Helping Florida's Educators Increase Student Achievement

Florida Dept. of Education awards USF College of Education additional $2.3 million for statewide learning project.


By Mary Beth Erskine News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 3, 2010) – For more than four years, USF's George Batsche and Michael Curtis have been focused on bringing research-based practices to more than 25,000 educators in the state of Florida – practices that help improve student learning and promote positive behaviors, giving children of all abilities the opportunity to succeed academically.


Professors in University of South Florida’s Psychological and Social Foundations Department and the Institute for School Reform in the College of Education, Batsche and Curtis received initial funding in 2006 to partner with the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) to create Florida’s Problem Solving/Respond-to-Intervention (PS/RtI) Project. Recently, they received more than $2.3 million to continue the statewide project, bringing total funding over the last four years to more than $7 million.


The overarching goal of the PS/RtI Project is to provide successful outcomes for at-risk students and promote a sustained narrowing of the achievement gap for struggling learners, as well as accelerating the performance of high-achieving students. This is accomplished through professional development for educators and technical assistance to implement strategic academic and behavioral interventions using the PS/RtImodel.


“The infusion of the Problem Solving/RtI process into the schooling of America’s children and youth has expanded rapidly in school districts across the United States,” said Batsche. Recent data from the National RtI Adoption Survey indicate that 77 percent of U.S. school districts are implementing RtI at some level, compared to 24 percent in 2007. “These same data indicate that Florida is leading the nation both in the implementation of RtI and in district level commitment to that implementation.”


“We are pleased to continue our partnership with the Florida Department of Education in this statewide effort to improve student learning,” said USF College of Education Dean Colleen S. Kennedy. “And we are proud of the critical leadership role Drs. Batsche and Curtis continue to take in its implementation throughout Florida.”


Used as a process for addressing the myriad academic and behavior concerns that can impact student learning, RtI can identify students for early intervening services and supports and provide a framework for ongoing analysis, goal setting, development and implementation of intervention plans and monitoring of intervention effectiveness.


According to Batsche, the recent award will support the second phase of RtI implemention in all school districts in Florida, including the delivery of technical assistance and professional development to district-level leadership teams to build local capacity to implement RtI. In addition, the award will support expansion to middle- and high-school levels and help implement an evidence-based coaching model and a program evaluation model that local districts can use to assess impact on student outcomes. 


The PS/RTi Project team recently completed a three-year program evaluation that resulted in evidence-based practices to assist districts in scaling up RtI in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. School-based teams from each of the 67 school districts in Florida have been trained by the project and each district sent teams to Training of Trainers Institutes to develop the capacity to deliver professional development at the local level.


Moving forward, the project will collaborate with the Florida Positive Behavior Support Project based in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences’ Florida Mental Health Institute to ensure that both the academic and social/behavioral needs of all students are met.


“We are very excited about this additional funding awarded to the project,” said Curtis, “And we look forward to the opportunity to continue the implementation of an instructional process that accelerates the performance of all students.”


For more information about the Florida Problem Solving/Response to Intervention Initiative, please visit the Project website or the College of Education.


Mary Beth Erskine can be reached at 813-974-6993.