At a glance
Response to intervention (RTI) is a systematic way of identifying struggling students and giving them extra help.
Monitoring students’ progress is a big part of RTI.
The RTI process is designed to provide extra help before students fall significantly behind their classmates.
Chances are good that if you’re searching for information about (RTI), your child is struggling in school and is starting to receive more academic support in a general education classroom. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you understand what RTI is and how this process can help your child.
Does my child’s school have to use RTI?
In some states, public schools are required to use RTI. But it’s not a federal requirement. It’s also important to keep in mind that RTI is not a specific program or type of teaching method. It’s a proactive approach to identifying and helping struggling learners.
The RTI process emphasizes keeping track of how students respond to instructional interventions. Targeted teaching helps many kids catch up. But some students may not make enough progress even with the most intensive interventions. This could be a sign of a . Data gathered during the RTI process can help schools determine whether a child is eligible for services.
Get more information in this in-depth overview of RTI.
My child’s school uses something called MTSS. Is this different from RTI?
MTSS stands for “multi-tiered system of supports.” In some schools, MTSS and RTI mean pretty much the same thing. Both involve providing increasing levels of support to students who are struggling. At some schools, RTI refers to the process of identifying students’ needs and MTSS is the framework for supporting those needs.
Another possible difference is that RTI tends to focus on academics. MTSS is generally a broader term that addresses students’ social, emotional and behavioral needs as well as academic issues. Learn more about MTSS.
What are the benefits of RTI?
One main benefit of RTI is that it provides extra help before students fall significantly behind their classmates. Screening the whole class makes it easier to identify early on which kids are struggling in the general education classroom. Then school resources can be used to help them make progress.
RTI can also reduce referrals for special education services. Some kids aren’t doing well in school because they haven’t been taught certain skills. Maybe these students were absent a lot. Or maybe they were in a classroom where many of the kids were far behind and the teacher was struggling to catch everyone up.
With the right kind of extra help, these students are likely to show improvement without needing special education services.
Can I opt out of or refuse RTI for my child?
It depends on your school district. Schools tend to set their own policies around RTI, and parent rights vary. A school only has to let you know your child is participating in RTI—beyond that there’s little requirement.
You typically don’t need to give consent for your child to be involved in the RTI process, especially at the early levels. That’s because when RTI is implemented correctly, every student in the general education classroom is a part of the RTI program. The general education curriculum and teaching is usually the “Tier 1” level of support.
If you’re concerned about your child participating in RTI, contact your child’s teacher or the school’s curriculum director. Ask them questions like:
- What is the goal of Tier 1 for all students and, more specifically, for my child?
- Can you provide the research that shows the Tier 1 instruction is high quality and evidence-based?
- Do you see the typical trend of 75 to 80 percent of students in my child’s class responding to Tier 1? Is my child taken out of the general education class for Tier 1 instruction? If so, why?
If your child is an English language learner, you may also want to make sure that ESL is part of Tier 1 instruction.
As the teacher collects and studies data for all students, decisions will be made about moving students to more intensive small group teaching as needed (Tier 2). You should be informed of the progress your child is making—data which is collected via progress monitoring.
What does progress monitoring mean?
is a key part of the RTI process. If your child has been identified as a struggling learner and is receiving targeted help, the teacher will assess skills weekly or every other week and keep notes about how your child is doing. Closely monitoring your child’s progress helps the school know whether a specific intervention or teaching method is working or not.
Read more about how RTI monitors progress.
What is research-based instruction?
is another important element of the RTI process. The idea is for teachers to use a program or intervention that has been proven to work with a specific group of children. Different researchers have studied the program or method, found it to be effective and published the results.
Can the school use RTI as an excuse to delay or deny special education services?
No, they can’t. RTI is not a replacement for special education. If you’re concerned that your child may have a learning difference that can be addressed through special education services, you can ask for an evaluation at any time. The school can’t deny your request or delay an evaluation just because your child is getting extra help through the RTI process.
Will I be notified if my child continues to have difficulties and starts to receive more intensive help?
Your school might notify you if your child moves from one level of RTI support to another, but it’s not a legal requirement. Schools are only required to let you know your child is participating in RTI and that you have a right to request an evaluation at any time.
Some states have regulations that require schools to let you know which interventions the school is using to help your child, how progress monitoring works and under what circumstances your child will be given additional support.
Will I get a copy of my child’s RTI plan?
A written plan is a not a requirement of RTI. However, some schools provide one as a way to keep parents involved. If you don’t get a plan, you can ask for one. A written plan may include details about how the school is planning to help your child, especially during Tier 2 and Tier 3. An intervention plan might include:
- Areas of concern and screening results
- Information about specific interventions
- Names and roles of the people on the RTI team
- How often and for how long an intervention will take place
- Information about how you can help at home
- Criteria the school uses to decide if an intervention is successful
- Information about how the school monitors your child’s progress
If RTI doesn’t work for my child, then what?
If your child doesn’t make adequate progress with RTI, the next step is an evaluation for special education services. Either you or the school can request the evaluation, which will assess your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
After the evaluation, you’ll sit down with a team of teachers and other school professionals to discuss whether your child is eligible for special education services. If your child qualifies for these services, key questions can help you decide whether he should stay in a general education classroom. If your child is denied special education services, or if you choose not to have him evaluated, you can still request some informal supports at school.
Schools in some states are required to use RTI.
There are different levels of academic support in the RTI process. Students who aren’t responding to instructional interventions will be given more intensive help.
RTI is not a replacement for special education.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Elaine M. Niefeld, MA, MBA is a consultant and former associate director of the RTI Action Network.