RTI and MTSS work only when implemented with fidelity



In November, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education published an evaluation of RTI. Ed Week then published an article interpreting the findings of the evaluation. The title of the article was: Study: RTI falls short of promise.

The RTI listserv and the RTI Action Network are dedicated to evidence based RTI (and MTSS), implemented with fidelity.

The problem the RTI listserv has with the study and its interpretation in Ed Week is that the reaction to the evaluation to this point does not take into account the potential misapplication of RTI in the districts and schools evaluated. As examples, the evaluation did not assess the quality of the interventions used nor the fidelity with which the interventions were used.

The RTI listserv decided that that there is a need to respond to the evaluation and the article.

The first response was to write a commentary. It was posted on Ed Week on January 5, 2016 (Four Steps to Implement RTI Correctly).

Amanda VanDerHeyden, Kim Gibbons, and Matt Burns developed presentations on smarter screening, leadership, and reading interventions.


Mark Shinn and Rachel Brown contributed an article calling for careful analysis of the evaluation and its methodology.
  • Much Ado About Little: The Dangers of Disseminating the RTI Outcome Study without Careful Analysis
  • Brief Summary of the Shinn-Brown Review of the IES Report on Response to Intervention
    • Among the IES Report’s major findings, it was reported that RTI intervention had no effect at Grades 2 and 3 and potentially harmful effects at Grade 1.
    • Release of the IES Report has led to widespread mis- and over-interpretation of the study’s conclusions about effects of RTI on achievement of students with reading difficulties.
    • The Report should be interpreted as a study of RTI practices and not RTI outcomes.
    • Attributions about the lack effects about RTI as a whole need to be interpreted with caution due to concerns with external validity, including:
      • the subjects that formed the basis for the conclusions were those with mild, if any, reading achievement difficulties;
      • these students are typically not the primary focus nor intent of RTI efforts.
    • Conclusions about RTI effects must be tempered by the fact that:
      • Up to 45% of schools reported additional intervention to all students, not just those students Somewhat or Far Below grade-level reading achievement through their RTI approach.
      • RTI interventions detailed in the report supplanted sizeable proportions of core instruction for most students, rather than being supplemental; and
      • RTI interventions were only a few more minutes each day in groups that were smaller by one student.
    • Results of this Report should be interpreted more as an indictment of the difficulty of high fidelity educational improvement implementation, like other educational reforms and not be used to discourage RTI efforts.


We invite your responses to these postings.


It would be a disaster if RTI were to criticized because faulty implementation of this evidence based practice.  All of the authors hope that these postings will help educators to understand more fully the need to implement RTI with integrity so that student outcomes will improve.
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