Response to intervention (RTI) may sound complicated, but it’s based on a fairly simple idea. Early in the year, your child’s school can start looking at everyone’s skills in reading, writing and math. They can provide targeted teaching—called interventions—to help struggling students catch up. A big part of the RTI process involves closely monitoring student progress. That way the school can see which kids need more academic support.
What is RTI?
If you look inside any general education classroom, chances are good that you’d see different students struggling for different reasons. Some kids may have undiagnosed learning and attention issues.
“The goal is for the school to intervene, or step in, and start helping before anyone falls really far behind.”
Others may be trying to pick up English as a second language. And some students might be shaky on certain skills due to frequent absences or inadequate teaching.
It’s often hard for a teacher to tell right away which students are struggling or why. RTI aims to identify struggling students early on and give them the support they need to be successful in school.
The word intervention is key to understanding what RTI is all about. The goal is for the school to intervene, or step in, and start helping before anyone falls really far behind. RTI isn’t a specific program or type of teaching. It’s a proactive approach to measuring students’ skills and using this data to decide which types of targeted teaching to use.
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How does RTI work?
The RTI process begins with your child’s teacher assessing the skills of everyone in the class. These assessments help the school’s RTI team tell which students need instructional interventions. That’s the term for focusing on specific skills in an effort to improve them.
Interventions can be part of classroom-wide instruction. The teacher may break students into small groups tailored for different skill levels or learning styles. This is also known as differentiated instruction. Students who don’t make enough progress getting this kind
of help during class may start to work on skills in small groups that meet during enrichment activities like music or art.
As part of the RTI process, schools help struggling students by using teaching interventions that researchers have studied and shown to be effective. Many research-based interventions deal with reading. But there are also some scientifically proven methods of improving writing and math skills. Some schools also use research-based behavior interventions.
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How do teachers track student progress?
Another essential component of RTI is progress monitoring. The school frequently assesses your child’s skills to determine whether an intervention is working.
During an intervention, your child’s teacher or another member of the RTI team uses an assessment tool that research has shown to be an effective way to measure certain skills. This tool is used to assess your child’s skills every week or every other week. That may sound like a lot of testing. But each assessment only takes a few minutes to complete.
For example, let’s say your child’s school is using curriculum-based measurement (CBM) to assess spelling skills. During each test or probe, the teacher asks your child to
spell words that are at the appropriate grade level. In total, your child will only spend a couple minutes writing down these words.
After each assessment, his score is plotted on a graph. This makes it easy for the RTI team to see if he’s improving at the expected rate or if he needs additional support.
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