Response to Intervention (RTI)

NY State Regulations define RTI as a school district’s process to determine if a student responds to scientific, research-based instruction.

Response to Intervention, or RTI, is an educational strategy used in schools to:

  1. Provide effective and high-quality instruction,
  2. Monitor all students’ progress to make sure they are progressing as expected, and
  3. Provide additional support (intervention) to students who are struggling.

RTI can be considered an early intervention tool that is designed to quickly identify students who need extra help, thereby preventing long-term failure. The monitoring of students allows teaching professionals to identify the exact skill areas where pupils need additional instruction that is targeted to a student’s individual needs.

If the student is not responding, other instructional approaches are used and/or the intensity is increased (for example, students may receive extra help more often, in smaller groups or from academic intervention teachers). This progression through more intensive instructional practices is the reason RTI is often described as a “multi-tier” system.

YouTube VIDEO: Response to Intervention: A Tiered Approach to Instructing All Students

Video by Atlas Initiative for Public Education. More information available at

Federal laws require schools to use the RTI model; individual states can adopt more specific strategies for implementing this model. In New York State (and in many other states), RTI is comprised of three tiers of instruction that gradually increase in intensity.

Key characteristics and components of RTI

Some of the terms related to RTI include: screening; progress monitoring; tiered instruction; high-quality, research-based instruction/interventions; differentiated instruction and fidelity of implementation.

Screening, school-wide screening or universal screening: A quick assessment/test that measures students’ skills or behaviors to determine if they are achieving at the expected level for their grade. These are used to identify learners who are considered at risk of not learning the foundational skills they need to meet state and national academic standards. Teachers choose specific materials or methods (the instruction or intervention) to use with learners who need extra help and then track the students’ progress.

Progress monitoring: For students needing extra help, teachers frequently check the progress of pupils to see if the instructional support is working and to provide information on how to possibly adjust the instruction to best meet student needs.

Tiered instruction: Within the RTI structure in New York, there are three different levels, or tiers, of instruction. The general education that all children receive in their regular classrooms is considered Tier 1. Tier 2 instruction is provided in addition to Tier 1 (not as a replacement). Tier 3 interventions are for students who have not progressed under Tier 2 instructional strategies; learners in this tier are in very small groups and receive intensive instruction.

High-quality, research-based instruction/interventions: Simply put, this means that all school staff members are using instructional methods and materials that have been proven (through scientific research) to work effectively.

Differentiated instruction: Students have different learning styles; some may learn better by reading silently, while others may learn better by having teachers read to them or give examples and analogies. Teachers are expected to recognize students’ different learning styles and adjust their instruction to meet the needs of all learning styles.

Fidelity of implementation: When educators design good instructional methods and materials, they test them to be sure they work well. When teachers use these methods and materials, it is important that they consistently use them the way they are supposed to be used; this is describe as fidelity of implementation.

Benefits of the RTI model

One of the most commonly cited benefits of an RTI approach is that it eliminates a “wait to fail” situation. Learners get the specific help they need very quickly. All decisions regarding the instruction students need are based on data.

With RTI’s continuous progress monitoring, staff are provided with more relevant information about student needs. All interventions (extra help provided to students) are monitored for effectiveness. If a particular intervention isn’t working, another intervention is attempted.

All students receive high-quality, research-based instruction in the general education setting and there is a built-in program for accelerated students.

All teachers in a grade level, as well as the academic intervention staff and special education staff work together to help each student reach his/her potential. Learners not only benefit from having a team working with them, they may also benefit from the differing instructional styles of each teaching professional.

How RTI differs from special education

RTI strategies are used to determine the best educational approaches for all students, not just pupils who are struggling or who have learning challenges. As such, it may be part of the process used to eventually identify students who may qualify for special education services, but that’s not the overall goal of RTI. In fact, RTI may lead to fewer students being identified for special education services because specific skill deficiencies are identified and addressed more quickly than in the past.

How parents can be involved in the RTI process and support their children

The hallmarks of effective home-school collaboration include open communication and involvement of parents in all stages of learning. Being informed about the RTI process, understanding what a child’s screening results mean and regularly communicating with the classroom teacher are among the first steps to becoming an active partner.

There are many ways parents can help support what their children are doing in school. For example:

  • Make reading an everyday habit at home. Literacy skills are the foundation for success in all subject areas.
  • Communicate with your child’s teacher. Find out what activities you can do at home to support classroom activities.
  • Request regular reports on your child’s progress.
  • Monitor homework and provide assistance.
  • Celebrate and share your child’s successes.
  • Attend parent-teacher conferences and other school meetings that provide information about curriculum, testing and classroom activities.

More information about RTI

NY State RTI Technical Assistance Center 

NYSED: A Parent’s Guide to RTI

RTI Action Network

National Center on Response to Intervention

National Center for Learning Disabilities

Parent Center Network