3 tiers of RTI support

When students fall behind, schools try to help them catch up. Many schools now use an approach that groups kids by how much they’re struggling. They give each group targeted teaching, with the kids who are struggling the most getting the most help. Schools monitor how kids do. They move them between groups as needed.

This is called response to intervention (RTI) and has three tiers — for the level of support kids need. Here’s a look at the three tiers of RTI.

Tier 1: The whole class

All students in the general education classroom are in Tier 1. Teachers use methods like phonics that are proven to work. With RTI, there must be research backing up the teaching method.

Students in this tier may work in small groups. Teachers do their best to give the kids teaching that fits their skill levels and how they learn best. However, there’s not always time to give kids individual attention.

The school tracks kids’ progress through homework, tests, and other measures so it can see how the kids are doing. If a child is struggling, the child may move into Tier 2.

Tier 2: Small group interventions

Kids who aren’t making progress in Tier 1 will get Tier 2 help. This usually means small group lessons two to three times a week, using methods that are proven to work. It can also mean special teaching. Educators call this help “interventions.”

It’s important to know that kids who are in Tier 2 still take part in regular lessons with the rest of the class. They still get Tier 1 support.

Every one or two weeks, the teacher checks the skill levels of the students to see if they’ve made progress. If they’re doing great, students might return to Tier 1. If not, the school might keep a child in Tier 2 or even move the child to Tier 3.

Tier 3: Intensive interventions

When kids are struggling and Tier 1 and 2 support don’t seem to help, they are put into Tier 3. This is the most intense level of RTI.

Tier 3 can mean small group work, or it can mean individual lessons. Most kids who get this support still spend a lot of their day in a general education classroom. Yet they may spend bigger parts of the day in a resource room.

Because kids in Tier 3 are the most at-risk students, schools keep a close eye on them. Teachers check their progress a lot, with the goal that the students will improve enough to leave Tier 3.

In schools that use RTI, students can still get . The difference is that to get special education, a child must be evaluated and qualify, which can take time. To get RTI, a child only needs to be at risk of falling behind.

Get answers to FAQs about RTI. Read about the difference between RTI and MTSS. See a list of questions to ask the school about the RTI process.


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