Understanding Response to Intervention

Here is a collection of resources, book summaries and other information that will provide you with an excellent foundational knowledge of what RtI actually is intended to accomplish. This post was originally published as a page on this blog, however, as we start a new year with a renewed RtI push, I thought it would be worth posting on the home page.


Defining “Response to Intervention” (RtI): a systematic and data-based method for identifying, defining, and resolving students’ academic and behavioral difficulties.


The Four Cs of RTI (by Buffum, Mattos & Weber):

If our goal is to create the right way of thinking about our work as educators, then what are the essential principles that must guide our actions? What practices must we follow if we want all students to succeed? We believe there are four—we call them the four Cs of RTI. They are:

1. Collective Responsibility: A shared belief that the primary responsibility of each member of the organization is to ensure high levels of learning for every child. Thinking is guided by the question: Why are we here?

2. Concentrated Instruction: A systematic process of identifying essential knowledge and skills that all students must master to learn at high levels, and determining the specific learning needs for each child to get there. Thinking is guided by the question: Where do we need to go?

3. Convergent Assessment: An ongoing process of collectively analyzing targeted evidence to determine the specific learning needs of each child and the effectiveness of the instruction the child receives in meeting these needs. Thinking is guided by the question: Where are we now?

4. Certain Access. A systematic process that guarantees every student will receive the time and support needed to learn at high levels. Thinking is guided by the question: How do we get every child there?

We contend that these four Cs are the essential guiding principles of RTI. Consider for a moment the meaning of the word essential. When something is essential, it is absolutely indispensable, so important to the whole that the whole cannot survive without it. Without each of the four Cs, it is impossible for a school to achieve high levels of learning for every child. The four Cs work interdependently to create the systems, structures, and processes needed to provide every child with additional time and support.

(From Simplifying Response to Intervention: Four Essential Guiding Principles. Buffum/Mattos/Weber, Solution Tree, 2012.)


Three Tiers of Instruction:

  1. All Students(Tier 1) – Scientifically and research proven instructional methods
    • Whole class instruction
    • Research-based curriculum
    • Identification of lowest 20%
    • Comparison with teacher judgement
  2. Some Students(Tier 2) – Supplementary Instruction and Assessment
    • Extra small group instruction in addition to whole class instruction
    • Direct and systematic instruction focused on core skills that students need
    • Monitor student progress with data related to skill development
  3. A Few Students(Tier 3) – Specialized Instruction and Assessment
    • Review of Tier 2 data
    • Comprehensive evaluation of why RtI hasn’t worked thus far
    • Specialized intervention as needed
    • Explore possible IEP needs (at lower grade levels)


RtI in 10 Easy Steps (Brown-Chidsey & Steege, 2005):

  1. Research-Based Daily Instruction: Implement scientifically based general education instruction
  2. Regular Benchmarks: Collect benchmarks of all students (at least 3 times per year)
  3. Identify At-Risk Students: Identification of students scoring below benchmark targets
  4. Supplementary Instruction: Provide scientifically based small-group instruction (minimum of 3 weeks)
  5. Monitor Progress: Monitor student progress towards the benchmark (use assessment & data graphing)
  6. Adjust Groupings: Review, revise and/or discontinue small group instruction based on target success
  7. Increase Interventions: Increase intensity & duration of intervention for those not meeting benchmark target
  8. Adjust Groupings: Review, revise and/or discontinue small group instruction based on target success
  9. IST Process: Determine whether special education options need to be explored
  10. Individualized Interventions: Develop appropriate IEP (if necessary) or attempt different solutions


Implementing RtI at the Secondary Level (PJ Caposey, Principal at Oregon High):

  1. Fix Core Curriculum– ensure all instruction aligns with research based practices
    • Fix the curriculum
    • Align curriculum to standards
    • Prioritize standards
    • Maintain high expectations
    • Monitor frequently
  2. Embrace the Team Concept – teams for teachers with like content and like students
  3. Catch Students Before they Fail – work collaboratively with feeder pattern schools
  4. Forget the Triangle – Focus on both enrichment and intervention
  5. Social-Emotional Awareness and Support – embed support for socio-emotional needs


Other RtI Resources:

High School RtI Strategies Chart (Pittsford Sutherland High School) – This post highlights a list of strategies for Tier 1 interventions in the areas of management, instruction, assessment and other strategies.

High School RtI Strategies (The Meadows Center) – This post highlights the specific areas for instructional improvement to support classroom based interventions to build our effectiveness at the Tier 1 level.

Graphic Organizers – A great set of sample graphic organizers to help students learn at the Tier 1 level.  This is a link to the MilfordHigh School Website and contains lots of downloadable resource.

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