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Response to Intervention (RTI)

Arthur has a Ph.D. and is a substitute teacher in Virginia Public Schools. He is also a Technology Leader and an Educational Consultant.

Response to Intervention


Response to Intervention

Every student has a unique collection of prior knowledge, skills, and motivating factors. Students have methods of retention that work according to their behavioral characteristics. For instance, you have a student with excellent visual memory who misbehaves when asked to read a passage. The student misbehaves by telling jokes and making the class laugh rather than reading the passage to distract the teacher and his classmates from reading difficulties.

Another student memorizes difficult words and even their pronunciation. This technique has worked well in his previous grades and disguised his reading difficulties. When the student has to decipher new words in the class, it becomes a struggle. If these issues go unnoticed or ignored by the teacher without direct systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, the reading difficulties will escalate.

Teachers that do not create curricula that respond to the skill level of individual struggling students will have created a non-diverse learning environment. Teachers who are unsure about how to implement a multitiered system of support to acknowledge individual skill levels may be part of a school that does not use the RTI process.

According to Buffum et al., “Schools should not delay providing help for struggling students until they fall far enough behind to qualify for special education but instead should provide timely, targeted, systematic interventions to all students who demonstrate the need” (Buffum et al., 2012, p. xiii).

The RTI process is relevant for every learner as all students at every skill level are expected to achieve at a high pace. Even students that are great performers still have room to perform at a higher level. This RTI system of support includes administrative support, collaborative planning time, multitiered lessons, personalized learning goals, and student ownership of the learning process.

RTI uses three tiers of instruction and intervention:

  1. The Core Program
  2. The Supplemental Program
  3. The Intense Program

RTI is designed to improve achievement for students at K-12 grade levels and is measured by educators choosing evidence-based interventions based on student data. The RTI tier model is shown as a pyramid with the Core Program at the top, the Supplemental Program in the middle, and the Intense Program at the bottom.

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The pyramid base is Tier 1, the grade-level core instruction that all students receive. Tier 2 is the supplemental support that is targeted. Tier three includes student support. The pyramid concept is that all students will receive core instruction, and fewer students will need additional and intensive help. RTI must be used correctly before students fall too far behind to qualify for special education. Instead, schools should provide targeted and systematic intervention to all students as soon as they demonstrate a need.

Early identification of struggling learners is an essential first step in establishing academic, social, and behavioral baselines that identify the skills learners must develop. Teachers should use preassessment, vigilance, and ongoing assessments to reveal which students are on and above level and the learners that need either supplemental or intensive instruction. Teachers familiar with the three RTI elements can connect strategies and interventions for literacy and mathematics that align with social, emotional, and behavioral learning domains.

Let’s break down preassessment, vigilance, and ongoing assessments.

Preassessment: It is a diagnostic process to find a learner’s baseline level. It helps teachers to understand what students know, what they need to know, and what they would like to learn to increase their skill set in academic or behavioral areas.

Vigilance: It sustains the whole process. It reinforces the idea that no one waits for a student to fail before intervention. Vigilance involves awareness and observation, and instructional strategies. It should be a group effort between teachers, special education teachers, school psychologists, and guidance counselors.

Ongoing assessments are a vital ingredient of RTI because it includes curriculum-based formative and summative assessments. Summative assessments are used to evaluate mastery of the material. It includes end-of-course or end-of-unit exams and final papers. Formative assessment provides students with vital feedback that will improve their performance.

Reasons why RTI is beneficial:

  • Students continue to get their core instruction in the general education classrooms and with their peers.
  • Students can start getting extra help before they fall too far behind.
  • Students referred for special education will already have documentation about the instruction that has not been helpful.

RTI can make a difference in whether students are successful in their academic learning. I encourage all teachers to learn more about RTI and strategies that can help to build students’ academic skills.

© 2022 Dr Arthur Burton

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