Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Jose M. Castillo, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jennifer Wolgemuth, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vonzell Agosto, Ph.D.


racism, critical race theory, school reform, policy, equity


Response to Intervention (RTI) is a data-based decision-making framework of service delivery that has the potential to improve educational outcomes for all students. Preliminary data appear to bolster this claim. However, it is as yet unclear whether RTI will be able to close the gap in educational outcomes that exists between students of different racial groups. Drawing on theories such as culture of policy (Stein, 2004) and deficit thinking (Valencia, 2010), this study explored the experiences of six White elementary teachers using RTI while working with Black students receiving Tier 2 or Tier 3 instructional supports. Using theoretically driven constant-comparative analysis, I illustrated how teachers’ personal worldviews as well as local contexts informed their different interpretations of RTI as well as their similar interpretive lens: racialized deficit-based thinking while talking about the causes of the racial gap in schooling outcomes as well as while talking about specific Black students in their classrooms. While speaking about specific students, teachers drew on deficit thinking to explain the roots of problems (e.g., low motivation, lack of parental involvement), and paid comparatively little attention to problems in instruction, curriculum, or other contextual factors. Findings are discussed in light of Stein’s (2004) work showing how the culture of policy operates at the school level, and how even equity-oriented policies can be negated by deficit-oriented perspectives and practices.