RTI Source:  Sustain

Developing RTI Processes

01_Developing RTI Processes QuoteDeveloping the RTI processes involves putting in motion the use of precise assessments, including benchmark curriculum-based measurement (CBM) testing and diagnostic screeners, at prescribed intervals throughout the school year. Teachers need to feel comfortable using the assessments, interpreting the results, and documenting the data.

This data will drive the way instruction is scheduled throughout the building, including the way students are grouped, instruction is delivered, small groups are formed, and staff is allocated in teaching small intervention groups.

Grade-level teams need to make decisions about use of materials for core and intervention instruction and be consistent in their use. It’s important that materials are chosen that follow a continuum of skills so students are grouped according to skills that progress from simple to complex. Once teachers are comfortable with progress monitoring of intervention students, RTI meetings will become pivotal in decision making for students who are not making a sufficient rate of progress toward grade level benchmarks.

Figure 4.1
The RTI process is not about categorizing students into benchmark, strategic, and intensive groupings―it’s about creating an entire framework of responsive instruction based on pinpointed diagnostic testing of students falling below benchmark levels. This process requires buy-in from teachers, staff, and administrators, as well as adherence to documentation of data and a sense of urgency for intervention instruction.

Training, enthusiasm, organization, and scheduling are vital in putting an RTI process in place. The process takes several years to become efficient and truly effective in terms of student gains made progressively from lower to upper grade levels.

Analyzing Data

02_Analyzing Data Quote 1

Using a CBM is the starting point for data analysis. It’s imperative to understand that this data alone does not provide enough insight into student strengths and weaknesses. Additional student assessment, using error-pattern analysis, accuracy rate, and diagnostic screeners, is the next step. 

Examining fluency scores reveals accuracy rates that are crucial to going beyond percentage of words correct. Two students may have the same score for number of words correct per minute but have very different needs for intervention. Unless there is further examination of the scores and additional assessment using a diagnostic screener, students will be placed in groups that will not be effective in improving their skills.

Analysis of the assessment data will show that there are 4 basic categories for students: fast and right, slow and right, fast and wrong, or slow and wrong. Where the student falls in these categories determines the grouping and need for further diagnostic testing. 


Forming Groups

When data is effectively analyzed, skill groups are much more targeted than simply benchmark, strategic, and intensive (green, yellow, and red). By using further diagnostic testing, beyond the CBM, we’re able to dig deeper into students’ specific skill needs. The more-targeted groups are defined by the exact type of skill instruction each student needs.

If students have accurate word recognition and are at benchmark levels for words correct per minute, they should be placed in a group that may focus on comprehension or, perhaps, accelerated instruction. Students who are accurate but slow in terms of words read correctly per minute need a group that focuses on increasing speed through fluency practice. Students who have inaccurate word recognition need further diagnostic assessment to determine their need for phonological awareness or phonics instruction.

Understanding a skills continuum that outlines and refines skills sequentially is very important. Skills along the continuum correspond with expected mastery within certain grade levels and are considered grade-level benchmarks. For example, phonological awareness skills are expected to be mastered in kindergarten. Specific phonics skills, ranging from simplest to complex are benchmarked at grade levels 1 through 3. Once a diagnostic screener is used to further determine students’ strong and weak skill areas, group placement should take into account each student’s weakest skill level. Instruction through skill groups facilitates the mastery of skills progressively along the skills continuum. 


Providing Instruction

paper n penEffective intervention instruction is specifically targeted to student deficit skill areas.

Characteristics of Good Intervention Instruction

1. Focuses on pinpointed skills (students are grouped based on deficits found during diagnostic assessment).

2. Is explicit, systematic, and sequential.

3. Is fast paced and provides engaging activities.

4. Includes ample time for student responses.

5. Includes immediate corrective feedback.

6. Provides opportunities for a lot of student practice to master skills.

 Monitoring Progress

04_Monitoring Progress Quote 1Progress monitoring is dependent on using the proper instruments for measuring progress, which will, in turn, drive effective instruction. For example, simply using Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) measures does not provide enough information to determine exact and precise skill deficits. 

Using the right tool to determine what skills need to be taught and to subsequently measure progress is vital for effective RTI. Diagnostic measures are quick and easy to administer and provide highly sensitive information on the targeted skill. Progress monitoring should take place at least every three weeks, with a bare minimum of once a month. In the first year that teachers use progress monitoring, it’s best to err on the side of less frequent monitoring because teachers may still be grappling with how to administer the assessments, interpret the data, and record progress. Once teachers can deliver and use the data more fluently, assessment can be scheduled more often. Teachers are looking for 90% mastery of a skill before moving students to a new group that addresses the next deficit skill. If mastery is not reached, another cycle of intervention is needed. 

Using a published assessment schedule is very helpful in unifying a building or district for benchmark assessments throughout the year. Intervention groups will have an additional schedule for progress monitoring, and scheduling these times will facilitate grade level teams to organize instruction and plan or regrouping of students.

Facilitating Problem-Solving Meetings

Problem-solving meetings focus on individual students and examine and analyze their insufficient rate of progress. Meetings should be brief with an agenda that looks at data points and rate of progress, interventions to date, and how to intensify instruction if necessary. Decisions on moving students to Tier 3 or special education, within the RTI framework, are also made during these meetings, when appropriate.

The meetings should be scheduled only when all integral members can be present. Time spent making arrangements to cover classrooms for teachers to attend is well worth the effort. The principal and RTI coordinator must be present, along with all staff who work with the student, including the reading specialist, interventionist, classroom teacher, ELL teacher, speech pathologist, and psychologist. Carving out scheduled meeting times every two weeks is vital to maintain momentum and to make careful and timely instructional decisions for struggling students.

Progress monitoring assessment

After examining the graphed data points from progress-monitoring, decisions about how to intensify instruction can be made. Ways to intensify instruction include adding time, reducing group size, changing instruction, or changing materials or programs. Decisions on whether to increase frequency of progress monitoring are also made at this time. 

In order to ensure that meetings are efficient and effective, teachers should receive direct instruction on how to prepare for the meeting, what the agenda entails, and how to stay focused within the time constraints. When teachers are aware of the structure and timing of the agenda, they can be prepared with relevant student data and understand the need to stay on topic for each agenda item. 


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Referring Student for Special Education

Using an RTI framework changes the process of referring students to special education. Since the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004), there is no longer a mandate to use the IQ-achievement discrepancy formula and the focus is on preventative measures instead of a “wait to fail” approach. Identifying students for special education within the RTI framework relies on documentation of instruction and data such as rate of progress. 

Special Ed table

With documentation such as intervention logs and progress-monitoring graphs, it’s easy to see when students are failing to respond to specific kinds of intervention instruction. If several adjustments to instruction have been made and a student’s rate of progress is still insufficient, then the student may need to be referred for special education testing. Using an RTI framework significantly reduces the number of students referred for special education, as shown in the table.