RTI 101: Think Progress


So often I would groan when the topic of Response to Intervention (RTI) was mentioned - mainly because I didn’t fully understand the process. It turns out it’s not so complicated when you think of RTI as working toward and measuring the progress of students.

The RTI Action Network best explains what RTI is, including the essential components involved for successful implementation. Here is an overview:

RTI is a multi-tier approach designed for early identification and support of students with academic and behavioral needs. All students are screened in the general education classrooms. Interventions at increasing levels of intensity are provided by general education teachers, special education teachers, and/or specialists for students who are identified as “struggling”. Performance data is collected frequently, and progress is closely monitored to determine the effectiveness of the interventions in place.

There are four components necessary for RTI to be successfully implemented.

  1. High-quality, scientifically based instruction in the general education classroom
  2. Ongoing student assessment (Multiple data points collected with universal screening and progress monitoring drive decisions regarding the level of support necessary to meet the needs of individual students.)
  3. Tiered instruction (Research-based interventions are implemented specific to student needs - more information specific to the three tiers of RTI is included below.)
  4. Parent involvement

The 3 Tiers of RTI

  • Tier 1: Students identified as “at-risk” based on the results of universal screenings and/or standardized assessments receive supplemental/differentiated instruction and/or interventions within the general education settings for no longer than eight weeks. Throughout the eight weeks, performance data is collected, and student progress is closely monitored to determine whether the student will return to the “regular” instruction or if the student needs an increased level of instruction or interventions at the Tier 2 level.
  • Tier 2: When students are not making adequate progress (or not responding to) the interventions provided at the Tier 1 level, students are provided with increasingly intensive instruction and/or interventions. Students at the Tier 2 level are oftentimes serviced in separate small-group settings by education specialists, in addition to the general education content. The amount of time students spend at the Tier 2 level varies, but generally does not exceed one grading period. Again, performance data is collected, and student progress is closely monitored to determine whether students will return to Tier 1 or move on to Tier 3.
  • Tier 3: When students are not making adequate progress with the interventions provided at the Tier 2 level, intensive, individualized interventions to address academic and behavioral needs are put in place. Sometimes students at this tier level are placed in small groups with students who are already receiving special education services or might receive 1:1 individualized support with special education staff members. In addition, students at this level are referred for a comprehensive special education evaluation. The data collected throughout the three tiers is one component of determining special education eligibility.

In summary, when you think RTI, think progress. Determine interventions “at-risk” students need to make progress with their academic and behavioral performance. Consider how student progress will be monitored and how data will be collected to measure student progress.

Interested in learning more about the multi-tiered RTI model, including practical strategies and tools to implement to increase student achievement and foster classroom engagement? Register for our new course: Response to Intervention (RTI): A Roadmap for Successful Classroom Implementation.


RTI Action Network: A Program for the National Center of Learning Disabilities

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Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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