Response to Intervention (RTI) programs and personalized learning initiatives are becoming increasingly popular as more and more educators are tasked with addressing the individual needs of all students, including those with more intense instructional needs. Because of this, we wanted to help identify how these two programs complement and contrast each other.
Typically, an RTI program will consist of three tiers: a core instructional program, targeted small group instruction, and intensive intervention. A personalized learning initiative generally focuses on Tier I core instruction, and these programs provide alternatives for various learning preferences, thus allowing the learning process to be differentiated. Personalized learning often incorporates technology as a resource for individualizing pacing and project-based learning.
RTI programs are multi-tiered, and they are designed to identify and support students whose learning needs are falling short and require more specific support, in addition to differentiated core instruction. The key to implementing both successful RTI programs and personalized learning initiatives is getting valid and reliable student data quickly so that instructional adjustments can be made in a timely fashion.
High-quality interim assessments such as MAP® Growth™ and MAP Growth K-2 can help educators identify those students needing additional support in the process. They can also provide information about which content students are ready to learn independently, and with instructional support, for a personalized learning initiative. Universal screening tools are administered two or three times a year to the entire student population. This provides the immediate data that educators need to determine whether their curriculum is meeting the needs of students. This is accomplished through the process of identifying current levels of readiness and by measuring growth between assessment windows. With any curriculum, 80 percent of students should be performing at grade-level benchmarks.
When students are identified as needing greater individualized or intensive interventions, they are provided with any number of targeted instructional strategies and supports. The key in finding success with these programs is effective progress monitoring. During personalized learning initiatives, because students are working at various speeds and interacting with various tools, teachers need to know if they are staying on track. Teachers can do this by monitoring progress at set intervals.
Two types of measures can be used for progress monitoring: general outcome measures and mastery measures. A general outcome measure assesses a student’s performance on general content knowledge or basic skills. A mastery measure offers a more specific assessment of skills within a learning progression.
While the data from a general outcome measure will indicate if an intervention is ineffective and therefore needs to be changed, general outcome measures lack the ability to pinpoint what precisely needs to be adjusted. Because general outcome measures do not pinpoint specific steps along a learning track, these tools are generally best used as summative assessments, rather than for monitoring student progress during personalized learning initiatives.
Mastery measures, on the other hand, can directly assess specific student skills, showing a teacher not just that an instructional adjustment needs to occur, but also what that change should be to meet the needs of the student. Mastery measures are often used to monitor progress beginning at Tier II and then as part of Tier III for an RTI program. Because mastery measures assess progress on specific skills, they become part of the tailored instructional intervention for struggling students. When used as part of a personalized learning initiative, mastery measures identify skills that students may need support in gaining or skills that they have already mastered that are contained in the learning unit.
As a mastery measure with this capability, MAP Skills empowers educators with specific, up-to-the minute data that can drive instruction, regardless of the initiative or tier.
Progress monitoring with mastery measures puts more emphasis on skill evaluation than general outcome measures. Monitoring with mastery measures addresses the question, “Is the instruction we are offering resulting in mastery of more discrete skills?” Too often, students are left behind by inadequate interventions that don’t address their needs— or by progress monitoring that fails to tell educators not just that more help is needed, but specifically what that sorely needed help might be.
The sheer volume of skills a student could need to master has made mastery measures seem daunting in the past. However, MAP® Skills™ (formerly known as Skills Navigator®) makes assessment efficient by combining a strong skills framework with a computer adaptive engine, allowing educators to pinpoint the precise skills a student’s instruction is focusing on and makes assessment of these skills easy in a remarkably short amount of time. As a mastery measure with this capability, MAP Skills empowers educators with specific, up-to-the minute data that can drive instruction, regardless of the initiative or tier.
When the skills framework underlying a mastery measure provides a clear picture of student skill mastery at every step, it provides accurate, targeted assessment. A mastery measure like MAP Skills answers not only the crucial question “Is this student learning?” but goes further to reveal the answer to what educators truly need to know: “What does this student know, and what is this student ready to learn next?”
With a combination of high-quality interim assessments and strong progress monitoring with mastery measures, a robust RTI program designed to meet the academic needs of all students can be developed, and personalized learning initiatives can successfully be implemented.