NPDCI has invited two colleagues to share how they are involved in PD on RtI in early childhood in their state of Illinois.  Lynette Chandler, Professor and Program Coordinator for Special Education in the Department of Special and Early Education at Northern Illinois University, shares information from the preservice perspective and Robin Miller-Young, Student Services Coordinator at Prairie Children Preschool, from the inservice perspective.  We invite you to join their conversation.

Response to Intervention in Early Childhood (RTI-EC) Discussion

Lynette Chandler
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Lynette Chandler is a Professor and Program Coordinator for Special Education in the Department of Special and Early Education at Northern Illinois University. She teaches courses in early childhood special education and has collaborated with preschool programs and colleagues on Response to Intervention, early literacy and early math skills, and positive behavior support.
Robin Miller Young
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Robin Miller Young, EdD, has been the Student Services Coordinator at Prairie Children Preschool (Indian Prairie SD # 204, Aurora, IL) for six years, an inclusive/blended, tuition-based EC/”at-risk”/ECSE school serving 525+ students.   She serves on the administrative leadership team, overseeing daily operations and guiding development, implementation, and evaluation of school improvement initiatives such as Response to Intervention (RtI).  In addition to teaching pre-service and masters-level teachers at several institutions, Robin has been involved in state-level policy advisory groups to embed RtI and other evidence-based EC/ECSE practices into revised teacher and principal preparation programs and EC teacher licensure efforts. Recently, she facilitated the RtI in EC/Preschool blog for the RtI Action Network, operated by the NCLD.

Illinois recently updated the Professional Teaching Standards and identified a subset of knowledge and skill elements across the content areas that address RtI. Preservice programs are required to identify courses, assessments, and clinical experiences that address these RtI standards. In addition, there are many programs in Illinois that are implementing RtI at the prekindergarten level. Our teacher candidates should be prepared to work effectively within these programs during student teaching and as early childhood teachers. As a result, RtI must be a prominent part of our preservice program. As we planned to infuse RtI within our program we asked a number of questions:

  1. What are the critical features of RtI that we want to teach? How does RtI fit within DAP?           
  2. What resistance and myths or misconceptions about RtI do we need to address?
  3. When will RtI be taught? Will it be infused across courses, within one or two courses, or both?
  4. Who will be expected to address RtI? Will all faculty be experts or a single faculty?
  5. How will we assure that teacher candidates have field experiences with RtI?

The inclusion of RtI within our program is a work in progress. We currently focus on the three components discussed in the NPDCI concept paper on RtI: (a) screening and progress monitoring assessment, (b) instruction and tiered intervention and supports, and (c) collaboration and data-based decision making. We primarily discuss RtI through the early childhood special education courses although broad discussions of RtI are infused across all courses. Although RtI practices fit well within our early childhood curriculum, we have changed how we talk about teaching young children and the emphasis we place on some content and experiences. Basically, RtI and DAP have become linked frameworks for giving our candidates the knowledge and skills to identify and meet the needs of all children. For example, in addition to teaching candidates how to develop high quality early childhood environments and experiences, we need now spend more time on planning as part of intentional teaching and the use of universal design and individualized scaffolding and adaptations. We also focus much more on collaboration and data-based decision making by providing activities in which candidate teams analyze data, make decisions about eligibility and child/classroom needs, plan tiered instruction and supports, and develop progress monitoring plans. One of our next steps is to assure that all of our candidates have opportunities to conduct assessments, participate in collaborative planning meetings, and implement tiered intervention during field experiences.

Many preservice programs have or are planning to address RtI at the early childhood levels, including prekindergarten. This blog is a great opportunity to hear about what other programs are doing.

Teachers and other professionals who are already working in early childhood settings have unique professional development (PD) needs that must be considered in order to move into successful implementation of RtI practices.  For these colleagues, the PD activities need to build consensus around the beliefs, attitudes and values of moving into RtI practices, increase knowledge such as information on evidence-based assessment tools and interventions, and increase skills for applying this new knowledge, such as collaborative, data-based decision-making for specific individual children and groups of children.  Program leaders also need to know how to how to rearrange and align program structures, plus design and integrate new structures if necessary, so that RTI practices can be established and institutionalized, to support their staff in moving successfully through the change process, and to communicate new performance expectations and methods for holding staff accountable for meeting those expectations.  Addressing these staff learning targets with well-designed and motivating PD activities will support implementation of the RtI key components outlined in the NPDCI RtI Concept Paper.


Across the country, there are many early childhood and preschool programs that are well on their way toward better meeting children’s needs with RtI practices; additionally, many programs are just now beginning to ask “What is RtI?”, and “How might RtI look in a Pre-K program?”  Those preschools and Pre-K programs that are experiencing success have generally started with the same first steps:

Step 1:  Create a leadership team.   Fourteen years ago, we instituted a Building Leadership Team (BLT) that addressed operational issues; then, about six years ago we made the decision to change the purpose of the team and now we are now an Instructional Leadership Team (ILT).  Our mission is to serve as the stewards of sound programmatic, curricular, instructional and environmental decision-making so that all children can achieve essential learning targets.  We changed our membership, our agenda, and our meeting norms to reflect this changed mission.  Specifically, we use the four steps of the data-based, collaborative, problem-solving process to (a) identify areas of program strengths and problem(s); (b) analyze the reasons for the problem(s); (c) put strategies in place matched to the program need(s); and (d) evaluate the impact of the strategies.  Sounds like RtI at the system level, doesn’t it?!

Step 2:  Learn about RTI applied in early childhood settings.  The purpose of this step is to get to know the specific practices in an RtI model and to start building consensus on the need to move to an RtI model.  Building consensus means helping staff members, family members and other stakeholders understand that the program culture and operational procedures are going to change, and you value their input on the change process as well as in developing the proposed program components.  Activities for your team might include watching webinars and webcasts such as the one at the RTI Action Network  (, and one developed by Dr. Lynette Chandler (Northern Illinois University) for the Ed Leaders Network ( as well as print materials and then holding discussions on the content.  Printed resources might include a blog entry from the RtI Action Network  (, the “Myths” document on the CRTIEC website (, print materials on the Recognition and Response model (, and an article in the milc newsletter by Amanda VanDerheyden (  Additionally, team members can also go to visit other schools and programs that have already started a journey into RtI to see the practices “in action” and to have some one-on-one conversations with other practitioners about their journey.  If visiting is not possible, a telephone conference call or a video-call, like Skype, can be arranged to connect with other leaders and practitioners in the field. 

Learning more about RtI and then having discussions around critical program issues would be good second steps in the in-service process for teachers and other professionals who are already working in early childhood settings.      


  • How have other preservice programs incorporated RtI within the early childhood curriculum (see questions above)?
  • Are there specific resources that have been helpful?
  • Does your program have an ILT that can develop a strategic plan to move into RtI practices with the necessary stakeholders?  If not, how can you develop such a team?  What components might your plan include?


A Helpful Resource

Lynette and Robin: Thank you for launching this important and timely conversation. One resource that could be helpful in shaping conversations about RTI in early childhood is the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion's concept paper Response to Intervention (RTI) in Early Childhood: Building Consensus on the Defining Features. The URL for the document ( actually takes you to a number of resources on the topic.

RtI Concept Paper Resources

Dear Camille . . . You are correct that that the URL will take the reader to additional resources on RtI applied to Early Childhood and Preschool settings. These resources include a variety of publications, such as journal articles (Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment), books (The promise of Response to Intervention: Evaluating current science and practice), government reports (U. S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences), and position statements (Council of Exceptional Children). The authors of these resources are well-credentialed within various education fields, including special education, reading disabilities, school psychology, positive behavior support, and RtI models developed for older students. We can learn a lot to help us build consensus on the “Defining Features on RtI in EC" from reviewing the thoughts, ideas, criticism and commentary presented in these other resources. Thanks for sharing, Camille!