RTI - Not A Program But A Value

At the 2010 Cluff Lecture, Dr. George Batsche noted that Benjamin Cluff instigated reform that was innovative for his day: lengthening class periods from 30 to 60 minutes, increasing standards in math and reading, increasing expectations of faculty, and introducing new curricula. These changes were made after Cluff had studied educational research in Michigan.

Batsche explained that his enthusiasm for the current educational culture of change and emphasis on data-based decision making keeps him working in the field of education after 40 years; this is why he is so committed to a model called response to intervention (RTI). “Given what I have read about Benjamin Cluff Jr., [I think] it is a model he would be very interested in,” said Batsche. RTI is essentially solving classroom problems and meeting student needs based on valid data.

Batsche noted that the questions guiding RTI are not new. He listed them: “What do we want to teach students? How will we know they learn that material? And what will we do if the student does not learn the material?” Dr. Batsche then quoted Ron Edmonds from 1892, “Looking for silver bullets is not as important as getting down to the hard work. It is work we already know we need to do. It is work we already know how to do.” According to Batsche, RTI is not a silver bullet—it is using the tools and doing the work that educators already know.

Explaining that RTI is based on the public health model, Batsche told his audience that first-time teaching has to improve because, like hospitals, schools have only the capacity to provide “intensive care” to 4–5 percent of the population. He also stressed that RTI is not a curriculum. “RTI is the way we think and the way we do our programs. It is not the program. RTI is value added,” said Batsche. He stated that students being instructed by teachers using RTI have a three to one chance for improvement. "It takes about one year for a school to build an RTI culture," added Batsche.

Batsche noted that about 40 percent of teachers do not think that all students can learn. He called this opinion a decision without data. Data are at the core of RTI, and Batsche advocated that educators should be given real and usable data that correct this misconception. Teachers should then be asked, “Are you happy with your data? Are you happy with the trends of your data?”

Returning to his focus on school reform and change, Batsche said that a leader is a person you will follow to a place you would not go yourself. Honoring the namesake of the event that brought him to BYU, Batsche concluded, “Benjamin Cluff clearly was a person who people followed to a place they would have not have otherwise gone.”

Batsche’s presentation slides can be seen here.

Or watch the entire lecture: