for conducting a class-wide instructional assessment (IA). Mr. Hernandez and the case manger subsequently conduct the class-wide IA together in order to narrow the concern and test strategies or structures for making instructional matches. Once the case manager and teacher gain a shared understanding and perspective of the need, they collaborate to make changes to the delivery of Mr. Hernandez’s instruction to positively impact student comprehension. Together they design an intervention based on the results of the IA. For example, they might choose to teach reading comprehension using graphic organizers, implement the intervention, and meet weekly to determine if they are seeing an increase in students’ reading test scores. If the scores increase and they meet their goal, they close the case. If the scores don’t show the expected increase, they conduct another IA and consider replacing or adding interventions before continuing to monitor student progress.
Stafford County, like many divisions in Virginia, administers universal student screenings throughout the year to determine which students are not reaching grade-level curriculum expectations. When screening data identify individual students who are struggling, the RtI/IC combination team responds. Each grade level has an RtI coach who collaborates with teachers, using information from their universal screenings to implement appropriate, research-based interventions to address student needs. If the student makes progress after six weeks, the classroom teacher continues implementing the intervention as needed. If the student does not make expected progress after six weeks of implementing interventions, either RtI or ICT provides additional, increased support.
This year kindergarten and first-grade teachers are required to collaborate with an ICT case manager after they have tried implementing interventions in their classrooms but have not seen the expected level of student growth. Once the ICT process begins, conversation and focus shift from a student learning need to a teacher instructional support need. The ICT participation requirement is being phased in by grade level over the next several years (Figure 1). However, every teacher, regardless of grade level, is invited to request assistance from the ICT, as appropriate.
When ICT is selected, a case manager works collaboratively with a teacher, conducting an IA to determine what the student knows and can do and how he or she thinks and approaches new material. Together, the teacher and ICT case manager design interventions, paying close attention to the conditions under which the student is most successful. As part of the process, the ICT case manager may model how an intervention is implemented, providing high-quality embedded professional development for classroom teachers. Together, the teacher and case manager collect and analyze data on the student’s progress and continue to adjust interventions based on improvement. If the student makes the expected gains, they close the ICT case. If, after six weeks of intervention, the student doesn’t make adequate progress, they refer the student to the student support team (SST).
When a student is referred to the SST, teachers join forces with the grade level’s RtI team captain to implement additional interventions. If the student does not make adequate progress, they again modify instruction. If the student begins to make progress, they continue to implement the interventions. If the student does not respond to the interventions, the student is referred for special education evaluation. This means that, in most cases, research-based, targeted interventions have been implemented in the student’s classroom for several months before he or she receives special education evaluation to determine if there is a disability. The SST or child study team has detailed data about the interventions that have been implemented. Such documentation supports an effective process for determining special education eligibility.
Stafford and Falmouth Elementary Schools and the Stafford County school division’s accomplishments are celebrated throughout Virginia during ICT professional development sessions and at ICT state-directed project meetings. Their innovative approach to providing support to both teachers and students is an example of cutting-edge practices resulting in increased student and staff achievement.
If you would like additional information about implementing ICT in your school, please contact Donni Davis-Perry at the College of William and Mary T/TAC at 757-221-6009 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Additional information may be found in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s RtI guidance document, Responsive Instruction: Refining Our Work of Teaching All Children(Commonwealth of Virginia, 2007) and on the VDOE RtI web page by following these links.
Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education, Office of Student Services Division of Special Education and Student Services. (2007). Responsive instruction: Refining our work of teaching all children. Richmond, VA: Author.
Instructional consultation teams collaborating for change. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/instructional_consultation_team/
Response to Intervention(RtI). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/virginia_tiered_system_supports/response_intervention/
VDOE ICT webpage: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/instructional_consultation_team/
ICAT resources website: http://www.icatresources.com/
ICT and RtI Books Available for Checkout
From The College of William and Mary
Instructional Consultation Teams
RTI * Toolkit: A Practical Guide for Schools - Response to Intervention
RTI in Middle and High School: Strategies and Structures for Literacy Success
Response to Intervention: A Practical Guide for Every Teacher
Start-in: A Response to Intervention (RtI) Program for Reading
This is a tier III, evidence-based intervention to reduce inappropriate referrals to special education for struggling readers in the elementary grades. The resource consists of 16 tasks that address the National Reading Panel's (NRP) five building blocks of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Students with reading difficulties complete the 16 tasks in one-hour sessions, five days per week, using reading materials from their classroom or library.
Evidence-Based Reading Practices for Response to Intervention