Response to Intervention: A framework to raise student achievement

Elementary Pupil Reading With Teacher In ClassroomMuch attention has been given by educators across the state lately to an approach known as Response to Intervention (RtI). So what is RtI and how can educators use it to their advantage in addressing the needs of all students? What do parents need to know to better understand it? When implemented at a high level, RtI is an educational process that uses a multi-tiered system of support for students. RtI can be used to meet both academic and behavioral needs and although it works well in meeting the needs of special education students, it works equally as well with students in general education. So what exactly does this process look like in action?

There are three levels of supports available for all students. The three levels are identified as “universal,” “targeted” and “intensive.” In a highly functioning school system, most students will only need the first, or universal, level of supports to achieve success. Some students will need two levels of supports, universal and targeted, in order to be successful. A few students will need all three levels of supports, universal, targeted and intensive, to become successful learners.

In theory, about 20 percent of students will need instruction in addition to the universal level. A small percentage of students will receive the second tier, targeted instruction, in order to further support their learning. Targeted instruction will be delivered in the form of a “standard treatment protocol.” Standard treatment means that all students in this second tier will receive the same quality research-proven instruction across the state which is designed to further support learning. Again, when implemented at a high level, this additional targeted instruction will satisfy the needs of the vast majority of these students.

There is a possibility that a small percentage of students will need another more focused tier of instruction. In theory, about five percent or so of these students will require the third tier of instruction called intensive. At this level, diagnostic tests will reveal the specific academic and/or behavioral needs of these students. After diagnosis, students would receive individualized and specific interventions. Detailed progress monitoring would determine if these interventions are having the desired effects on students. If it is not, changes in instruction would be made very soon in hopes of ensuring that these students are receiving the exact individualized instruction they need to be successful in achieving mastery.

Iowa’s Area Education Agency (AEA) system has partnered with the Iowa Department of Education to provide professional learning opportunities for local educators around the RtI process. The two systems, along with participating local school districts, are focusing their collective efforts and resources on early literacy and closing the achievement gaps between students with disabilities and students without. A goal has been set to ensure that every child is proficient by the end of third grade.

For more information, contact Dr. Jon McKenzie, Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) Director of Comprehensive Improvement and Assessment at 800-542-8375.

Agency 267 serves over 60,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.

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