One of my roles as Assistant Principal is to coordinate our campus Response To Intervention (RTI) program. This process can be confusing and sometimes seem a little daunting! Here is some basic information to hopefully help with understanding and navigating through RTI. I put this together for my staff in a flyer, but tried to take out the school-specific information for this blog post.
I will start with one of my overarching beliefs:
The Most Effective RTI Strategy is Strong Tier 1 Instruction.
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how well thought out and structured your RTI program is-without good quality Tier 1 instruction, achievement suffers. So let’s back up. What exactly is RTI? Simply put, RTI seeks to map out a theory of action regarding how we respond to students who stuggle, and how we measure our students’ response to intervention. You can think of it as a learning pyramid, labeled like this:
All students are Tier 1 students. Tier 1 supports, then, are those things you would do in class, with any student, as part of meeting everyone’s needs. It’s differentiation. It’s creative ideas. It’s learning styles, reteaching, and presenting it “yet another way”. It’s how you develop, refine, and continually improve your craft so that all students are reached. This might be through weekly running records, small group lessons such as guided reading or guided math groups which target a specific skill, allowing students the use of graph paper to line up numbers, giving a student flashcards to practice with, having a student listen to a story on tape and scaffolding in comprehension questions…These are just a few differentiation ideas in place in your classrooms which support all learners. This is Tier 1. It is the most powerful and important piece of the RTI traingle and the heart of our work. It includes a heavy emphasis on feedback cycles, ongoing assesment, and rich learning experiences. It is where most student’s needs are found and addressed.
About 85% of students should be successful and on a forward learning trajectory with regular Tier 1 supports that all students receive from classroom teachers. Here is a neat video which captures a few teachers sharing common RTI Tier 1 instructional strategies, or “Core Instruction” if you are thinking of our tiangle above:
What if Tier 1 interventions are not enough?
This is our “Supplemental” group if thinking about our triangle above. When it becomes a concern; when data from the classroom and/or universal screeners indicates that more support is needed, you want to go ahead and fill out Tier 1 intervention logs and initiation forms and request a meeting with the RTI team. The team will meet and examine classroom data, assessment results, and student work samples. We would then brainstorm and develop additional strategies which might help close the gaps for the student, based on presenting data and best practices research. These Tier 2 inteventions might include things such as before or after school tutoring, chunking, more visual supports, graphic organizers to structure writing, word lists, word banks, sentence stems, digital learning avenues….It just depends on the student, needs, and resources we have available at the time. They are in addition to Tier 1 instructional components.
The student would now be considered as being on “Tier 2” in our RTI system. The teacher would go forward with the interventions decided upon by the Tier 2 team, monitoring the student’s progress for 4-6 weeks with those new Tier 2 interventions in place. Every other week, you will upload documentation on the Tier 2 progress monitoring log. For approximately 90-95% of students, we can expect those interventions to be successful.
What if Tier 2 interventions are still not enough?
Going back to our triangle above, we are now talking about our “intensive” group. If after a period of time (usually 4-6 weeks) the student is still not successfully progressing, you will request another RTI meeting. The team will again examine data, Tier 2 intervention logs, and student work samples. The team will now consider even more targeted interventions for this student. That might be things like a pull-out literacy group, or 1 on 1 targeted interventions both within and outside of the classroom, etc. We would also look at curriculum resources and additional intensive and appropriate pedagogical strategies and / or programs. Again, these depend on the student, needs, and available resources and are employed in addition to Tier 1 and 2 approaches. Because this is a more intenstive list of interventions, these are classified as Tier 3 interventions and the student is now considered to be on Tier 3 in our RTI system. As noted above, very few students will need this level of support when Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports are being implented with fidelity.
Going forward, the teacher would keep and upload Tier 3 progress monitoring logs into Aware. This should now be done weekly due to the more targeted and intensive nature of the interventions. Again, these supports are put into place for 4-6 weeks depending on student needs. Research indicates that Tier 3 interventions should be put into place for a longer duration and monitored more frequently, due to the nature of the individual, intensive focus. For most Tier 3 students, these more targeted interventions are enough to move them forward.
What if Tier 3 interventions still aren’t enough?
This might be the case for less than 5% of student population. Another RTI meeting would be requested. The diagnostician would be present, along with other specialized teachers. In this situation, we have exhausted all other avenues and there is a strong consensus that further evaluative measures need to be taken.
Here are some common FAQ’s which I thought might be helpful to touch upon:
Is the purpose of RTI to place a student on a path to ultimately get tested?
No. The purpose of RTI is to identify interventions that successfully close gaps and move students forward when what is being done in the classroom is not enough.
What types of things might I list on progress monitoring logs?
- Running records, results of “quick checks” or exit tickets
- Student journal samples which show patterns of thinking/understanding
- Teacher observations/notes
- Classroom assessment scores/ district assessment scores
- Fluency checks/wpm
- Graphic organizers used for writing
- White boards/markers for “quick checks”
- Graph paper for lining up problems when multiplying
Did they work? Did they not work? Share the intervention methods as well as the student’s performance/resulting score/data using progress monitoring logs.
What should I bring to an RTI meeting?
- Student work samples
- Current scores on classroom assessments and recent district assessments
- Information regarding the student’s strengths
- Specific challenges (“Fluency”, “Context Clues”, or “Subtracting w/regrouping” – as opposed to “Reading” or “Math”).
If I use these interventions, doesn’t this skew grades and not give a true reflection of where a student is?
We want to keep the focus on learning and closing achievement gaps. If a student requires certain interventions to reach mastery, we want to implement them. That being said, you can document on student work “with manipulatives” , “with teacher assistance”, or some other notation to indicate to parents that there are interventions which are being used to reach mastery. You will also have your RTI documentation logs for reference. Communication with parents is key here. If they do not hear from you and they see only grades, then yes, there will be a skewed view. If information is not entered and updated in Aware, there will be a skewed view for future teachers as well. Parents should be continually informed and involved in the process through ongoing conversations and conferences with you – both prior to and throughout the RTI process.
Some of you might also be asking…
Why do we have to wait so long during each Tier?
Research has shown that in order to determine if an intervention is successful, a period of about 4–6 weeks is needed to capture data and track progress effectively. Heavier interventions require a little longer to develop and allow us to gather evidence of effectiveness. For some, though, we can and do accelerate the process. All of our students are unique, and so our approach to identifying and meeting individual needs within this structure can look different at different times. And that is okay.
Back to our beginning quote.
Keep in mind, the goal of RTI is to close the gaps through effective, research based interventions and ultimately be able to discontinue them. Therefore, as noted at the beginning:
The most effective RTI Intervention is strong Tier 1 instruction.
If you are looking to do some reading on the topic of intervention, I can recommend the following 3 books as good reading for teachers and administrators alike. Click images to be taken the the Amazon ordering page: