Response to Intervention

  • Understanding Response to Intervention

    Helping a child who is having difficulty in school is a concern of parents and teachers alike. Everyone wants to see their child excel, and it can be very frustrating when a child falls behind in class. Traditionally, children having the most difficulty have been referred for an evaluation to determine if they need and qualify for special education services as a result of a learning disability. However, there is a growing effort in education to provide more targeted help, or interventions, to struggling learners before they either fall too far behind or require special education services. This process is called “Response to Intervention” (RTI) and its goal is to ensure that whenever possible children succeed in their general education classrooms.

    What Are the Essential Components of RTI?

    Response to Intervention emphasizes how well students respond to changes in instruction. The essential elements of RTI are: providing scientific, research-based instruction and interventions in general education; monitoring and measuring student progress in response to the instruction and interventions; and using these measures to shape instruction and make educational decisions. In general, the core features of an RTI process include:

    • High quality, research-based instruction and behavioral support in general education.
    • Universal (school-wide or district-wide) screening of academics and behavior in order to determine which students need closer monitoring or additional interventions.
    • Multiple tiers of increasingly intense scientific, research-based interventions that are matched to student need.
    • Use of a collaborative approach by school staff for development, implementation, and monitoring of the intervention process.
    • Continuous monitoring of student progress during the interventions, using objective information to determine if students are meeting goals.
    • Follow-up measures providing information that the intervention was implemented as intended and with appropriate consistency.

    What Are the Key Terms?

    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 screening can be accomplished by reviewing recent results of state tests, or by administering an academic screening test to all children in a given grade level. Those students whose test scores fall below a certain cut-off are identified as needing more specialized academic interventions.

    Student Progress Monitoring is a scientifically based practice that is used to frequently assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring procedures can be used with individual students or an entire class.

    Scientific, Research-Based Instruction refers to specific curriculum and educational interventions that have been proven to be effective; that is, the research has been reported in scientific, peer-reviewed journals.

    How Can Parents Be Involved in the RTI Process?

    Parents play a vital role in their child’s school success. Being informed about your school’s RTI process is the first step to becoming an active partner. Questions to ask include:

    • Does our school use an RTI process? At the Intermediate School, we do implement the RTI process for both reading and mathematics.
    • What interventions are being used, and are these scientifically based as supported by research? At the Intermediate School, we offer several research-based interventions in both reading and mathematics. Students inclusion in these intervention groups is based upon the data received from benchmark assessments, PSSA scores, and mid-year and end-year assessments.
    • What length of time is recommended for an intervention before determining if the student is making adequate progress? Research suggests that interventions should be implemented for 6-8 weeks in order to determine if adequate progress has been made.
    • How do school personnel check to be sure that the interventions were carried out as planned? Our intervention teachers are trained at the beginning of the school year in all interventions. These teachers also regularly consult with the RTI teacher.

    What Are the Potential Benefits of RTI?

    An RTI approach eliminates a “wait to fail” situation because students get help promptly within the general education setting before falling too far behind. RTI also has the potential to reduce the number of students unnecessarily referred for special education services because it helps distinguish between those students whose achievement problems are due to a learning disability and those students whose achievement problems are due to other issues that can be addressed in general education. Finally, parents and school teams alike find that the RTI student progress monitoring techniques provide more instructionally relevant information than traditional assessments.

    Adapted from: “Response to Intervention: A Primer for Parents,” by Mary Beth Klotz and Andrea Canter,, 2006. The full handout is available online at