What Is Response to Intervention (RTI)?

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At the start of the school year, getting to know your students also means getting to know their learning profiles and behavior needs. Response to intervention (RTI) is a way of using data to identify what students might need in terms of support to help them reach the class goals that you’ve set forth.

If you are thinking about implementing an RTI-based instructional strategy, get started by using the right assessment tools, like Read 180 and Math 180, and planning your process for evaluating your students throughout the school year. Assessment looks like setting clear goals alongside goal-aligned learning tasks. When students have completed their tasks, give them timely feedback and adjust instruction and practice. RTI can guide you in giving needed feedback to your students.

What Is RTI in Education?

According to the National Center on Response to Intervention, RTI is a “multi level system for maximizing student achievement by integrating ongoing assessment of student progress with increasingly intensive intervention."

RTI is a preventive framework to use in the classroom where students are assessed and screened and then given support to address their individual needs. It helps teachers to design a curriculum that will reach the most learners in their classroom.

What Are the Three Tiers of RTI?

The three RTI tiers, along with details and guidelines around implementing them, are listed below. They can help you identify and work with both students who may need intervention AND students who are on or ahead of your targets.

Tier 1 – Core Instructional Programs

  • Start with rigorously designed and focused units of instruction
  • Make sure to include engaging, differentiated instruction for all students
  • Integrate common formative assessments to plan for instruction and inform interventions
  • Organize daily small group supports to groups of students based on need
  • Use data to collaboratively inform professional practice

Tier 2 – Strategic Supplemental Instruction

  • Allow for more time and differentiated supports for students who HAVE NOT mastered the content priorities in the unit
  • Offer enrichment experiences with tasks of more depth and complexity for students who HAVE demonstrated some mastery
  • Provide time during daily flexible intervention times or during “buffer” days
  • Group students more homogeneously, based on specific needs
  • Ask support staff to participate to reduce teacher-student ratios and create smaller groups

Tier 3 – Intensive Intervention

  • This tier is recommended for students who require significant intervention relative to their peers in foundational skills, such as reading, writing, numeracy, and behavior, and for students who have not responded to Tier 1 and Tier 2
  • Work to include intensive, diagnostically-driven supports provided in addition to Tier 1 and Tier 2
  • For reading instruction, use targeted interventions as much as possible, e.g. on phonemic awareness, single-syllabic phonics, or multisyllabic phonics
  • For math instruction, fact retrieval can be especially useful to students who require Tier 3 intervention. Set aside some time for practicing math facts—around 10 minutes per day—to build confidence and competency.
  • Adjust your support to match student needs and revise it until the student is adequately responding to intervention

Instruction Strategies to Support RTI

To support students who need reading intervention, the What Works Clearinghouse has five recommendations to help educators navigate the RTI process to help students who are behind in their academics:

  1. Screen all students for potential reading problems at the beginning and middle of the year
  2. Provide time for differentiated reading instruction for all students based on assessments of students’ current reading level
  3. Provide intensive, systematic instruction on foundational reading skills in small groups to students who score below the benchmark score on universal screening
  4. Monitor the progress of Tier 2 students at least once a month
  5. Provide intensive instruction on a daily basis that promotes the development of the various components of reading proficiency to students who show minimal progress after a reasonable time in Tier 2 small-group instruction

A key component of instruction for RTI in education is to provide students with personalized and engaging instruction to meet their needs. Our Read 180 and Math 180 programs use a systematic framework for allocating instructional approaches in response to a student’s individual academic and behavioral needs. The programs use both whole-group and small-group instruction to make sure the student’s individual needs are met.

When focusing on whole-group instruction a teacher may work at a macro level addressing skills that the entire classroom needs, such as setting up an assignment or basic concepts. This is followed by moving into smaller groups where students are at similar academic level and instruction can be supported with adaptive learning technology. Using technology can help teachers to better assess their students and provide more detailed instruction.

Students learn in different ways and at different paces. RTI is a framework that can help teachers to identify the range of their students' learning needs, and to find ways to support their students no matter where they fall within the tiers.


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