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Unlocking the Potential of RTI in Education: Revolutionizing Student Success

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Supported with input from
Matthew K. Burns
Updated on
Modified on September 28, 2023
Quick Takeaway
Response to Intervention (RTI) is a three-tiered, systematic approach that revolutionizes student success by providing targeted support to those who are struggling academically or behaviorally. The RTI approach identifies learning difficulties early on, offers individualized support, and encourages collaborative efforts to improve student outcomes. The future of RTI holds promise with technology integration, data-driven decision-making, and personalized learning approaches leading the way.

Education is the key to unlocking the potential of every student, but not all students learn at the same pace or in the same way. Recognizing this, educators have developed various strategies and instructional interventions to address the diverse needs of students. One approach that has gained attention and success is Response to Intervention (RTI). By providing timely and targeted interventions, RTI aims to revolutionize student success.

In education, students come from diverse backgrounds and possess unique learning abilities. It is crucial to ensure all students receive the necessary support and interventions to reach their full potential. Sometimes this may include explicit instruction for a general education class, more intensive interventions for individuals, or large group intervention group interventions for students that are all behind grade level. 

Therefore, we must understand Response to Intervention and implement research-based intervention that incorporates positive behavioral interventions and supports student needs and student progress.

Understanding RTI

The purpose of RTI in education is to ensure early intervention and prevent students from falling behind. RTI is based on the principle that all students can learn and instruction should be adapted to meet their individual needs. It involves a collaborative effort among teachers, parents, and other specialists to support students in their educational journey.

The RTI approach typically involves a three-tiered approach that uses universal screening to determine eligibility and offer a referral for targeted or intensive response. Studies have shown that at least 20% of students are likely to need support beyond regular classroom instruction at the Tier 1 level. These students are identified with screenings, curriculum-based progress monitoring, and teacher observations throughout instruction. While the three-tiered approach is the most generally used model, each district may have their own approach to RTI. For example, some districts use a fourth tier that focuses more on special education programs. 

So what three tiers are in the typical RTI approach? Let’s look closely at these below. 

Tier 1

At the first tier, core instruction is provided to all students within the general education classroom. This includes high-quality instruction, differentiated teaching strategies, and ongoing monitoring of student progress. The goal is to ensure all students receive a strong foundation in learning. 

Tier 2

If students do not show adequate progress at the universal level, they move to the second tier, where targeted interventions are implemented. These interventions are more specific and tailored to the individual needs of students. Small-group instruction, additional practice, or supplemental materials are some examples of targeted interventions. These may be provided in the classroom or outside the classroom with a specialist. More frequent progress monitoring is provided to confirm interventions are being used effectively. 

Tier 3

In the third tier, students who continue to struggle despite targeted interventions receive intensive, individualized support. This level of intervention is typically delivered outside the classroom and may involve one-on-one instruction, personalized learning plans, and frequent progress monitoring. Intensive intervention here occurs more often and for longer duration than Tier 2 targeted intervention, and students are monitored more closely. The goal of all this is to provide the necessary support to help students catch up with their peers.

Alongside RTI, there is also the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, or MTSS. This takes RTI a step further by offering additional support for student needs, like behavior or SEL needs. According to Dr. Matthew Burns, when discussing how to best help students with dyslexia, he stated, “In fact, most of the time I see successful MTSS implementation, there’s a group of teachers within one grade or across a couple grades who look at the data together and share kids.

“So, my classroom, you might have three kids who are low in decoding. In your classroom you have two kids who are low in fluency, and three who are low in decoding. I’ll take your decoding kids, you take my fluency kids during the intervention period. It’s that type of conversation. Anytime I've seen successful MTSS happen in reading and math, that conversation happens.” 

Implementing RTI in Schools

Whether looking for success in MTSS or RTI, there are a few key steps involved when implementing intervention for struggling students. These steps include assessing the needs of struggling learners, goal setting, progress monitoring, and applying intervention to support the child’s progress.

Implementing RTI in schools is a transformative process that aims to support students in their academic journey. RTI provides a systematic framework for identifying students’ learning needs and delivering targeted interventions to ensure their success. By adopting RTI, schools can create an inclusive and supportive learning environment that addresses the diverse needs of students.

Dr. Stephanie Stollar, an expert in RTI, argues that there are four purposes of assessment: universal screening, diagnostic assessment, progress monitoring, and outcome evaluations. These four purposes are crucial for a school wide early literacy model. 

Assessing Students’ Needs 

The first step is to identify students who may require additional support. This is done through ongoing assessment and data analysis. Teachers use various tools and measures to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Setting Specific Goals and Objectives

Once students’ needs are identified, specific goals and objectives are established for each student. These goals are measurable and help guide the intervention process. Individualized education plans may be created to ensure targeted support. 

Monitoring Student Progress

Regular monitoring of student progress is crucial in RTI. Educators use formative assessments and progress-monitoring tools to measure student growth and identify areas that require further intervention. This data-driven approach allows for timely adjustments in instruction. 

Providing Timely Interventions

Based on collected data, teachers provide targeted interventions to students. These interventions are designed to address specific learning gaps and help students make progress. Collaboration among teachers and specialists is essential in implementing effective interventions.

Benefits of RTI in Education

In education, the ultimate goal is to provide every student with the necessary tools and support to excel academically and thrive personally. RTI has emerged as a powerful approach that offers benefits in promoting student success schoolwide. Every school district leader should know how to implement RTI into their general education to be able to fully reap the benefits.

By focusing on the early identification of learning difficulties and providing targeted interventions, RTI has the potential to revolutionize education by ensuring no student is left behind. Every classroom teacher, whether in the general education classroom or in a special education classroom, can provide the benefits associated with RTI to every student.

Early Identification of Learning Difficulties

One of the significant advantages of RTI is the early identification of learning difficulties. By closely monitoring student progress, educators can intervene at the earliest signs of academic or behavioral struggles. Early identification allows for timely and appropriate interventions, preventing students from falling behind.

Individualized Support for Students 

RTI emphasizes research-based, explicit instruction based on students’ specific needs. By tailoring interventions, educators can provide targeted instruction and support that match students’ learning styles and preferences. This personalized approach increases the chances of academic success.

Increased Collaboration Among Teachers 

RTI encourages collaboration among teachers, administrators, specialists, and the department of education as a whole. By working together, educators can share expertise, develop intervention strategies, and support each other in meeting the diverse needs of students. This collaborative effort creates a more comprehensive and cohesive learning environment.

Improved Student Outcomes

Ultimately, the goal of RTI is to improve student outcomes. By providing early and targeted interventions, students are more likely to experience success academically and behaviorally. RTI helps bridge the achievement gap and ensures every student has an equal opportunity to thrive.


As education continues to evolve, RTI will play a crucial role in unlocking the potential of every student. Voyager Sopris Learning® believes successful intervention builds student success, and we offer assessment tools to support data-driven instructional decisions, monitor the effectiveness of instruction, and improve student outcomes.
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