Remembering Diverse Needs of Students Through RTI

by | Jun 15, 2018


Although schools have implemented Response to Intervention (RTI) for years, stakeholders may continue to have varying levels of understanding and RTI experiences. While serving as an educator, several high-frequency questions about RTI are repeatedly asked over time from educators, students, families, and community members. What is RTI? How is RTI implemented? Who participates in RTI? What do I think of RTI? This brief, informal refresher may offer insights you may not have considered.

What is Response to Intervention?

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a process that schools use to support students in need of academic and behavioral interventions based on data, data that is intended to reveal below standard expectations in identified areas. RTI uses a universal screener to gather information about students’ proficiency based on grade-level standards. Data drives the plan for students’ correlated engagement in standards, scientific, research, and evidence-based tiered interventions. Additionally, it incorporates consistent formative assessments to progress monitor students’ academic and/or behavioral progress to guide the recalibration of students’ engagement in aligned tiered interventions. Tiered interventions are selected to meet the needs of students who are struggling to achieve and maintain grade level and/or behavioral expectations. Tiered interventions are implemented to individuals and groups of students based on identified needs within a school’s streamlined capacity. 

RTI existed years ago as a “best practice” long before the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) officially included RTI. Students with and without disabilities may benefit from RTI. According to IDEA, a public agency can use data from the RTI process with evaluations and revaluations for students suspected of eligibility for, or who have been identified with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD).

How is Response to Intervention implemented?

RTI models can vary depending on the state, district, or school. RTI is usually implemented consistently within a school’s master schedule during the school day. RTI includes three tiers, one through three. Tier one interventions typically meet the needs of at least 80% of students and include standards-based lessons taught during core instruction encompassing differentiated and small group instruction. Tier two interventions typically serve roughly 15% of remaining students who need intensive interventions taught in addition to standards-based core instruction. Tier three interventions typically support the needs of the roughly remaining 5% of students and include the most intensive interventions with a potential comprehensive evaluation to meet students’ needs. The three tiers are visually represented by a triangle, with 80% as the bottom portion, 15% nearing the top, and 5% at the top. Please keep in mind that some highly impacted schools reflect data that forms the image of an inverted triangle, which creates an urgent call to action for RTI to narrow and close the achievement gap.

Data is used to drive academic and behavioral RTI. At the beginning of the school year, schools may administer a universal screener for reading and math to inform the set-up of school-wide tiered interventions. Families are informed of the process and remain partners to support students’ needs. Students complete the diagnostic assessments and educators disaggregate the assessment data, used to match and place students into tiered scientific and evidence-based interventions or intervention groups. 

Educators collaborate to decide who will serve as specific tier two and three interventionists to teach the tiered interventions without interruptions and distractions. All interventionists are thoroughly trained and provided feedback and further training throughout their ongoing implementation of the intervention. Opportunities within the school schedule are examined and maximized to determine if an intervention can be implemented within prescribed allotments of time without compromising the integrity of the intervention. The schedule is created to accommodate all needs of students and student groups based on data, and numbers, and the availability of interventionists. The schedule may endure several rounds of drafts before one works to meet the needs of all students and student groups. RTI implementation must occur with total fidelity to yield desired results on behalf of increased rates of progress for students’ performance.

Who participates in Response to Intervention?

Educators, families, and students participate in RTI. Again, at the beginning of the school year, a universal screener is administered for reading and math to inform the set-up of school-wide tiered interventions. Additionally, a teacher or parent may recognize students’ needs through patterns of below performance in impacted areas and communicate that need to applicable parties for help at different frequencies depending on the variables. While families begin or continue to meet their child’s needs and try to support at home, the teacher may implement strategies to support the student’s struggles in school and monitor their progress. Teachers may also seek support from their grade level team, instructional leaders, and other educators along with other resources appropriately available.

If the student does not demonstrate progress within a few weeks, the teacher may seek support from the Student Support Team. The Student Support or similar team is made up of regular and special educators, administrators, related service providers such as school psychologists, speech and language pathologists among others, families, and counselors. The make-up of the team may look different per district or school depending on school personnel and staff allocations. The team may meet to confidentially problem-solve, understanding root causes of underperformance, and create a plan for students in need of support including tiered interventions. The team works with the teacher and family to put a plan into place based on current data to support the needs of the student.

For example, an outcome could result in a student receiving a tier two intervention for six weeks, four times per week for 30 minutes per day in addition to core instruction to support their needs in reading foundational skills for phonological awareness. The plan is implemented, and progress is monitored. The team may meet a few weeks later to check on the student’s response to the intervention and decide to: discontinue, continue or refine the intervention, discuss a gradual release back to tier one, or plan for a more intensive tier three intervention involving the Student Support and/or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Team.

Reflections of Response to Intervention

Educators must continue to challenge themselves to increase goal-oriented outcomes for student achievement through continuous school improvement, inclusive of the RTI process. As many perspectives echo opinions of RTI, an array of experiences may demonstrate both positive and negative impacts. Effective teaching practices and interactive productive stakeholder relationships linked to standards-based rigorous learning outcomes may prove proactive for teaching and learning, leaving RTI as a simultaneous component for increased student achievement and school improvement. We must prepare for meeting the individual diverse needs of all students. Stakeholders should willingly invest and sustain the momentum of their investment in the RTI process to benefit all parties involved. RTI proves most beneficial to students’ learning progressions when executed with unwavering fidelity as an absolutely non-negotiable condition for unified implementation. Uncover how a strong assessment plan can help your school identify the weaknesses that are making school hard for a student, and help prescribe instruction that strengthens those areas. Searching for more instruction? Visit