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Jan 23
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Response to Intervention: A General Overview

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a 3-tiered assessment, identification, intervention, and monitoring framework that provides information about student academic and behavioral success. The impetus behind RTI is to identify struggling learners before they fail, and to provide them with appropriate, scientifically research-based interventions, in order to accelerate their learning. Identification, scientifically research-based interventions, and progress monitoring provide educators with information related to the effectiveness of instruction, specific and targeted areas in need of more intense or frequent instruction, reduced referrals to special education, and individual student data for the creation of measurable goals and objectives.

The RTI process utilizes data-based decision making for the early identification of struggling students and monitoring of student progress. Universal screenings of students are usually conducted three times during the school year and provide educators with baseline data (fall screening) and student progress data (winter and spring screenings). These screenings typically focus on those foundational areas that research has shown to best predict success. For example, reading screenings often focus on accuracy, rate, and comprehension while math screenings focus on computation and concepts. Educators analyze screening results, along with other available data, to determine if students require more intense and more frequent instruction than what is provided in the regular classroom. Students are then placed on a tier depending upon the data analysis results. 

Tier 1: Universal Instruction and Intervention

Tier 1 consists of high quality core instruction in the regular classroom. Instruction of the curriculum is presented with fidelity by a qualified educator, the classroom teacher. All students should have access to the core curriculum. Instruction at Tier 1 is either whole class or in flexible groups.

Some students in Tier 1 may need additional supports. These are typically categorized under “best teaching practices” and include:

  • Differentiating Instruction
  • Providing task clarity
  • Increasing student engagement
  • Providing mini lessons on skill deficits
  • Change pacing
  • Providing and/or changing corrective feedback

Student progress is monitored with common formative and summative assessments as well as with universal screening data. Students who receive Tier 1 supports may be progress monitored every two weeks, and don’t respond to Tier 1 interventions, based upon progress monitoring data eight weeks are recommended for Tier 2 intervention.

Tier 2: Targeted Instruction and Intervention

Students on Tier 2 are provided with more intense and frequent interventions in addition to their Tier 1 instruction and interventions. Again, these interventions are in addition to not in place of Tier 1 instruction and support. Therefore, Tier 2 services supplement the instruction and interventions provided by the core curriculum and classroom teacher. Tier 2 interventions are targeted in order to try to determine and remediate the root cause of the learning problem. Interventions are strategic and may be based upon a brief diagnostic assessment.

Those students in Tier 2 receive targeted interventions in small groups 4 to 6 students who need to learn the same skill or who would benefit from the type of teaching strategy being used. It is possible for a classroom teacher, reading or math specialist, or paraprofessional to provide targeted Tier 2 interventions. These groups generally meet for 30 to 45 minutes sessions (more intense) 3 to 4 times per week (more frequent). It is important to keep in mind that intervention time has to be built in to the students’ day. Taking students out of language arts, reading, or math to provide targeted instruction and interventions will not be beneficial because students will miss out on core instruction. To help with this, many schools construct their schedules with specific grade level intervention times built into the day.

Students take mini-assessments, often called probes, at least every two weeks or, ideally, weekly in order to determine how well they are responding to Tier 2 instruction and interventions. Probes or mini-assessments are typically curriculum-based measures that have grade level research-based benchmarks identifying typical student performance levels by time of year. Progress monitoring provides teachers data on how well students are responding to targeted instruction and interventions in relation to their personal baseline performance. It also allows educators to have data in regard to where individual students are in relation to where they need to be in order to return to Tier 1. Targeted instruction, intervention, and progress monitoring typically last for 8 to 10 weeks. At that time, the grade level RTI team analyzes student progress monitoring data to determine if the student should return to Tier 1, continue on Tier 2 with the same services, continue on Tier 2 with different services, or move to Tier 3 for more intensive or individualized interventions.

Tier 3: Intensive and Individualized Interventions

Students on Tier 3 require additional supports above and beyond those provided at the Tier 2 level. Tier 3 interventions include daily support provided in either one 60 minute session or two 30 minute sessions. Again, these services supplement the core curriculum not replace it. Interventions at this level are provided in even smaller groups (two or three students) or individually, with students being grouped by the same skills deficit.

In addition to increasing frequency and intensity of instruction, frequency of progress monitoring is also increased as part of Tier 3. At this level, data collection, in the form of mini assessments or probes, occurs at least weekly and quite often 2 to 3 times per week. The increased frequency of progress monitoring at Tier 3 allows educators to quickly determine intervention success and provides them with the opportunity to rapidly respond to lack of progress by fine tuning and adjusting instruction and intervention based upon up to date student data. However, valid progress monitoring data typically requires 8 to 10 data points before an accurate trend can be established and a decision confidently made. With this in mind, Tier 3 intensive instruction and progress monitoring usually continue for up to 8 weeks before a major decision is made.

What happens as a result of Tier 3 intensive interventions depends upon how well the student responds to intensive interventions as measured by their progress monitoring data. If students make progress they can be moved to Tier 2 or they can continue receiving Tier 3 support. If students don’t display a positive response to intervention at this level they are then referred to special education for a comprehensive evaluation.

Special Education Referral and Comprehensive Evaluations

It is important to keep in mind that a parent, guardian, teacher, counselor, pediatrician, or other care-giver can make a referral to special education at any point during the RTI process. After a referral is made the student will continue to receive RTI services and progress monitoring will continue.

In the RTI framework, a comprehensive evaluation may consist of an analysis of the student’s progress monitoring data in addition to or in place of more traditional and standardized ability, achievement, and processing evaluations. Having a student receive targeted interventions and monitoring his/her progress to those interventions frequently provides Individual Education Planning (IEP) teams with enough information to make a determination of eligibility and develop appropriate and measurable goals and objectives. However, sometimes the IEP team has additional questions or concerns and other evaluations will be conducted. These evaluations will provide the team with the necessary diagnostic and prescriptive information needed for eligibility determination and IEP development.

Summary

As a multi-tiered assessment, identification, intervention, and monitoring framework, Response to Intervention is an extremely useful data-based decision-making system. Educators are able to use it as a problem solving approach to breach the gap between a student’s current or baseline, level of performance and their expected level of performance or goal. As such, it takes much of the emphasis off of the “failure” of the student and puts the onus on professional educators to use research-based practices in the remediation of below expected levels of student performance. With this model, educators don’t wait for students to fail before being concerned: Instead, they use assessment data to identify gaps in knowledge, and then they use research validated interventions to fill these gaps and accelerate student learning. Therefore, Response to Intervention should not be looked at as a special education identification process or assessment (although it can certainly serve in those capacities); rather, RTI should be viewed as the scientific method that supplements and supports the art of teaching.

Dr. David Pino has worked in education for the last 20 years as a school psychologist, consultant, advocate, and adjunct professor. In that time he has used his expertise in the areas of learning disabilities, behavior assessment and management, special education, and IEP development to help children and families access appropriate services and succeed in school. David Pino is currently functioning as an education advocate and assists families through the IEP process.

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One Response to “RTI: A Data-Based Tool that Supports the Art of Teaching”

  1. seems like a really great tool not only for special education advocates but for educators for many walks of life

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