support personnel, such as the special education teacher and/or reading support teacher in school.
For students who continue to have difficulty, referral to special education and the development of an IEP would follow. The data regarding student response to intervention would be used for eligibility determination.
State guidelines should direct that the screening process be undertaken early, and the instructional response follow in a very timely fashion. The requirement for general education interventions should not be used to delay attention to a student in need of specialized services.
The committee’s recommendation to adopt a universal screening and multitiered intervention strategy is meant to acknowledge that there is some distance to travel between the knowledge base that has been accumulated and the capacity to use that knowledge on a widespread basis. There are early examples in Texas and Virginia of taking screening to scale. But making the tools available to teachers, preparing teachers both to assess students and to respond productively to the assessment results, and supporting teachers to work with the instructional demands of intervening differently for subgroups of students at different skill levels require the careful development of capacity and infrastructure.
At the same time that the committee acknowledges the investment required to adopt this recommendation, we call attention to the potential return on the investment and the consequences of not making such an investment. When early screening and intervention is not undertaken, more students suffer failure. The demands on the school to invest in a support structure for those students is simply postponed to a later age, when the response to intervention is less promising and when the capacity of teachers to intervene effectively is made even more difficult by a weaker knowledge base and limited teacher skill. The consequences of school failure for the student and for society go well beyond the cost to the school, of course.
Current understanding of early reading problems is the outcome of a sustained research and development effort that has not been undertaken on a similar scale with respect to other learning and behavior problems. In the committee’s view, however, there is enough evidence regarding universal behavior management interventions, behavior screening, and techniques to work with children at risk for behavior problems to better prevent later serious behavior problems. Research results suggest that these interventions can work. However a large-scale pilot project would provide a firmer foundation of knowledge regarding scaling up the practices involved.