RtI: Response to Intervention
An important change has occurred in how schools think about students who need extra help to learn grade-level curriculum. They are now using a multi-step process called Response to Intervention (RtI) to address student learning difficulties within the general education setting before mild problems become significant ones.
While RtI is being used in math, and some schools are using the process to address student behavioral issues, it is primarily being applied to the area of reading because reading is the essential skill upon which school success lies.
RtI offers three tiers of instruction that can be provided to students to help them achieve. These tiers of services vary in intensity to address individual students’ needs, with each tier representing an additional layer of support that’s targeted to enhance and develop specific skills a student is struggling to grasp.
Most students are performing at or above grade level and fall within Tier 1, meaning their needs are met through the differentiated instruction called for within the core curriculum.
For students who fall within Tier 2, core instruction provided by the general classroom teacher is not enough for them to achieve the minimum levels of expected performance. So instruction at this level is intended to help students catch up and master specific grade-level skills. This instruction typically amounts to an extra 30 minutes a day of additional support provided to small groups of students who are struggling to grasp similar skills, and it is provided in addition to the time devoted to the regular classroom program.
Even after receiving Tier 2 interventions, a small percentage of students may continue to have considerable difficulty and need more time and support to master certain skills. At Tier 3, students might receive up to an extra hour of intervention each day in addition to regular classroom instruction. Group sizes are very small so that individual needs can be addressed by the interventionist. Some children who need this level of support may be eligible for special education because they are determined to have a disability.
A vitally important part of RtI is progress monitoring, which is the gathering and evaluating of information about student progress at regular intervals. All students are assessed three times per year to check their progress. If students participate in Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions, their progress is measured more frequently to be sure that the additional instruction is resulting in improved performance.
If a student is making good progress, he or she can advance out of the intervention. If the data shows that a student continues to struggle or does not make progress, the student would then be considered for a more intensive program.
Intervention plans include information about the type of intervention being used, the length of time that will be allowed for it to have a positive effect before moving to the next tier of intervention, and how progress will be measured.
District 15 uses a team-based problem-solving framework to structure thinking and decision-making about student progress and to develop intervention plans. This problem-solving framework asks four questions throughout the process, which involves close collaboration among staff:
1. What is the problem?
2. Why is it happening?
3. What should be done about it?
4. Did it work?
The answer to the “why” question can be related to the curriculum, but can also include environmental factors and characteristics of the individual learner.
Parent participation is an important part of the RtI process. At each level of the three-tiered model, regular parent-teacher communication is a key to success. Some ways for parents to get and stay involved include:
- attending school functions such as parent-teacher conferences or “Back-to School” nights;
- getting to know their child’s teacher and his or her expectations for student progress; and
- asking questions about how their child’s needs are being met, and following up with supportive activities at home.