As an educator, our ultimate purpose is to educate our students to the best of our ability. Creating and sustaining a “healthy” school learning environment is the work of all stakeholders. What does it mean to have a healthy school environment? The diagram below illustrates it from an academic and behavioral standpoint.
A “healthy” school is one where all students are experiencing success academically and behaviorally. The RTI (Response to Intervention) diagram above is a framework that provides the supports, resources and interventions, so all students can succeed in their learning.
Response to Intervention is gaining a tremendous amount of attention and recognition because it works! When implemented strategically in a positive school culture with the support of school and district leadership, as well as parent and community engagement, all students will succeed. As the diagram indicates, a school learning environment that thrives has eighty to ninety percent of their students receiving tier 1 instruction, five to ten percent of their students receiving tier 2 instruction and one to five percent of their students receiving tier 3 instruction.
Universal screenings are administered three to four times a year in the area of reading and mathematics to all students. Based on the universal screening, “at risk” students are eligible for tier 2 and tier 3 instruction.
Universal screenings assess standards and skills by grade level. Teachers dig deeper with a diagnostic assessment to Identify the skills and concepts that the “at risk” students need intervention. Based on their results, students are placed in tier 2 or tier 3. Interventions are provided by highly trained personnel who provide targeted small group or individual instruction above and beyond the core instructional program which all students are receiving.
- Tier 1 instruction is the core instructional program that is taught to all students. It is critically important for the core instruction to be researched based and aligned to grade level standards. If this instruction in the core program is adequately differentiated, 80-90% of the students will respond and achieve established benchmarks. In the core program, students are receiving 90 minutes a day of reading/writing instruction that is differentiated provided by a highly qualified teacher.
- Tier 2 instruction is for students who do not make adequate progress in Tier 1. More intensive services and targeted interventions, usually in small group settings (inside or outside of the classroom) are provided in addition to the instruction in the general curriculum.
Student progress is monitored at least bi-monthly, and research based interventions could last approximately 6-10 weeks. Duration varies based on rate of student progress and performance, and the length of intervention is 3-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes. Assessments should be formative and focus on the same skills and concepts as the universal screening.
- Tier 3 instruction is for students who do not adequately respond to the targeted interventions in Tier 2. Additional testing may be warranted, and students would receive individualized intensive interventions targeted to the skill deficits by a highly trained and skilled educator.
Tier 3 most often takes place outside the classroom for 30-60 minutes daily 5 times a week in addition to the core instruction. The curriculum is customized, intensive, systematic and research-based targeting academic areas of greatest need. Duration varies between 10 to 30 weeks. Assessments may include formal and informal measures to inform instruction, and progress monitoring should be administered a minimum once per week.
All three tiers are flexible; students can move from one tier to another based on their needs. Data is analyzed and discussed routinely through Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), by key members of the school community. The RTI teams are comprised of general education teachers, special education teachers, behaviorists, reading specialists, math and literacy coaches, school and district level administrators who work collaboratively in designing action plans for students and monitoring their progress at each tier.
RTI is a multi-level intervention system that supports the success for all students in the areas of academics and behavior. RTI is best implemented in the early grades; kindergarten through second grade as a prevention protocol.
Research states, “The majority of students with reading difficulties in 3rd grade continue to be poor readers in 9th grade (e.g., Francis et al., 1996). Identifying all students’ needs and intervening early is critical to ensuring students’ success in school (Torgensen, 2009; Wanzek & Vaughn, 2007) and to promoting social justice. Multi-tiered systems of reading support have been found to reduce student reading difficulties and increase reading performance (Glover, 2016; Wanzek & Vaughn, 2007).”
In closing, implementing an RTI framework with fidelity will provide educators with the data to inform their instructional decision making and scaffold their teaching based on students’ needs. Students will experience success and a “healthy” school environment will be cultivated. For more information on how to implement an RTI model in your school, check out the Center on Response to Intervention.
Until next time, happy teaching and learning.