Response to Intervention (RTI) – What is it and how can it help students?

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Response to Intervention - or RTI - is a “practice of providing high quality instruction and interventions that are matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals, and applying student response data to important educational decisions. RTI should be applied to decisions in general, remedial and special education, creating a well-integrated system of instruction/intervention guided by student outcome data.” (Response to Intervention: Blueprints for Implementation; National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Inc.)


Response to Intervention practices are used most frequently to document and monitor the progress of general education students, to serve as an indicator of the need for early intervention, and to inform the development and evaluation of interventions. In Ohio, this concept has been in place for some time. Many Ohioans know it as the Pyramid of Interventions, or OISM (Ohio Integrated Systems Model).


There are two broad purposes of RTI. The overall RTI approach is intended to ensure effective instructional and other educational services for all children to:


         Systematically teach all children with effective instruction provided by qualified personnel

         Emphasize prevention and early intervention


RTI is used with academic and behavioral support, educational evaluations, services and supports, including scientifically based literacy instruction. It can also be used as an effective tool with behavioral evaluations, including positive behavioral intervention and supports.


RTI practices are to be implemented by educators and STAT teams. It is expected that the interventions used will be developmentally appropriate and standards based.


In going through this process, student outcome data is “crucial” to:


Ø       Make accurate decisions about the effectiveness of general and remedial education instruction/interventions;

Ø       Undertake early identification/intervention with academic and behavioral problems;

Ø       Prevent unnecessary and excessive identification of students with disabilities;

Ø       Make decisions about eligibility for special programs, including special education; and

Ø       Determine individual education programs and deliver and evaluate special education services.


Several schools in Ohio are implementing the Ohio Integrated Systems Model, a comprehensive, school wide prevention and intervention model that establishes support systems for addressing both academic and behavioral needs of ALL students. OISM incorporates accountability practices, data-based decision making, access to and progress in the general education curriculum, systems of intervention, scientifically based practices and meaningful parental involvement. OISM is supported by federal and state legislative requirements. As educators embrace OISM and its activities to improve academic achievement outcomes for all students, mismatches between traditional roles, functions and related practices on the one hand and those associated with OISM on the other are manifesting themselves. Like many professionals involved in implementing OISM and OISM-related activities (e.g., curriculum-based measurement, progress monitoring and school wide positive behavior supports), school psychologists are being charged with rethinking their traditional roles in education.


The “pyramid” approach is based on a system of supports that encompass three tiers. Eighty of students normally fall into Tier 1 which involves universal classroom instruction for all. Supports commonly found in each and every classroom are used in this tier and include such familiar things as having a curriculum aligned to the standards, using formative assessments to guide instruction, having grade level meetings to analyze data and determine the best next steps for the classroom. Tier 2 is often needed for 20-30 percent of all students and includes more strategic targeted interventions such as short-term interventions in a specific area of need to enhance and support the core curriculum, more frequent monitoring, or referrals to a team for added help and diagnosis. Tier 3 is more intensive support and interventions that apply to 5-20 percent of students. Included in this tier are specifically designed intensive supports and interventions for individual students, including counseling support. It is in this top tier that students may receive special education placement.


The union has a role in helping members meet the challenges of RTI implementation. With the changing roles of general education and special education classroom teachers, specialists, paraprofessionals, support staff, related service providers, and administrators, OFT uses its website as a source of information and resources for members. Knowledge is a key to proper implementation and we want our members to be armed with knowledge. We will use this vehicle to communicate information that will help you understand the facts about RTI. Further, we will advocate for members when issues arise around the implementation of this process.


Currently, the AFT, NEA, and NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) are in the process of developing a training module on RTI that will be available online and free to all members. In addition, teachers and related staff should access training that supports differentiated instruction and student progress monitoring. The IDEA partnership website., provides excellent information. Further, the new national center on RTI was developed to provide information to states and districts that intend to implement RTI. Visit both of these websites for additional valuable information.