How to Implement Behavior RTI in the Classroom


RTI, or Response to Intervention, is a proactive approach where schools focus on providing high-quality instruction and interventions that align to student needs. Students that demonstrate behavioral challenges are identified through universal screenings, given specifically designed interventions, and progress-monitored to show their response to evidence-based interventions. 

Here is how to implement behavior RTI in the classroom at each tier.

Establish Strong Tier I Universal Supports

Tier I supports are provided for all students as a research-based curriculum and universal supports. Setting up these universal supports allows schools to establish a schoolwide system of behavior expectations, positive and corrective consequences, and reinforcements for positive behavior choices. If taught, implemented, and monitored correctly, 85% of misbehaviors should be prevented in Tier I.

Read our MTSS & RTI Guide

At this step, schools need to be honest and reflective about their Tier I procedures and if they are being implemented with fidelity. A school can determine this easily by looking at the number of students that are not responding to Tier I successfully. This data includes reprimands, detentions, loss of privileges, referrals, suspension rates, notes documented into Kickboard, expulsions, and more.

If higher than 15-20% of students are not succeeding with existing Tier I systems, schools need to re-train staff and revisit their Behavior RTI Tier I supports. If this percentage is too high, schools need to analyze their data to determine deficit areas and ways to decrease the number of students that are not responding to Tier I instruction. For example, the school might need to refocus on teaching behavioral expectations, positive strategies for students, positive rewards and incentives, or additional new teacher coaching for improving classroom behavior management skills. Administrators must analyze behavior data for pockets, or hot spots, where their time and support should be focused to strengthen Tier I. For example, a grade level, classroom, or area of the school like the recess yard or hallway could be struggling more than others. This will help administrators know exactly where to target their support before undergoing a major change to the system. 

Implement Tier II Interventions for Students’ Specific Needs

The most important thing for teachers to do at Tier I is to collect and track data about student behavior. This will show which students are and are not responding to Tier I, or Universal Supports. When students are not meeting Tier I behavior expectations within a designated length of time, they move to Tier II RTI. Tier II should be around 10% to 15% of the student population. If more than 15% of students appear in need of Tier II intervention, revisit Tier I systems and adjust.

In order to move a student to Tier II, the behavior data collected needs to be objective and specific. Tier II is where students receive small group, targeted interventions on specific social skills and behaviors that they were not exhibiting with Tier I support. Schools must be sure to match the intervention to the need or lagging skills for each student. This can be difficult for the RTI team to determine if data is not detailed about what the specific behaviors the student struggles with. 

Schools sometimes use a blanket “social skills” small group intervention for students in Tier II but those rarely meet the specific needs of each student. Try to hone in on more specific skills like friendship groups, attendance groups, and anger management groups.

It is important to note that students at Tier II are still receiving Tier I interventions every day and are additionally receiving more intensive, small group instruction with more frequent assessment of these skills in Tier II. Small groups should be 6 to 8 students for 30-40 minutes a week and run for two to three months. Small group interventionists should be monitoring progress and collecting data every time the group meets. That data should be analyzed every week to determine whether Tier II interventions are improving student behavior and adjustments should be made if not. Students who are not making adequate progress in Tier II will be considered for Tier III interventions, which are one-on-one intensive interventions.

Time also needs to be dedicated for classroom teachers and educators delivering small group interventions to meet. Interventionists need to explain what skills and behaviors are being taught in small groups so classroom teachers can look for and reinforce those behaviors in their classrooms. Data must be collected by all staff to determine if Tier II interventions are improving student behavior.

Implement Individual Tier III Interventions

Tier III, or Intensive and Individual Supports, is effective when used with a collaborative behavioral support team (BST) comprised of the student, family, teachers, and service providers. A BIP (Behavioral Intervention Plan) should be in place to detail the positive behavior supports needed to address highly disruptive and/or dangerous behaviors that hinder learning. At Tier III, progress-monitoring should be done daily or multiple times each day with extensive documentation to ensure positive changes occur from intensive interventions and that the necessary changes occur for students to attain identified behavioral goals. Students who do not make progress in Tier III may be considered for special education services.

Additional Thoughts

Schools must have an RTI or Behavior Support Team comprised of members who can make decisions around time, resources, and materials provided to staff. Members should include principal, vice principal, counselor, school psychologist, social workers, special education teachers, and intervention teachers. This team should meet bi-monthly or monthly to discuss whole school Tier I data, classroom data, teacher data, and individual student progress in Tier I, Tier II and Tier III.

RTI provides a three-tiered level of behavioral support to all students, if needed. When implementing RTI in the classroom, use data for decision making, evidence-based interventions that match student needs, monitor progress of interventions and their success, and check the fidelity of interventions before moving to the next tier. The goal is for these supports to remediate the problem behaviors to get students to be successful in classrooms so learning can take place.