Response to Intervention (RTI) in Archdiocesan Schools

By Jennifer Oden, Loyola Marymount Los Angeles, Masters in School Psychology
Photo of a large Archdiocesan School

RTI in Archdiocesan Schools

Wouldn't it be wonderful to develop Response to Intervention (RTI) in Archdiocesan Schools? The Response to Intervention pyramid models the appropriate steps that school professional should take in order to properly identify students with disabilities and determine eligibility for special education. While many public schools in our nation have put the RTI system into practice, some public schools struggle to accept it.

In addition, private Catholic schools have disregarded the system, possibly due to the lack of special education services available at most Catholic schools. As a former Catholic school teacher, I personally have experienced the problems that can arise from not having a structured system in place that provides proper assistance to students with special needs. Fortunately, a new and adjusted version of the RTI system has recently been considered for use by the Los Angeles Archdiocese and its Catholic schools.Intro summary goes here.

I recently attended a workshop which introduced this version of RTI. The workshop was provided to all Catholic schools in the greater Los Angeles area and I attended as the faculty representative from my school. As the workshop commenced, a speaker from the Department of Catholic Schools, Archdiocese of Los Angeles introduced the newly developed: Support Team Education Plan or STEP system. The main focus of the STEP system is to help Catholic school teachers and administration proactively take steps in determining the educational needs of all students.

STEP is essentially the Archdiocese’s answer to the public school’s RTI. The multi-level STEP system somewhat mirrors that of the three (or sometimes four) tiered model of intervention for RTI. In the RTI system, teachers and staff must offer increasing levels of support until it becomes necessary to develop an Individual Education Plan, or IEP. Similarly, in the STEP system, teachers and staff must offer increasing levels of support until it becomes necessary to develop a Minor Adjustment Plan, or MAP.

The all day workshop outlined the goals and practices of the STEP and MAP systems. First, the eight steps in the STEP system were outlined in a detailed power point. In STEP 1, teachers are asked to work with students in the general education classroom using supplementary supports. Teachers begin to document the adjustments begin made for the student and their progress in a Support Log. The Support Log is an official document otherwise known as STEP From 1.

When additional support is necessary, STEP 2 is taken. In STEP 2, a referral team consisting of the teacher, the principal, the school counselor, and other teachers is formed in order to further strategize ways to increase the student’s supports. This referral team is similar to the student success team from the RTI model. If a student requires support beyond what was determined in STEP 2, STEP 3 and STEP 4 take place. At this level in the STEP process, the STEP team administrator sends a notification form and questionnaire to be completed by the parent/guardian of the student. The teacher then collects all current documentation; compiling all the data regarding the student’s continuous need for additional support.

Once the teacher has gathered all documentation, and the parent and the student have received questionnaires, a Support Team Education Meeting is held. This meeting occurs in STEP 5 and it involves the analysis of information and the finalization of an Action Plan. In STEP 6, the Action Pan is documented, which outlines support strategies for the classroom, school, home and additional significant environments. A timeline is developed and a date is set for a future evaluation. The team will meet again in STEP 7 to discuss all of the strategies that have been documented in Support Log.

After reviewing the student’s progress in STEP 7, the support team decides if sufficient support has been given, or if the student requires further adjustments. If further adjustments are necessary, two things happen. First, the parent will be asked to have their child assessed by a School Psychologist at a local public school. Second, STEP 8 will take place. In STEP 8, a Minor Adjustment Plan or MAP is developed.

A Minor Adjustment Plan is the highest level of support that a Catholic School has to offer. In many ways, a Minor Adjustment Plan is identical to a Section 504 Individual Plan; both of which are developed once all lower levels of supports and adjustments have been implemented. A MAP is formed for any student whose life is majorly affected by impairments, for example breathing, walking, speaking, working or learning. Interestingly, any MAP that is initiated and developed in one school is not transferable to another school. It is the goal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to defend the rights of every disabled Catholic school student.

If a family decides to send their child to a Catholic school, it is important that such a school be able to serve the needs of that child, no matter the severity of the disability. The fact is students with disabilities are not found solely in public schools. Students with disabilities are found in every school, in every city all over this nation. The parting message of this workshop led me to believe that the STEP and MAP processes are focused on uniting Catholic schools in the mission to, “Teach and serve as Jesus did.”

Overall, the workshop was very informative and extremely uplifting. After years of developing protective legislation on behalf of children with disabilities and special needs in the public school sector, it seems about time for Catholic schools to join in such efforts.  As I reflect on the workshop, I understand that the rise of these systems within Catholic schools will have some clear implications on School Psychologists. If the STEP and MAP systems continue to develop successfully, School Psychologists will have a lot more work in their hands. They will not only be assessing public school students where they are employed, but also assessing students from local private Catholic schools.

Catholic schools are instructed to have referral lists, which contain the names of dozens of School Psychologists in the area who are willing to do private assessments. For a School Psychologist, this could be a great way to make some extra income. If Catholic school students are being referred to School Psychologists on a frequent basis, this could mean a few changes for the profession. Eventually, School Psychology may be practiced in both public and private schools. No matter what kinds of affects this new development will have on School Psychologists; the benefits that the STEP and MAP systems will provide for students at Catholic schools across the nation will hopefully be exponential.

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