RTI Blog

Every week we will have a new editorial from an experienced implementer and/or researcher who will be posting commentary about common, emerging, or controversial issues regarding RTI. Readers are invited to post their reactions and thoughts.

Bigger than the Details: Topics to Build into Faculty Discussions
In the district I serve, we’ve made considerable advancements with our RtI practices. We have a district protocol that has served us well for several years. We are expanding our protocol into our preschool settings and we continue to work hard to integrate our academic and behavior structures. We have a multi-year approach to growing our skills around evidence-based practices, data-based decision making, and the application of the problem-solving process. Yet, while every building in the district could make the list of particular practices they want to improve and strengthen, there are some important topics that deserve some conversation and acknowledgement among our faculties.
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Getting the Best Return on Investment from MTSS/RTI Assessments
Districts and schools across the country have invested heavily in screening assessments to identify students who will need additional support to be successful in light of increasing standards (e.g. CCSS). These screening assessments often measure “general outcomes” (e.g. comprehension) and are very reliable predictors of state summative assessments. Unfortunately, they offer little guidance to teachers and administrators about what to do if a student is predicted not to be successful. These same screening assessments are often used to monitor student progress across the year. Many of these assessments have been normed, are equated for difficulty, and even have adaptive versions which allow their use 3-5 times per year. This ensures that a “reliable estimate of student growth” can be obtained. Thus, schools and teachers can make reliable and valid decisions about student progress, as well as which instruction and intervention supports seem to be effective for students. In order for a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) to be effective and for Response to Intervention (RTI) implementation to be successful, schools must be able to determine not just “if” instruction and intervention supports are working, but which students they are working for, how well they are working, and under what conditions they are working (e.g. with a specific amount of intensity).
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MTSS/RTI: The Power to Transform Schools and Districts
While Response to Intervention (RTI) may have stemmed from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as an alternative to the discrepancy model for identifying students with learning disabilities, many schools and districts across the country have realized that when they pair RTI with a Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS), the result is a reform methodology that not only provides better supports for students who struggle academically, but improves instruction and outcomes for every student. MTSS provides consistent methods to identify students who struggle, target tiered instruction and intervention supports, determine progress, and support professional learning efforts of staff. RTI provides a consistent methodology for evaluating the effectiveness and success of that system of supports. Both MTSS and RTI are needed to ensure the success of every student in a school or district.
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A Middle School Principal’s Perspective: Challenges to Scheduling a Multi-Tier System of Supports
Before discussing scheduling challenges, I should mention an intervention that we have in place. It will come in handy to understand as I progress through this blog entry. You may remember from my last blog post that we offer a “split” Language Arts program in our 6th and 7th grade classes. All students in these grades get both a Literature and Writing class. I described our intervention course for students who need help in Literature, but neglected to do so for Writing.
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Progress Monitoring: Teacher and Student Reflections for Problem-Solving
The practice of monitoring student progress for instructional decision making is an essential component of a tiered system of support. The purpose of progress monitoring is to have feedback systems so we know when students are learning and demonstrating essential skills and when we need to plan differently to meet their needs.

This concept was right in line with a recent endeavor of mine. I purchased a Fitbit – one of those bracelets that tracks my activity throughout the day. I can synch effortlessly with my iPhone, iPad, or through my computer. Instant feedback! I have learned very quickly that the daily monitoring, without a concentrated focus on changing my exercise habits, only makes my graph look good by chance (i.e., those days I happened to have a schedule that took me to many buildings and classrooms). For several weeks I was hoping that a daily look at the data would motivate me to get my routine going more consistently. It hasn’t. It will happen. As I’ve humbled myself to the point of getting serious, I find myself reflecting on the questions that I must answer in order to develop a plan that has a chance of working. I’m fortunate that my desire for a more fit and healthy lifestyle is one of preference and not a medical must.
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See all entries in the archive.