The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project embraces the proactive, rather than reactive, spirit of the RTI (Response to Intervention) legislation. RTI legislation makes it a priority to reduce the number of students referred for special education services by offering high-quality classroom literacy instruction and differing levels of intervention support before students fall below benchmark levels. The project takes this mission to heart as our central goal is to ensure that literacy instruction is a school-wide priority and that all students have access to rich, cross-curricular literacy instruction.
Specifically, we work with administrators and teachers to support local RTI intervention frameworks. We help schools establish a 3-tier system of intervention—one that involves the classroom level, Tier 1, additional small group intervention, Tier 2, and for students requiring this level of support, more individualized interventions, constituting Tier 3 support. Next, we work with schools to support teachers in offering rich, differentiated instruction at every level.
TCRWP staff developers guide teachers’ to make use of a wide range of strategies aimed at supporting students initially, and then gradually removing these supports in order to foster independence. Since reading and writing workshops are times when all students are working at their independent levels, the instruction they receive is inherently responsive to students’ needs. That is, the very design of workshop teaching makes this format especially amenable to differentiation.
However, because it is entirely possible to lead workshop instruction in ways which are not actually assessment based and which do not help learners progress along learning pathways, our organization leaves no stone unturned in an effort to help teachers rise to the challenge of providing adaptive, responsive, differentiated instruction. Staff developers help teachers draw on a toolkit of performance assessments as well as on an understanding of the learning pathways that underlie skill development in order to plan curriculum, provision learners with resources, write and deliver minilessons, lead small groups and teach in one-to-one conferences. It is especially important to us to help teachers understand that there cannot be one way to lead small group instruction—in fact, any method of teaching can be used within a small group format.
Our organization supports teachers’ continuous documentation of students’ growth literacy. Staff developers show teachers how to use records and data to plan instructional units of study, whole class and small group teaching. Staff developers also work with reading specialists and literacy coaches to support intervention work, making sure that each student receives help that is tailored to that student, frequent tabs-on-progress, maximum opportunities to read and write, access to rich curriculum, and scaffolds required to succeed.