Response to Intervention

Low and High Achieving Students

03/31/2010  |  JENNIFER HARRISON

Response to Intervention (RTI) is gaining wider acceptance as a strategy for all students. The process includes using assessments to identify students who need supplemental instruction and then providing additional help of varying level depending on their individual needs. The goal is to use informed assessment to provide early intervening services so that all students have the chance to achieve.

 The textbook definition from George Batsche in Response to Intervention: Policy, Considerations and Implementation, states that RTI is: “the practice of providing high-quality instruction/intervention matched to student needs and using learning rate over time and level of performance to make important educational decisions.”

Put more simply, RTI is a systematic method to pinpoint the gaps in a student’s knowledge and then develop an instructional plan to stay on track. Many teachers have the ability to pinpoint these missing skills by relying on test scores and their own intuition and others are turning to the benefits of an assessment program, which provides continuous monitoring of students progress, like Achiever! from Brainchild. 

RTI consists of three tiers of intervention:

Tiers 1 through 3

Tier 1 provides a set of assessment procedures for determining individual student growth of all students for a specified time period. Ongoing, curriculum based assessment and progress monitoring are used to guide high quality instruction. In most schools, a high percentage of students will remain in tier 1, as they are being well served by the core instructional program.

Tier 2 includes students who may need varying levels of intervention to supplement the core curriculum. These identified students receive more intense services, interventions and instruction for additional hours each week. Often these students benefit from small group lessons and activities designed to fill in gaps and give extra practice on difficult concepts.

Tier 3 represents students who need intensive interventions to meet the same goals as their fellow Tiers 1 and 2 students. Students needing Tier 3 intervention benefit from highly differentiated instruction and assessments that pinpoint deficiencies. The goal is that Tier 3 students will still reach the same objective as their peers despite their need for substantial intervention.

Formalized Approach

RTI is most successful when the mechanism is in place to assess and intervene (or accelerate) instruction. Dr. Geeta McMillan, principal of Cassville Elementary School in Sparta, Tenn. understands the importance of a formal implementation of RTI. Two years ago at Dr. McMillan’s recommendation, the district adopted a common assessment and intervention program so that there would be consistency with RTI between schools in the district. The district selected Brainchild’s Achiever! because it integrates an online assessment and reporting tool with learning activities for math, language arts and science.

Cassville is a high achieving school in part because of the concentrated effort to reach low-performing students without sacrificing attention for the highest achievers. All students need to show gains so the school uses Achiever! for every student, low and high-performing.

“We use Achiever! to help us track and improve our ‘gain scores’,” says Dr. McMillan. “It allows us to not only maintain the success as it is related to achievement (AYP) but allows us to track and challenge our high achieving students, while also meeting the needs of our lowest performers.”

Cassville Elementary School teachers understand that every teacher is working together towards the same RTI goal using Achiever! “Initially, our teachers were not happy about the formalized approach to RTI. They were concerned about the time involved and that the assessments would take away from instruction,” said Dr. McMillan. “However, after they received training and saw that the assessments were tiny snippets of time and that they instantly tied into intervention, we started seeing happy faces in our training.”

Keys to Success

Those happy faces continued throughout the year as teachers saw how the RTI process helped each student, regardless of performance level. Dr. McMillan noted that the keys to success were first, to clearly identify the need for a formal program. “We know that if a student gets to third grade with a reading problem, that student is heading for long-term trouble,” she said. When discussing this phenomenon with her teachers, everyone realized that they could prevent losing students if they committed to such a specific, prescriptive approach like RTI.

The second key was to use a resource that was proven successful and easy to implement. They also needed to train the teachers how to use it and provide year-round support. Achiever! met all these requirements and had the added benefit of producing reports that could be used for RTI record-keeping. With these reports, Dr. McMillan can monitor progress from a macro perspective or drill down to individual performance. Achiever! tracks pre and post-assessment results and also shows time-on-task and other information about progress through activities.

The final key to success was the automatic tie from assessment to intervention. “If we hand a teacher a report that tells what each student needs to work on, she might be able to differentiate instruction for one or two students, but an RTI program is about doing this for every student. It is only possible to do this with a total package like Achiever! where the assessment automatically jumps the student into the activities they need.”

A focused approach with RTI is helping Cassville Elementary stay an “A” school because every student is getting the targeted instruction they need.


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