Response to Intervention (RTI) Models Using Tiered Pyramid Instruction


Response to Intervention (RTI) is a coordinated system of instruction and intervention which results in most students achieving benchmarks. RTI is about varying the intensity of intervention and instruction for students at-risk for poor learning outcomes in order to provide support before the student fails to make expected progress.

What is RTI?

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a coordinated system of instruction and intervention which results in most students achieving benchmarks. RTI is about varying the intensity of intervention and instruction for students at-risk for poor learning outcomes in order to provide support before the student fails to make expected progress. Levels of tiered instruction, resources, and assessment make up a school or school system’s approach to RTI. RTI is commonly linked to instruction in literacy and mathematics, but tiered supports are also the basis of PBIS and many of the same essential elements of RTI can be applied when designing a schoolwide positive culture system.

→ See the right systems, practices, and data for effective behavior interventions here

Tiered Instruction and Resources

Tier 1 – Universal Interventions and Supports

Tier 1 consists of enriched, high quality instruction and supports given to all students. The supports at the Tier 1 level are available to all students. To know if Tier 1 supports are working for all students, schools use Universal Screening Data as well as periodic assessment and other data collected on all students. Some examples of this type of data include: discipline data, standardized behavior assessment scores, classroom behavior data, and the number of students earning weekly/monthly rewards or experiences.

Tier 2 – Targeted Interventions and Supports

Tier 2 consists of instruction and supports given to students identified as at-risk for not meeting behavioral expectations in addition to the Tier 1 interventions and supports. After analyzing Universal Screening Data, students who demonstrate that they are at-risk might be provided Tier 2 interventions and supports to assist them in meeting the school-wide behavioral expectations. These interventions should be research-based and proven (through research reported in scientific, peer-reviewed journals) to decrease the risk of poor learning outcomes for at-risk students.

Diagnostic assessments are administered to students in order to identify their specific instructional needs. To know if Tier 2 supports are working, schools collect progress monitoring data on these students. Progress monitoring is regular (1-2 times per week), on-going, specific skills monitoring which directly relates back to the diagnostic information gathered on the at-risk student. For example, if a student is at-risk for frequent disciplinary removals because he or she displays physical aggression to his/her peers frequently, the intervention should be focused on helping the student avoid aggression, learn coping skills, and staff would monitor their progress around those aggressive behaviors. By replacing their problematic behavior with newly learned skills, students are better equipped to meet the school-wide expectations for behavior.

Tier 3 – Intensive Interventions and Supports

Tier 3 consists of individualized and intensive supports provided to the most at-risk students to reduce the intensity and/or severity of their behavioral challenges. These supports and interventions are the most intense and individualized out of all the tiers. Many educators assume these must be delivered one-on-one but that’s not necessarily true. Frequent, small group counseling could be one way to provide an intensive intervention to at-risk students. Schools implementing effective Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction should find no more than around 5% of students need intensive interventions at the Tier 3 level. More frequent progress monitoring may be implemented for students in Tier 3, perhaps as frequent as every hour or every class period. Students who do not respond to Tier 3 interventions may be referred for special education evaluations.

Common Myths About RTI

RTI is only about finding students eligible for special education.

  • RTI can help schools identify and support students before they are in need of special education supports.

RTI  is a hoop to jump through to get special education services.

  • RTI should never be used as a way to delay a referral to special education if a team has compelling evidence of a suspected disability. However, in many states, data collected through the RtI process is a necessary component for diagnosis of a disability. Determining whether a student simply lacks prerequisite skills to be successful is essential to preventing unnecessary special education identification.

RTI doesn’t involve the regular classroom teacher.

  • Quality RTI programs involve general educators from referral to implementation. Additionally, the general education curriculum must be considered at every level of tiered instruction and support.

RTI is a way to get others to do the job of special educators or give students special education support without an IEP.

  • RTI  is not special education and special education is not simply RTI. While tiered supports exist in both systems, students who are identified as having disabilities under IDEA are entitled to specialized instructional and supports that are often beyond the scope and intensity of an RTI program. Many times, students with identified disabilities are those who did not respond to the interventions and supports of the RtI system and, therefore, need something different to be provided by their special education teachers and staff.

RTIis an intervention brainstorming process.

  • While RTI certainly requires collaborative and creative solutions to deliver interventions to students, RTI should be a systematic process which utilizes pre-identified research-based interventions and supports.

RTI is only a way to give general educators suggestions for interventions.

  • The responsibility for a quality RTI program is not solely the responsibility of general education teachers. Once a student is identified as needing supports, a team of people should determine the course of action for that student and stick to a plan that is grounded in data and systematic monitoring of the student’s progress.

RTI is primarily about finding out what’s wrong with a student in order to intervene.

  • While diagnostic measures help educators determine the most appropriate interventions for each specific student, RTI does not diagnose students with disabilities and educators do not need to know precisely “what is wrong” before implementing an intervention and collecting data on its efficacy.

RTI is a waste of time.

  • Identifying and supporting students at risk for poor learning outcomes through RTI is proven to have individual and systemic benefits. A study conducted by VanDerHeyden, Witt, and Gilbertson in 2007 showed that RtI was beneficial in many ways. The results of the study indicated that an RTI model reduced the number of students evaluated for special education, practically eliminated the disproportional rate at which ethnic minority and male students were referred for special education, and reduced the amount of financial resources dedicated to unnecessary special education evaluations.

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