The Purpose and Benefits of RTI

4 Min Read
Student and teacher looking at a tablet

Your classroom could have as many different types of learners as there are students on the roll sheet. Finding ways to meet students where they are can be a challenge, but thankfully there are frameworks that can act as a guide for all students in the classroom.

When looking at your options for intervention in education, it’s helpful to understand the benefits and purpose of a framework like Response to Intervention (RTI). RTI is a proactive, general education intervention model designed to screen students early and identify those who may need additional academic support.

RTI is typically modeled using a pyramid with general core instruction as the base, targeted interventions in the middle, and intensive intervention as a narrow top. In this three-tier approach, teachers can assess where their students fall within the model.

Many educators are looking for a more comprehensive and proactive view with which to see student performance in relation to grade-level performance, and it may be helpful to visualize a school or district’s intervention needs along a normal distribution curve instead of an RTI pyramid. This model can be adapted to any population of students to see where they are in their academic performance and how to meet their needs.

Following the pandemic there are more students who need intervention, both in the core classroom and in an intervention classroom, if available. It’s important to identify where Tier 2 and Tier 3 support is needed—no matter how much of the classroom that makes up—and find helpful solutions for those students.

What Is the Purpose of RTI in Education?

We spoke with Dr. Suzanne Jimenez, National Director of Innovation and Insights at HMH, who provided insight into the benefits and purpose of RTI in the classroom. Her many years of experience as a district leader and special education professor—from K-12 to higher ed—gives a great perspective.

Jimenez explains that the purpose of RTI is to have a system in place to respond to students who are behind in their grade-level standards. RTI uses a formal process to respond to students’ needs and measure student progress. “RTI really provided a more objective, structured process around teaching and learning,” says Jimenez. “Too often teachers or teams were relying on anecdotal data or subjective assessments and processes for instructional decisions.” When educators have a formal process in place, it helps them really look at how students are responding to the type and amount of instruction provided.

Another purpose of the framework is measuring student progress. Jimenez explains: “Using the RTI process means that the data collected can really be used to inform instruction and to monitor growth and progress.” This can be a game-changer in the classroom.

What Are the Benefits of RTI for Students?

RTI benefits many students in the classroom and implementing it in your school can help students make progress.

A huge benefit of RTI is that it helps students who may need intervention to be identified early so that they can get the support they need before they fall further behind. Jimenez also says, “Students receive a more personalized approach to learning and have more success in making progress when their learning targets are specific, and instruction is guided by data and objective measures of progress.” When teachers can use data, they are making informed decisions about support students need.

Students are limited in how much time they spend in school, and when educators are using RTI, that time is spent far more efficiently. Implementing RTI can help students receive instruction targeted to their needs quickly. And of course, that means they can meet their goals sooner.

Finally, RTI allows students to engage with setting their own goals and then monitor their progress. When students feel like they have a say in their learning, the potential for success is even greater.

What Are the Benefits of RTI for Teachers?

Not only are there benefits for students, but there are also benefits of RTI for teachers, too!

First of all, implementing RTI takes some of the guesswork out of teaching. Jimenez elaborates: “When you know where students need extra support to strengthen skills, and where you can really extend their thinking and learning to advance growth, you have a big teaching advantage.” RTI helps teachers use data to identify learning gaps and what teaching tactics to use with specific students. It’s powerful to see student progress that directly resulted from pinpointing where that student needed explicit instruction.

Another benefit of implementing RTI is that it builds on a teacher support network. When RTI is being used by a school or district, teachers are working as part of a team, and professional collaboration is a way for teachers to grow in their practice. Teachers need support, too. Teachers can check in with their peers to share progress and know they are working from the same framework. It helps to create a space to share tips and get your own support, when needed.

RTI provides clarity around student needs, available resources and strategies, and tools to measure and monitor learning. When everyone is on the same page about what can be and will be offered to your students, it allows teams to share their successes and make changes where they are needed. When teachers have the tools to set expectations for their classroom, it’s a win all around!

There are many benefits to using RTI, both for students and teachers, and implementation in the classroom can be a useful step to guide your instructional practice.


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