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Response to Intervention (RTI)

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is a term that you may be hearing about as a parent or community member who follows educational trends. Below is an explanation of RTI and how it's being used in Schuylerville.


Q: What is Response to Intervention (RTI)?





A: Response to Intervention, or RTI, is an educational strategy used in schools to: (1) provide effective and high-quality instruction, (2) monitor all students’ progress to make sure they’re progressing as expected and (3) provide additional support (intervention) to students who are struggling.

RTI can be considered an early intervention tool that’s designed to quickly identify students who need extra help, thereby preventing long-term failure. The monitoring of students allows teaching professionals to identify the exact skill areas where pupils need additional instruction that’s targeted to a student’s individual needs. If the student isn’t responding, other instructional approaches are used and/or the intensity is increased (i.e., students may receive extra help more often, in smaller groups or from academic intervention teachers). This progression through more intensive instructional practices is the reason RTI is often described as a “multi-tier” system.

THE Three "Tiers" of RTI
(YouTube video)

Federal laws require schools to use the RTI model; individual states can adopt more specific strategies for implementing this model. In New York State (and in many other states), RTI is comprised of three tiers of instruction that gradually increase in intensity. Schuylerville began implementing the RTI two years ago when the model was piloted in fourth-grade classrooms.

Click here to link to the New York State Department of Education’s information on RTI. Also, see the YouTube video at the right for a general description of RTI’s three tiers of instruction (



Q: What are the key characteristics or components of RTI?





A: Some of terms you’ll hear related to RTI include: screening; progress monitoring; tiered instruction; high-quality, research-based instruction/interventions; differentiated instruction and fidelity of implementation. Yes, the terms might seem like a list of bureaucratic, educational jargon, but here are some (hopefully!) easy-to-understand explanations:


square bulletScreening, school-wide screening or universal screening: A quick assessment/test that measures students’ skills or behaviors to determine if they are achieving at the expected level for their grade. In Schuylerville, these screenings are done three times per year (fall, winter, spring). They are used to identify learners who are considered at risk of not learning the foundational skills they need to meet state and national academic standards. Teachers choose specific materials or methods (the instruction or intervention) to use with learners who need extra help and then track the students’ progress (see explanation of progress monitoring below). 






square bulletProgress monitoring: For students needing extra help, members of the teacher staff frequently check the progress of pupils to see if the instructional support is working and to provide information on how to possibly adjust the instruction to best meet student needs.







square bulletTiered instruction: Within the RTI structure in New York, there are three different levels, or tiers, of instruction. The general education that all children receive in their regular classroom is considered Tier 1. Tier 2 instruction is provided in addition to Tier 1 (not as a replacement). At Schuylerville Elementary School, Tier 2 consists of 30 minutes of additional instruction that’s based on each student’s skill level (whether there’s a skill deficit or the student is achieving at acceptable levels or the student is advanced). Tier 3 interventions are for students who have not progressed under Tier 2 instructional strategies; learners in this tier are in groups no larger than three and receive intensive instruction five times a week.







square bulletHigh-quality, research-based instruction/interventions: Simply put, this means that all school staff members are using instructional methods and materials that have been proven (through scientific research) to work effectively.







square bulletDifferentiated instruction: Students have different learning styles; some may learn better by reading silently, while others may learn better by having teachers read to them or give examples and analogies. Teachers are expected to recognize students’ different learning styles and adjust their instruction (i.e., provide “differentiated instruction”) to meet the needs of all learning styles.







square bulletFidelity of implementation: When educators design good instructional methods and materials, they test them to be sure they work well. When teachers use these methods and materials, it’s important that they consistently use them the way they’re supposed to be used; this is describe as fidelity of implementation. Here’s an analogy that might help make the concept easier to understand—if you’re left-handed, the best scissors to use are those designed for lefties. If you’re right-handed, you can assure “fidelity of implementation,” by using scissors designed for right-handers.



Q: How is Schuylerville using RTI?





A: Currently, teachers at Schuylerville Elementary School are required to use RTI in the area of reading. Some have chosen to also use RTI approaches in math.

All Elementary School students are screened (tested) a minimum of three times per year (fall, winter, spring). Learners receiving extra help are tested more often.

The district using such tools as AIMSweb, which parents have likely heard about from classroom teachers and school administrators. The student achievement information obtained in the fall provides a good benchmark to track student growth throughout the school year.

The results of the screenings can be examined in a number of ways—for example, by individual student, by classroom and/or by grade level. Some of the most important information for Schuylerville teachers comes from individual student and classroom results. The individual student results show the specific skills each pupil needs to work on and if the student is at risk of not meeting minimum state and federal academic standards. If a student is considered to be at risk, he/she will be given extra instruction that’s targeted to his/her skill deficiency.

The information obtained from student screenings is also extremely helpful for teachers when they’re planning classroom lessons. Here’s an example: Perhaps a pattern emerges from the screenings that shows many students in the class are struggling with vocabulary. This means the teacher will immediately know that curriculum content needs to be adjusted to focus more on vocabulary. Since the screenings are frequent, this valuable feedback can lead to positive instructional changes much quicker now than has occurred in the past when the district waited many months for state test results to be tallied and returned.



Q: What other tools are used to determine if students need extra instruction?





A: The staff also uses report cards, classroom work samples, state and local tests, observation checklists, behavioral logs and attendance data.



Q: How is extra instruction provided under Schuylerville Elementary School’s RTI program?





A: Tier 1 in Schuylerville’s RTI program is used to describe the regular classroom instruction. So, this is the teaching and learning that takes place for a majority of the school day.

Each grade level then has the 30 minutes of RTI scheduled at a common time (for instance, all kindergarten classes from 10:05 to 10:35 a.m., all first-grade classes from 9 to 9:30 a.m., etc.). For this block of time, the classroom teacher and AIS (academic intervention services) teacher or special education teacher have planned how to best meet the needs of each student in the grade.

Pupils who are achieving within normal levels, but could benefit from a little extra assistance, work with classroom teachers to address their skill deficits. Students who are achieving beyond their grade level are provided with enrichment activities. This approach allows students at all academic levels to receive the type of instruction that best suits them.

Students who are at highest risk of not meeting academic standards receive extra help in very small groups with instruction provided by AIS or special education teachers; this is Tier 2 instruction.

Schuylerville Elementary School students are continually monitored to determine how they’re progressing. Once they achieve the skills they need, they move on, so it’s normal for there to be a continual change in the makeup of RTI groups. In addition to addressing specific student needs, this process is also beneficial because students have the chance to meet peers outside their regular class, as well as work with more members of the teaching staff.



Q: What happens when students don’t respond to skill deficit approaches in the Tier 2 level?





A: If students are not responding to the skill deficit instruction, other methods (interventions) are tried, with each lasting six to eight weeks. If these multiple interventions don’t help, students move to Tier 3. Tier 3 has an additional 30 minutes of instruction in an intensive, specialized reading program provided by a reading specialist five times per week. Students who do not make adequate progress at this tier will be referred to the Committee on Special Education (CSE) to determine if special education services are needed.


Q: What percentage of Schuylerville students do you expect to have at each tier?





A: Schuylerville Elementary School is expected to have 80 percent of its learners achieving at normal levels in Tier 1. Five to 10 percent of students are expected to need Tier 2 targeted instruction, while 1 to 6 percent are likely to receive Tier 3 instruction.



Q: How is student progress reported to Schuylerville parents?





A: New York State requires districts to provide reports about screening results to parents only if the school is recommending that students receive extra help. However, Schuylerville Elementary School teachers and administrators feel it’s extremely important for parents to see the results of all their children’s screenings, so results are sent home in the form of an AIMSweb “Well Checks” report at least three times per year (fall, winter spring). If students are screened more often, parents will receive reports more frequently.

Please click here to see a sample AIMSweb Well Checks report, with an explanation of how to interpret the results



Q: How can parents become involved in the RTI process?





A: The hallmarks of effective home-school collaboration include open communication and involvement of parents in all stages of learning. Being informed about the RTI process, understanding what a child’s screening results mean and regularly communicating with the classroom teacher are among the first steps to becoming an active partner. 



Q: How can parents support their children?





A: There are many ways for parents to help support what their children are doing in school. Here are just a few:


square bulletMake reading an everyday habit at home. Literacy skills are the foundation for success in all subject areas.







square bulletCommunicate with your child’s teacher. Find out what activities you can do at home to support the classroom activities that are taking place. Also, request regular reports on your child’s progress.







square bulletMonitor homework and provide assistance.







square bulletCelebrate and share your child’s successes.







square bulletAttend parent-teacher conferences and other school meetings that provide information about curriculum, testing and classroom activities.



Q: What are the advantages of Schuylerville’s RTI program?





A: RTI models have numerous benefits:


square bulletOne of the most commonly cited benefits of an RTI approach is that it eliminates a “wait to fail” situation. Learners get the specific help they need very quickly.







square bulletAll decisions regarding the instruction students need are based on data.







square bulletWith RTI’s continuous progress monitoring, staff are provided with more relevant information about student needs.







square bulletAll interventions (extra help provided to students) are monitored for their effectiveness. If a particular intervention isn’t working, another intervention is attempted—similar to a doctor changing the type of antibiotics used when the first doesn’t work.







square bulletAll students receive high-quality, research-based instruction in the general education setting.







square bulletParents can receive reports about their children’s progress more often.







square bulletThere is a built-in program for accelerated students.







square bulletTeamwork! All teachers in a grade level, as well as the academic intervention staff and special education staff are working together to help each student reach his/her potential. Learners not only benefit from having a team working with them, they may also benefit from the differing instructional styles of each teaching professional.



Q: Are there any disadvantages?





A: RTI has been a time-consuming process for teachers to learn and implement, especially with numerous other new educational initiatives taking place at the same time. However, as is the case with other new programs, RTI has become easier with time.



Q: How is RTI different from special education?





A: RTI strategies are used to determine the best educational approaches for all students, not just pupils who are struggling or who have learning challenges. As such, it may be part of the process used to eventually identify students who may qualify for special education services, but that’s not the overall goal of RTI. In fact, RTI may lead to fewer students identified for special education services because specific skill deficiencies are identified and addressed more quickly than has been the case in the past.



Q: How can I get more information on RTI?





A: Please feel free to speak with your child’s teacher or an administrator at Schuylerville Elementary School. You may also find the following web sites helpful:


square bulletNew York State Education Department’s “Parent’s Guide to Response to Intervention”





square bulletNew York State Response to Intervention Technical Assistance Center (Links in the “for parents” section may be of particular interest.





square bulletRTI Action Network





square bulletNational Center for Learning Disabilities





square bulletNational Center on Response to Intervention





square bulletParent Center Network