According to Education Week, the Chula Vista Elementary School District (27,450 students in grades K-6) is having remarkable success using the Response to Intervention (RtI) model with English Language Learners (ELLs).
[District administrators and researchers] say response to intervention has helped the district dramatically raise test scores in mathematics and reading for ELLs. In 2008, the California Association for Bilingual Education recognized the district with its “seal of excellence” award. For the past two years, the district has ranked high on California’s academic performance index. It scored 833 on the state’s growth accountability index in the 2008-09 school year, as 31 of its 44 schools exceeded the target of 800. In addition, the Chula Vista Elementary district has never missed its state’s goals for adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which is unusual for a district with so many students who aren’t fluent in English.
RtI is supposed to be a more efficient way of evaluating the effectiveness or various instructional approaches with struggling students, looking at how they respond to increasingly intensive interventions. If, after a few weeks or months, the student has made little or no progress, they are immediately qualified for special education.
I am particularly heartened to hear about Chula Vista’s experience, because I’ve long been concerned that learning differences in ELL students are left unaddressed too long, because school staff assume those learning issues are caused by a lack of English skills. We are supposed to be implementing RtI in this district, and I’m hopeful that we will see the same encouraging results as Chula Vista.