Field Studies of RTI Effectiveness Response to Intervention and Retention (RTI&R) Model

Study Citation


Murray, C. S., Woodruff, A. L., & Vaughn, S. (2010). First-grade student retention within a 3-tier reading framework. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 26, 26–50.


Program Description


The Response to Intervention and Retention (RTI&R) model is part of a large-scale implementation of a multi-tiered approach to preventing reading difficulties (see Exit Group Model [EGM]). The RTI&R model examines the association between implementing an RTI framework and retaining students in elementary school.

As with the EGM, within the RTI&M model general education teachers are responsible for implementing the Tier 1 evidence-based instruction in the classroom. Specially trained tutors were responsible for implementing the intensive supplemental interventions based on the findings of the National Reading Panel. Instruction in the next three tiers lasted 35 minutes and was held daily for up to 30 weeks. Each tutor received more than 20 hours of training before the study began and met with the university-based research team leader once a week to obtain further information on how to address specific issues related to teaching and intervention.


Purpose of Study


Murray et al. (2010) conducted the study to discover the impact of the RTI&R model on retention outcomes. Specifically, the purpose of the study was to answer the following question:

1. Does the retention rate of first grade students change when a prevention framework is implemented in a school district?
2. Does implementing a prevention framework affect the way in which retention decisions are made?
3. How do students who are retained 1 or 2 years after the implementation of a prevention framework compare with students retained using a more "traditional" school framework on reading and social outcomes?


Study Method


The study used a historical control design. All 1st grade classrooms across six Title I elementary schools participated in the study for three school years. Each of the three school years represented one cohort of teachers and students. The initial cohort of teachers and students (e.g., Cohort I) served as the historical control group as the teachers did not receive Tier I support and the students received no Tier 2 supports.


Study Results


Question 1: With regard to the retention rate of 1st grade students, a decrease of 47% was reported for the 2 years the RTI&R framework was being implemented. The authors defined retention as a) the school district retained the student at the end of the academic year or b) the student was moved back to the previous grade level within the first 3 months of the next academic year.
Question 2: Using a qualitative interview approach (e.g., principal interviews), the researchers tried to determine if the RTI framework affected how retention decisions were made. While each principal agreed there had been a decrease in retention, it was unclear how the RTI framework affected the retention decisions. The principals each used assessment results, parental input, and grades to ultimately make retention decisions.
Question 3: The final research question produced mixed results. Compared to retained 1st graders participating in a traditional school model (e.g., Cohort 1), retained 1st graders participating in the second year of the RTI framework (e.g., Cohort 3) demonstrated equivalent or improved basic reading skills (e.g., word reading, reading comprehension, alphabetic principles), decreased reading fluency, fewer social skills, and more behavior problems.

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