What Is Response to Intervention (RTI)?

6 Min Read
two elementary students working with their teacher

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 framework that can help you use data to identify what students might need in order to support them reaching the class goals that you’ve set forth.

If you are thinking about implementing an RTI-based instructional strategy, it helps to have tools that provide assessment and evidence-based interventions, like Read 180 for reading or Math 180 for math. It also helps to plan your process for evaluating your students throughout the school year. Assessment should correspond to clear goals alongside goal-aligned learning tasks. RTI can guide you in giving students timely feedback when they have completed their learning tasks in order to optimize and target instruction and practice.

What Is RTI in Education?

According to the National Center on Response to Intervention, RTI is a “multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement” that integrates 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. This framework can help teachers to design and implement a curriculum that reaches every learner in their classroom.

What Are the Three Tiers of RTI?

RTI is typically modeled using a three-tier system that guides educators in associating the right intervention with the right student. The three RTI tiers, along with details and guidelines around implementing them, are listed below. They can help you identify and work with not only students who need intervention but also students who are ahead of your targets.

Tier 1: General Core Instruction

This tier refers to core curriculum-based instruction that most students receive within their core classroom.

  • Start with focused and rigorously designed units of instruction.
  • Include engaging, differentiated instruction for all students.
  • Integrate common formative assessments to plan for instruction and inform interventions.
  • Organize daily small-group instruction to students based on needs, interests, or experiences.
  • Use data to collaborate with other educators and inform professional practice.

Tier 2: Targeted Interventions

This tier is recommended for students who, through screening and progress monitoring, have been identified as needing targeted supplemental support.

  • 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 mastery.
  • Provide time for additional, targeted practice during daily flexible intervention times or during “buffer” days.
  • Group students more homogeneously, based on specific needs.
  • Enlist support staff to participate in order to reduce teacher-student ratios and facilitate smaller groups.

Tier 3: Intensive Interventions

This tier is recommended for students who require significant intervention relative to their peers in foundational skills, such as reading, writing, numeracy, and behavior. In general, these students have not responded to Tiers 1 or 2.

  • Work to include intensive, diagnostically-driven supports in addition to those included in Tier 1 and Tier 2.
  • For reading instruction, use targeted interventions as much as possible, for example 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 interventions.
RTI tiers image

Instruction Strategies to Support RTI

To support students who need reading intervention, 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 Tier 2 instruction on foundational reading skills in small groups to students who need the support.
  4. Monitor the progress of Tier 2 students at least once a month.
  5. Provide intensive Tier 3 instruction on a daily basis that promotes the development of the various components of reading proficiency to students who are not responding to Tier 2 small-group instruction.

The same recommendations can broadly serve as math intervention strategies, too. Students should be screened for gaps in their foundational understanding of math and benefit from differentiated instruction, progress monitoring, and intensive, systematic instruction.

A key component of instruction for RTI in education is to provide students with personalized and engaging instruction to meet their needs. Our intervention programs use a systematic framework for allocating instructional approaches in response to a student’s individual academic and behavioral needs, as described in one of our research evidence base papers for Read 180. 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 class needs, such as getting started on an assignment or reviewing basic concepts. This is followed by moving into smaller groups where 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 on the ability spectrum.


Unlock whole-brain reading through Read 180, the leading reading intervention program for grades 3–12.

Explore Math 180, our revolutionary approach to math intervention for students in Grades 5–12.

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