Hot Tips & Topics

We are dedicated to providing you with a comprehensive collection of relevant and up-to-date K-12 education news and editorials. For teachers, by teachers.

Quick Guide to Strong Response to Intervention (RtI)

Cathy Gilbert

Quick Guide to Strong Response to Intervention (RtI)Educators might be in a better position to help learners who are experiencing difficulty if an assessment method could match the student with appropriate instruction. It is the intent of Response to Intervention (RtI) to combine important features of assessment with instruction, as well as address many of the limitations currently associated with aptitude-achievement discrepancy models of Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) identification.

Response to Intervention (RtI) is a multi-tiered identification of and support for students with learning and/or behavioral issues. The process starts with a universal screening of all general education students. After high-quality instruction, interventions at increasing levels of intensity are provided to struggling students to accelerate their learning. Progress of the learning rate and level of performance for individual students is closely monitored and assessed. RtI is designed to be used when making decisions regarding both general and special education. It creates an integrated system of instruction and intervention guided by a student's outcome data.

Response to Intervention is generally defined as a three-tier model of support from a school that uses research-based academic and/or behavioral interventions to maximize student learning and achievement.

Related Articles
Young girl writing notes while looking at a laptop with open books around her.
With the move to eLearning, educators must find creative ways to keep student...
Two young boys reading a book together in their elementary classroom.
Differentiated literacy instruction is vital in elementary classrooms to reach...
Young boy working at a table listening to a video lesson with his teacher and classmates.
Remote learning can make assessment of student learning more difficult but not...
Student working on math problems watching her teacher on a laptop.
The sudden shift to online learning presented many teachers with end-of-year...
Young boy sitting at a table drawing on paper with a marker.
Remote learning causes challenges for all students but especially special ed....

Tier 1: High-Quality Classroom Instruction, Screening, and Group Interventions.

  • Students receive high-quality instruction provided by qualified personnel to ensure that their difficulties are not the result of inadequate instruction.


  • Students are monitored closely and screened on a regular basis, usually fall, winter, and spring, to establish a baseline by which to identify struggling learners who need additional support.


  • Students identified as "at risk" receive supplemental instruction in a regular classroom for approximately 8 weeks.


  • A validated screening system is used to monitor students' progress.


  • Typically, about 80% of students, in Tier 1 of intervention, will respond, make adequate progress, and return to a general classroom program.


  • Students not demonstrating progress move to Tier 2.

Tier 2: Targeted Interventions

  • Students not making adequate progress in Tier 1 are provided increasingly intensive instruction, matched to their needs.


  • Instruction is based on the level of performance and rate of progress of a student. This instruction occurs on an individual basis or in a small-group setting 2 to 3 times a week. This level of intervention is in addition to general curriculum instruction.


  • Intensity of instruction varies, based on a number of factors, including group size, frequency and duration of intervention, and level of training of the professionals providing the instruction or intervention.


  • The timeframe for this tier is generally not longer than a grading period


  • Students who continue to demonstrate too little progress are considered for Tier 3, a more intense intervention.

Tier 3: Intense Interventions and Comprehensive Evaluations

  • Students receive individualized, intense interventions that target skill deficits.


  • Students not achieving the desired level of progress are referred for comprehensive evaluations and considered for special education services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004). IDEA 2004 allows parents to request a formal evaluation at any time during the RtI process.

The following are core features and essential elements of a strong Response to Intervention that must be implemented with perseverance and rigor.

1. High quality classroom instruction. Students in the RtI process receive high quality instruction in their general educational setting. Before students are identified for specific assistance, there must be assurance that the typical classroom instruction is of high quality. This quality can be assessed by comparing a student's learning rate and achievements in different classrooms at the same grade level.

2. Research-based instruction. The classroom practices and curriculum in a general education setting vary in their effectiveness. Therefore, ensuring that the practices and curriculum have demonstrated validity is important. If instruction is not research-based, one cannot be confident that limited gains of students are independent of classroom experiences.

3. Classroom performance. General education instructors and staff assume an active role in the assessment of students in the general education curriculum. Emphasized here is the important role of the classroom staff to design and complete student assessments rather than rely on externally developed tests (e.g., state or nationally developed tests). Districts and schools have to design assessments and monitor performance.

4. Universal screening. School staffs conduct universal screening of academics and behavior. This feature focuses on specific criteria for judging the learning and achievement of all students, not only in academics but also in related behaviors (e.g., class attendance, tardiness, truancy, suspensions, and disciplinary actions). Such criteria are applied when determining which students need closer monitoring or an intervention.

5. Continuous progress monitoring. In Response to Intervention models, one expects the classroom progress of students to be monitored continuously. In this way, staff can readily identify learners who are not meeting the benchmarks or other expected standards. Various curriculum-based assessment models are useful in this role.

6. Research-based interventions. When screening and/or progress monitoring results indicate a deficit for a student, an appropriate instructional intervention is implemented, perhaps an individually-designed instructional package or the standardized intervention protocol. The standardized intervention protocols are interventions that researchers have validated through a series of studies. School staff is expected to implement specific, research-based interventions to address a student's difficulties. These interventions might include a "double-dose" of classroom instruction or a different instructional method. These research-based interventions are 8 to 12 weeks in length and are designed to increase the intensity of the learner's instructional experience.

7. Progress monitoring during interventions. School staff members use progress monitoring data to determine the effectiveness of interventions and to make modifications as needed. Carefully defined data are collected, perhaps daily, to provide a cumulative record of a learner's response to the intervention.

8. Fidelity measures. While the interventions themselves are designed, implemented, and assessed for learner effectiveness, fidelity measures the focus on teachers providing the instruction. The fidelity measure, usually an observational checklist of critical teaching behaviors, is completed by a staff member other than the teacher being observed and who indicates whether or not the intervention was implemented as intended and with consistency.

For more information about utilizing curriculum development and management software in Response to Intervention, visit Collaborative Learning, Inc.


Tool Kit on Teaching and Assessing Students with Disabilities

U.S. Office of Special Education Programs

Responsiveness to Intervention in the SLD Determination Process

National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (July 2005)

RtI Action Network

Today's Poll

Which types of articles would you like to see from us in 2020?
Classroom Management
Classroom Activities/Games
Teaching Strategies
Technology in the Classroom
Professional Development
Total votes: 246