Many schools are beginning to use Response to Intervention (RTI) in the classroom, and educators have found that it has made a difference for many students. The purpose of RTI is to identify those children who are struggling in school and to ensure that each of those children receive just the right instruction or intervention to be successful.
Screening (testing) all children in a school helps identify students who may need extra help. Teachers choose specific materials or methods (the instruction or intervention) to use with children needing this extra help. Then, teachers and staff carefully keep track of whether or not the children are doing better and making progress when these materials and methods are used. (Keeping track of progress is called progress monitoring.) If the school or parents wait to provide the help that a child needs, the child can get further and further behind in reading. When you have concerns, it is important that you ask questions so that you and your child's school can work together to help your child.
There are a number of ways to screen for and identify those children who need extra help. For example, one type of screening test for students in kindergarten and first grade quickly measures how well a student understands the sounds that letters make within a word. (Making the sounds of letters in a word is called "decoding.") Teachers have found that students who have a good understanding of sounds and letters will be more successful in learning to read than students who don't have that same understanding. Another type of screening test for students who already know how to read asks students to read a paragraph or story. The teacher checks to see how many correct words the student reads in one minute. (The number of words read in one minute is called "the oral reading fluency rate.") Scores on this type of test give teachers a good idea of whether or not the child is having difficulties in reading.
Teachers also check to see how well students understand what they read. (Understanding what you read is called "reading comprehension.") If students have a good understanding of what they read, we say that they have good reading comprehension.
Please note that the RTI practices relate to practices regardless of subject area. For example, RTI can be used with reading or with math instruction.
To find out whether a child needs extra help, schools use "universal" or "school-wide" screening. Some schools look at the results of yearly national, state or district tests. Other schools give all the children in all of the grades screening tests early in the year and again in the middle and at the end of the school year. Some schools do both. Schools are happy to know early in the year which students need help so that teachers can begin helping them right away.
Instruction that occurs in tiers, or levels, is called tiered instruction. Tiered instruction is usually organized into three or four tiers, although some schools include more. Each tier is different, with each level having an increase in intensity or an increased number of teacher-student interactions.
The term "intervention" refers to a specific type of instruction that is used to help with a specific type of problem. There are many high-quality, research-based instructional methods, programs and interventions. However, some strategies lack this research support. Therefore, an important part of RTI is choosing the appropriate methods, programs, and interventions for students who need extra help.
Parents who have concerns about their student's progress are encouraged to ask questions about school-wide screening, how progress in monitored, tiered instruction, research based instruction and how school staff collaborate to best serve students.