How to Plan a Response to Intervention (RTI) Program


Many schools want to reduce their number of overall discipline referrals and suspensions, as well as provide support to students who are frequently removed from the classroom because of behavioral challenges.

Many schools want to reduce their number of overall discipline referrals and suspensions, as well as provide support to students who are frequently removed from the classroom because of behavioral challenges. If students have trouble in reading, we teach them how to read. Behavior is no different! When students struggle to meet behavioral expectations, schools should plan to provide appropriately matched supports to at-risk students through their RtI programming.

→ Check out our Secret Step to effective behavior interventions 

Identify and Plan Tiered Curriculum, Supports, and Resources

Schools begin their RtI program by evaluating the effectiveness of their current Tier 1 instruction and supports. Tier 1 is what every student receives in the areas of literacy, math, and behavior. Begin by examining the percentage of students meeting behavior expectations, earning zero suspensions or send outs, and Universal Screening outcomes. An effective Tier 1 includes explicit instruction on school-wide behavioral expectations and a system for providing both positive and corrective consequences for meeting those expectations.

Then, schools should determine if they already provide any interventions to support at-risk students. Many already do – or believe they do. It is important that educators conduct research about their interventions. Research for any particular intervention should include studies that use randomized designs. Especially look for meta-analysis studies, which examine several studies at once. 

Don’t rely on publishers to supply these and be prepared to do your own research. Make sure the intervention has been proven effective before you decide to move forward with a commercially available product. There are many free or low-cost, research-based options available to schools related to behavior intervention, as well.

After conducting research, schools should select interventions that seem to meet their at-risk students’ needs. A menu of interventions will be important in the long run, as not all students who are at-risk in have the same needs. However, to start, schools can focus on one to two interventions that meet the needs of most Tier 2 and Tier 3 students. Starting with too many interventions, without providing adequate support for staff implementing them, will potentially lead to poor outcomes. Make sure that the difference between the intensity of the interventions for Tier 2 and Tier 3 is clearly defined and is supported by research. Are students in Tier 2 receiving the intervention for just a few days a week for 30 minutes – the minimum establish in the research? Then perhaps at the Tier 3 level, students receive the intervention in a smaller group, more frequently. There are many ways to increase the intensity of an intervention: frequency, duration, and groupings are just a few examples of intensification strategies.

Plan to Make Data-Based Decisions at Every Level

Using student learning in response to instruction to make important educational decisions is one of the core components of an RtI program. First, plan to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the Tier 1 instruction and supports provided to all students. Effective instruction that works for most students is a foundation of a solid RtI program. If more than 20-25% of the students require supplemental support outside of Tier 1, the school will likely struggle to provide the resources needed to sustain a high quality program. Schools should use readily available data such as discipline data, Universal Screening scores, and classroom behavior data to evaluate the effectiveness of Tier 1. If the school does not currently utilize a universal screener in the area of behavior, research should be conducted to select one that best fits the school’s needs.

Next, schools need to match their interventions at the Tier 2 and Tier 3 level to progress monitoring tools that can help them decide whether students are responding to those supports. Effective progress-monitoring measures should be: reliable, short, easy to administer, as well as sensitive to change. There are both commercially available products and free resources which meet this standard. With just a little research, schools can find affordable tools that can help them data-based decisions about whether a student is responding to their interventions.

One other important tip for schools regarding progress monitoring – determine the rules for moving students into/out of tiers before you begin implementing an intervention. If the student is expected to achieve a particular score consistently for two weeks before being moved out of a Tier 2 intervention, decide what that score should be in advance of starting to collect progress monitoring data. Remaining consistent and focused on meaningful results will help students reap the full benefits of the interventions they’re provided.

Support Practitioners and Check Fidelity

Along the way, schools should plan to provide training, coaching, and support to any staff member delivering an intervention to an at-risk student. Checking that the intervention is delivered with fidelity – that is, as it was intended – is important to ensuring that intervention can have their intended effect. Teachers and staff especially need support when beginning to implement a new intervention or whenever they are working with a new group of students.


Here at Kickboard, we have seen schools develop and improve Response to Intervention systems using our mobile app, web platform and professional development services.