Response to Intervention (RtI)

By the end of the first semester of the school year, the intervention process and Response to Intervention should be in full swing.  However, that means different things to different people in a school.  Each state calls the intervention process something different, but the Response to Intervention process is a multi-tiered process for the early identification and support for students who have academic and behavioral needs.  According to the RTI Action Network, the following essential components must be in place:

  • High-quality, scientifically based classroom instruction. All students receive high-quality, research-based instruction in the general education classroom.
  • Ongoing student assessment. Universal screening and progress monitoring provide information about a student’s learning rate and level of achievement, both individually and in comparison with the peer group. These data are then used when determining which students need closer monitoring or intervention. Throughout the RTI process, student progress is monitored frequently to examine student achievement and gauge the effectiveness of the curriculum. Decisions made regarding students’ instructional needs are based on multiple data points taken in context over time.
  • Tiered instruction. A multi-tier approach is used to efficiently differentiate instruction for all students. The model incorporates increasing intensities of instruction offering specific, research-based interventions matched to student needs.
  • Parent involvement. Schools implementing RTI provide parents information about their child’s progress, the instruction and interventions used, the staff who are delivering the instruction, and the academic or behavioral goals for their child.

As the child goes through the Response to Intervention process, their progress is tracked and the data gathered is used to make decisions about the needs of the child.   Most schools have an understanding of the process, but how to implement it is another story.  In my experience, there are two major hurdles that must be addressed for your school to have a successful Response to Intervention process, resources and progress monitoring.

Response to Intervention Resources

When it comes to interventions, teachers are an awesome resource, but there will come a time that the teachers reach their limits.   Your teachers are going to need help and there is so much out there, I have run into the issue of being overwhelmed by information.  Also, it is hard to determine if the information is reliable.  When reviewing information from a supplier, you have to keep in mind that the data will be skewed.  No one is going to advertise the problems with their product or their research.  The best resource I have found is the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC).  This resource is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and is an initiative of the Institute of Education Sciences.  What Works Clearinghouse’s goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions.

response to intervention resourcesResponse to Intervention (RtI) Topics

As an elementary school principal, I have tried to find those specific interventions for that singular issue that pops up every year.  My teachers are fantastic, but there is a limit to what they have at their fingertips.  This site gives you access to so many specific resources on the following topics:

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Behavior
  • English Learner
  • Early Childhood
  • Children and Youth with Disabilities

Their reviewed information covers interventions for Pre-K through Postsecondary students.  What Works Clearinghouse takes the time and energy to review the data and separate high-quality research from weaker research and promotional claims.  Their mission is to evaluate the research for you and they take the time to cut through the promotional materials to get to the results.

What I like most is the fact that the WWC does not recommend or endorse interventions or maintain a list of recommended or acceptable programs. They only assess evidence on the effectiveness of education interventions. For example, a WWC rating of “positive effects” for an intervention means there is strong evidence of a positive effect with no contrary evidence. It does not mean that the WWC recommends that users implement that intervention, or that it will work in all settings for all students. Consideration of other factors, such as target population, cost, and feasibility, may also be necessary. It is also important to note that, for some education interventions, little or no research exists that meets WWC design standards, which means that the WWC cannot rate the effectiveness of the intervention.

Learning that an intervention is not effective after the fact is a loss of valuable time in a child’s academic life that you cannot get back.  Time is just something that is far too valuable to waste on just trying something out.  There is always the possibility that something does not work for a specific child’s needs, but by using What Works Clearinghouse, you know that what you are using is still a quality resource.

Progress Monitoring the Response to Intervention (RtI)

Intervention MeetingResponse to Intervention (RtI)

Response to Intervention (RtI) relies on the classroom teacher or her assistant to implement the intervention with fidelity and according to the necessary steps.  As an administrator, I rely on my teachers to “do it right” and my classroom observations are all that I have to ensure the implementation of the intervention, but tracking student progress was a much bigger issue for me.  The challenge that I had was tracking student progress through the Response to Intervention process.  In previous years, we would get updates every 4-6 weeks.

Something that happened too regularly for comfort was the fact that a teacher would sometimes forget to do a student’s progress monitoring.  This could have happened for various reasons, absence, schedule changes, school events, or absent mindedness.  When we get updates after 4 to 6 weeks and progress monitoring was not completed according to the schedule, it makes the data analysis almost impossible.  Our school district is not one that is lenient when it comes to documentation of the Response to Intervention process.  If we do not have documentation of it, then it did not happen.  We are required to have the documentation before we recommend a student for a comprehensive evaluation; therefore, I had to come up with a system that would allow me to monitor progress without having to schedule a formal meeting with the teacher.

What we have developed this year is a simple Google Sheet for each subject area that has a page for each grade level.  This Google Sheet is shared with all of the teachers in the school.  When I created the Progress Monitoring Sheet I put the date for each Friday of the school year across the top.  You do this once and then you can copy and paste it to the other pages. Progress Monitoring

Progress Monitoring Chart Example:

Student  8/21/20 8/28/20 9/4/20
Billy           20           25           28
Shilo          **           55           55

When I meet with the teacher to discuss the child and their progress, we discuss the intervention that will be used and how it will be implemented.  All of the expectations are clear before it starts and then the child’s name is entered onto the Progress Monitoring Sheet.  I add 2 asterisks to the date before their first progress monitoring date to mark the beginning of the intervention.  The teachers are then expected to enter the child’s progress monitoring score weekly.  This score is expected to be presented in a percentage.

By implementing this procedure, I am able to track the progress of all of the students who are in the Response to Intervention process by pulling up a single Google Sheet.  The benefits are two-fold.  First, I make sure that teachers are keeping up with giving the students the required progress monitoring quizzes.  Second, I can see a real-time picture of how well the child is doing.

Monday afternoon check-ups of the Progress Monitoring Sheet also gives me the opportunity to inquire with a teacher about missing scores.  This helps me understand some various issues.  Maybe the child is having attendance issues.  If this is the case, then I need to intervene with our resources to assist the parents with attendance.  Maybe the teacher is having an issue with following through with the procedures as outlined in our plan.  If this is the case, then I need to intervene with the teacher and address her problems or needs.

Using this simple solution eliminated the possibility of having a meeting on a child’s progress 4-6 weeks later, but having incomplete data.  This form of checks and balances really made this a much more reliable system of progress monitoring during the Response to Intervention process.

Added Benefits

DataAn added benefit to using Google Sheets to track progress is the use of a Google Extension called rowCall.  rowCall is an extension that allows you to extrapolate each student’s data from the Google Sheet to create a graph of that child’s data.  This has been extremely helpful for me because I am able to create a line graph that shows the child’s progress over time with a visual graph.  Line graphs are extremely useful when looking for a trend in the child’s progress.   Averages and individual data points are great, but being able to see those numbers over time is much more impactful and gives more meaning to the numbers.  For more information on how to create the Google Sheet, use rowCall, and create the line graphs, check out my video Progress Monitoring with Google Sheets.