"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
The initials RtI represent Response-to-Intervention. RtI is not a program, and it is not a department. Because it involves academics and behavior, the RtI process impacts all facets of the educational environment from the classroom to the lunchroom to the bus stop and through technology, may even reach into the home setting. When the latest revision of the IDEA [the federal law governing special education] passed in 2004, the law provided states with the opportunity to use RtI as a method for identifying students with learning disabilities. Georgia’s state department of education responded to this opportunity by mandating implementation of the RtI process in all schools in Georgia, and required that interventions be provided to students prior to identifying students as having a disability as defined by most of the disabilities served by special education.
In the Ware County School System, interventions begin in the classroom through differentiated instruction and teacher-directed interventions. This level is Tier 1. All students are screened in the fall, and the data from these screenings as well as data from state-mandated tests is reviewed by school-level teams, which include the RtI interventionist and classroom teachers at a minimum. Those students who need more help than what classrooms typically provide are placed in RtI labs, where more intense and individualized instruction is provided at Tier 2. Some students are referred to small group with direct instruction by a teacher who specializes in the area of student difficulty. Progress monitoring is maintained by interventionists to track student progress. The data review teams meet again to review each student’s progress, and if sufficient progress is not made, parents are invited to the meetings and students are sometimes referred for even more intense interventions at the Tier 3 level. Students who show improvement may return to Tier 2 or Tier 1, depending upon their level of improvement. Students who continue to demonstrate difficulty after the most intense level of intervention may be referred for a comprehensive evaluation to determine if a disability is present, and if so, the student may be referred for special education services at Tier 4.
In Ware County, we are excited about the possibilities offered to our students through RtI, and we have been encouraged by the continuous improvement in overall student achievement as we challenge ourselves and our students to reach the highest levels of performance.
The Basics of RtI
What is Response to Intervention?
Response to intervention (RTI) is an education model that promotes early identification of students who may be at risk for learning difficulties. For students who are identified as struggling, the RTI process includes a multi-step approach for providing services and interventions at increasing levels of intensity. Federal laws (No Child Left Behind and Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004) emphasize the importance of providing high-quality, scientifically based instruction and interventions for all students, as well as those who are struggling to meet grade-level standards. RTI is a method for measuring how students respond to academic and behavior interventions in regular education prior to identifying a disability.
What are some of the words used to talk about RtI?
Response to Intervention (RtI)—addressed through federal and state law and refers to a tiered approach to instruction. Students who do not make adequate academic progress and who are at risk for difficulties in reading, math, written expression, and/or behavior receive increasingly intensive instructional and behavioral interventions.
Differentiation of Instruction—instruction tailored to meet the needs of diverse learners in the general education classroom.
Progress Monitoring—is a scientifically based practice of assessing students' performance on a regular basis. Progress monitoring helps school teams make decisions about instruction. In Ware County, progress monitoring is done every week, every other week, or once per month, depending upon the area addressed through RtI.
Universal Screening—is a step taken by school personnel early in the school year to determine which students are at risk for not meeting grade level standards. Universal screenings are conducted by administering an academic screening test to all children in a given grade level. Students whose test scores fall below a certain cutoff may be identified as needing more specialized academic interventions. Information from the screening as well as classroom performance and previous CRCT scores are reviewed by the school-level RtI Data Team to determine the level and type of intervention the student should receive.
Scientific, Research-Based Instruction—specific curriculum, educational, and behavioral interventions that have been proven to be effective through scientific peer-reviewed journals.
Data Review Team—a group of individuals knowledgeable about the student, curriculum, and/or interventions who meet to review student needs and develop a plan for assistance. Typical members include classroom teachers, interventionists, parents, school psychologists, school guidance counselors, building and system-level administrators, and additional staff, such as the ESOL teacher, special education teacher, personnel such as mental health counselors outside the school system, etc.
Aimline—also called the “Goal Line.” It represents the expected rate of a student’s progress over a specified amount of time.
Trend Line—a line on a graph that represents a line of best fit through the student’s data points. The trend line can be compared to the aimline to help inform responsiveness to intervention and to customize a student’s instructional program.
Standard Protocol model for intervention—the student is placed in a prescribed intervention standard for anyone with similar weaknesses
Problem-Solving Process—the team considers a variety of factors to determine the needs of the student and subsequent placement in interventions
Standards-based intervention—intervention aimed at improving a student’s performance on the standards, typically used for students who have gaps in knowledge. Most of these students are served in Tiers 1 or 2.
Skills-based intervention—intervention aimed at improving performance on basic skills. After intense intervention, lack of improvement in basic skills may indicate the need for an evaluation for special education services at Tier 4.
Formative assessments—assessments conducted along with the way to help identify weaknesses that need to be addressed- results of these assessments should help “form” the instruction that follows the assessment. Scores earned on formative assessments may or may not be recorded as a grade since they are usually given to determine instructional needs in preparation for summative assessments.
Summative assessments—assessments conducted at the end of period of time typically resulting in a grade or score that shows what the student as retained. Scores for these assessments are typically recorded as a grade for the student, or may be earned on a state-wide assessment such as the CRCT.
Math Matters—weekly fluency practice provided in the regular classroom in Ware County. More information about Math Matters may be obtained from the Math Curriculum Specialist at Ware County, Lynn Downs (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Parent's Role in RTI:
- Work with your child at home on particular skills identified through screenings.
- If concerns arise, request a parent conference with your child's teacher or the administration.
- Be involved and proactive in the education of your child.
- Feel free to request to visit your child's classroom and ask for ways to assist your child to improve his or her performance.
What are the essential elements of RtI?
- Universal screenings of academics and behavior in order to determine which students need closer monitoring or additional interventions;
- Differentiation of instruction and use of scientific, research-based instruction and interventions;
- Multiple tiers of increasingly intense scientific, research-based interventions that are matched to student needs;
- Monitoring student progress in response to the instruction and interventions
- Use of progress-monitoring data to shape instruction and make educational decisions;
- Parent involvement throughout the entire process.
How is RtI being implemented in Georgia?
In Georgia, a four-tier RtI model has been adopted for early intervention and to determine the student's response as required by the Georgia Department of Education regulations for special education (160-4-7). Students receive instruction based on their needs and may move within the pyramid as data supports.
What are the four tiers of instruction or intervention?
Tier 1 consists of a standards-based classroom with all students participating in instruction that is differentiated, research-based, and guided by progress monitoring and balanced assessments.
Students who are identified as struggling participate in Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction, which consists of needs-based instruction with standard intervention protocols. Tier 2 uses established intervention protocols such as research-based reading or math programs, which provide enhanced opportunities for extended learning, using computer-based interventions in an RtI lab as well as flexible, small groups. Tier 2 includes more frequent progress monitoring.
Students who are found to be in need of more intense instruction continue to participate in Tier 2 interventions in addition to Tier 3. Tier 3 includes individual assessments, tailored interventions to respond to their needs, frequent formative assessments, and consideration for specially designed instruction when data indicates a need. Tier 3 is the Student Support Team (SST) level of intervention and is a highly individualized, problem-solving layer of support. SST was a permanent commitment by the state of Georgia to federal district court as a result of Marshall vs. Georgia, 1984. The SST is a regular education, problem-solving process in every Georgia school. Its purpose is to provide support to both students and teachers with the outcome of improved student performance.
If a student appears to be in need of specially designed instruction through the special education program, the student is referred to the School Psychologist and possibly to other specialists, such as the Speech-Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, or Physical Therapist, for a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation. In Ware County, all referrals for comprehensive evaluation are reviewed by the System-Level RtI Team to ensure every resource has been exhausted and that the data confirms that the student’s response to intervention has not been adequate prior to testing. Results of this evaluation are reflected in Georgia’s Special Education Eligibility form, and the Eligibility Team, which includes the parents, meets to review the information to determine if the student is eligible for special education services through one of the thirteen categories served by special education. Although a parent may request a comprehensive evaluation at any point, Georgia rules regarding eligibility for special education services require scientific research-based interventions and progress monitoring prior to placement in special education for most areas of disability. Some areas, such as Traumatic Brain Injury, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing and Visually Impaired, may be excluded from this requirement, depending upon the circumstances.
Students who are determined to have a disability by the Eligibility Team and who qualify for specially designed instruction may participate in Tier 4 if the parent gives consent for special education services. These specialized programs provide support to the student through implementation of adapted content, methodology, and/or instructional delivery with access to Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.
It is important to note that students with a Section 504 Plan or ESOL plan are considered to be Tier 4 students in Georgia. Georgia also uses RtI to aid in the identification of students who are gifted.