SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Does Response to Intervention Approach Improve Academic and Disability Outcomes? (Poster)
Session: Social Policy
Author: Zhiling Meng Shea
Abstract: The increasing trend of identifying and placing children with specific learning disabilities in regular education settings has raised questions among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners about the effects of Response to Intervention (RTI) programs on children's academic outcomes (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009; Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2006; Vellutino et al, 2006; Vaughn et al, 2003). However, little is known about the relationship between RTI and children's academic achievement; no research has evaluated RTI on a national scale despite an extensive number of schools currently implementing the program. The purpose of this study is to fill this research gap by examining the effects of RTI on children's academic outcomes.
The study uses the 2011 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten, a nationally representative sample of 14,996 children in the United States. The school-administered questionnaire was conducted in measurement waves during spring semester kindergarten through fourth grade. The key variable was RTI implementation from the school survey that equals 1 if children attended RTI schools and 0 otherwise. Child assessments were measured during this process. Outcome variables (i.e. mathematics and reading scale scores) were primarily from child-level teacher questionnaires. The control variables were school-level (e.g. school location) and individual-level (e.g. age) from both the school-administered surveys and the teacher questionnaire. The analysis sample was restricted to children attending public schools and data with no missing dependent and independent variables.
The paper’s goal is to investigate the effect of RTI implementation on academic achievement in elementary schools. To achieve this goal, I used a quasi-experimental approach that exploits two different sources of variation (see Figure 1). First, there exists school variation, as not all schools implemented RTI between kindergarten and fourth grade. As a result, children from different schools are subjected to different curricula policy. Second, I observed variation within schools across time as policies changed, leaving some children affected by RTI and others not (i.e. if RTI was not implemented until first grade, leaving kindergarten children unaffected). The study employed a baseline model and a child fixed effect model for analyses. The first model examined the results by using the dependent variable of standardized math and reading scores, the independent variable of RTI implementation, and all sets of control variables (see Table 1) as well as the school cluster justification. The child fixed effect model accounted for the unobserved time-invariant child factors that are correlated with RTI implementation as well as the outcome variables of students in the sample.
The findings from both OLS and fixed effect models indicated that RTI implementation had minimal to negligible effects on children’s academic achievement scores. All results are statistically insignificant except for the OLS model for reading achievement. Overall, the study revealed consistent positive evidence for effects of RTI implementation on reading outcomes, while there were inconsistent results for math scores despite the insignificant findings in both models.