The Response To Intervention Policy , N.A.S.D.S.E.

David S. Martin, Ph.D.

The policy considerations and implementation of the Response to Intervention approach as described by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) has direct implications for the explicit and direct teaching of higher-order thinking skills in the special-education classroom. The rationale for teaching higher-order thinking strategies has been explained in numerous places in the past 20 years, but the rationale for the application of these strategies to students with special needs deserves careful attention.

Instrumental Enrichment is the name of a specific well-researched and scientifically proven program for the teaching of higher-order thinking strategies; it has been implemented in numerous countries in the world, including the United States, with a great variety of student populations. The program focuses on 14 specific cognitive skills, with the intervention occurring over at least a three-year period. The specific skills include: comparison, categorization, organization, analysis, orientation in personal and geographic space, being precise, following and create careful instructions, time relationships, and application of logic. As such, the strategies form a generic core which can be easily applied across the subject matter of the curriculum. The teaching methodology of FIE involves a three-part process of : (a) mediating the specific cognitive strategy that is the subject of the teaching episode; (b) doing a metacognitive discussion with the student so that she or he becomes explicitly aware of the mental processes just used in the cognitive problem-solving; and (c) making an application of that strategy to some specific context, e.g., reading, mathematics, decision-making situations, etc.

Over 1000 research studies have documented the effects of the program; a more detailed description of the program’s effects with specific disabilities is attached to this document.

The FIE program addresses the following areas which are outlined in the Response to Intervention document of 2006:

  1. (P. 13).The program is tailored to permit early intervention; a specific version of the program has been designed expressly for younger children, while the main program has measurable positive effects on students of middle-elementary through adult age groups.
  2. (P. 13). The program has specific descriptors that allow it to be written into IEP’s, tailored to the individual needs of the specific student. The manuals for the teaching of the program plus the training required by the program enable the IEP writer to list the program components with their measurable outcomes, for any IEP.
  3. The “severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability” clause under Section 614,b,6,A, provides an ideal fit with Instrumental Enrichment. In fact, Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) was expressly designed for students who were determined to be of normal or better potential but who had lacked consistent “mediation” in terms of adult (parent or teacher) interaction in their lives, with the result that their intellectual performance was well below expectations. The program was originally designed in the early 1950’s and has been proven to reduce that discrepancy in many populations.
  4. In Section 614,b,6,A, specific academic areas such as written expression, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, and mathematical reasoning are listed. Empirical research with FIE (see Martin, 1984, for example, in the accompanying references) has shown that in fact each of these academic areas is positively affected by the FIE intervention if done several times weekly over at least two years.
  5. Section 614,b,6,B refers to “scientific, research-based interventions”. The numerous research studies referred to above, as well as those cited in the attached document, clearly demonstrate that FIE is both scientific and research-based in view of the empirical work that has been performed on the program over many years.

To summarize, then, the FIE program should clearly qualify as an approved intervention under the Response to Intervention policy. We stand ready to provide further details and explanations whenever it would be of use.