Best Practice for RTI: Monitor Progress of Tier 2 Students

By: What Works Clearinghouse
After reviewing the research, the What Works Clearninghouse recommends that students in tier 2 of RTI be monitored at least monthly, and use this data to determine if and how primary grade students may need additional reading instructional support.

One way to help educators identify students in need of intervention and implement evidence-based interventions to promote their reading achievement is a framework called "Response To Intervention."

The Education Department's Institute of Education Sciences convened a panel to look at the best available evidence and expertise and formulate specific and coherent evidence-based recommendations to use Response To Intervention (RTI) to help primary grade students overcome reading struggles. The panel made five practice recommendations.

The fourth recommendation is to:

Monitor the progress of tier 2 students at least once a month. Use these data to determine whether students still require intervention. For those students still making insufficient progress, school-wide teams should design a tier 3 intervention plan.

Schools should establish a schedule to assess tier 2 students at least monthly -reassigning students who have met benchmarks, graphing students' progress in reading in a reliable fashion, and regrouping students who need continued instructional support (Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, and Hickman, 2003).

Level of evidence: Low

Of the 11 randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental design studies that evaluated effects of tier 2 interventions and that met What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) standards or that met WWC standards with reservations, only 3 reported using mastery checks or progress monitoring in instructional decisionmaking (McMaster et al., 2005; Vaughn et al., 2006; Mathes et al., 2005). None of the studies demonstrate that progress monitoring is essential in tier 2 instruction.

However, in the opinion of the panel, awareness of tier 2 student progress is essential for understanding whether tier 2 is helping the students and whether modifications are needed.

Brief summary of evidence

Studies show that progress monitoring in reading (oral reading fluency or word identification fluency in grades 1 and 2) increases teachers' awareness of students' current level of reading proficiency and has a positive effect on the instructional decisions teachers make (Fuchs, Deno, and Mirkin, 1984; Fuchs, Fuchs, and Hamlett, 1989a). Collecting and using progress monitoring data is sometimes a component of tier 2 instruction.

How to carry out this recommendation

1. Monitor progress of tier 2 students on a regular basis using grade appropriate measures. Monitoring of progress should occur at least eight times during the school year.

Some researchers recommend more frequent weekly assessments for monitoring student progress (Fuchs, Deno, and Mirkin, 1984; Fuchs, Fuchs, and Hamlett, 1989a). However, little evidence demonstrates that weekly measures are superior to monthly ones (Johnson et al., in press).

Many tier 2 intervention programs (commercially developed, researcher developed, or district developed) contain weekly mastery tests that educators can use to guide instruction (to know which skills need to be reviewed and re-taught).

If a tier 2 program does not include mastery checks, monitor students' progress weekly, if possible, but no less than once a month. The measures should be efficient, reliable, and valid. Many progress monitoring measures are also useful as screening measures (see recommendation 1{note: hyperlink to that new article in RR}). Progress monitoring measures are the best way to assess students' retention of material taught and thus their path to reading proficiency. The table below indicates appropriate progress monitoring measures for kindergarten through grade 2.

Table: Progress monitoring measures in grades K-2

Grade Measure
KindergartenPhonemic awareness measures (especially measures of phoneme segmentation)
Grade 1Fluent word recognition
Nonword (pseudo word reading)
Oral reading fluency (connected text)
Grade 2Fluent word recognition
Oral reading fluency

Source: Authors' compilation based on information described in text.

2. While providing tier 2 instruction, use progress monitoring data to identify students needing additional instruction.

It is important that tier 2 instruction advances at a good pace. At the same time, teaching to mastery is paramount since the skills are foundational for future success in reading. If three students are making progress and one student is lagging behind, an option to consider is to provide this student with 10 minutes of review, practice, and additional focused instruction on material previously taught. If none of the students are making progress, take a careful look at the tier 2 intervention — it may be missing critical components or moving too fast for the students in tier 2 to master the target skills.

3. Consider using progress monitoring data to regroup tier 2 students approximately every six weeks.

Since students' skill level changes over time and in varying degrees, use progress monitoring data to regroup students so that the groups are as homogeneous as possible. Ideally, groups may cut across more than one class, if schedules permit.

Roadblocks and suggested approaches

Roadblock 4.1. Students within classes are at very different levels for tier 2 intervention.

Suggested Approach. If students within a class are at such diverse levels as to necessitate more than two tier 2 groups, consider grouping students across classes. This will facilitate clustering children with similar needs. In such a case a reading specialist, paraprofessional, or other school personnel who have received training can conduct the intervention.

Roadblock 4.2. There is insufficient time for teachers to implement progress monitoring.

Suggested Approach. If teachers are too busy to assess students' progress with progress monitoring measures, consider using paraprofessionals or other school staff. Train them how to administer such measures.


Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

Fuchs, L. S., Deno, S. L. & Mirkin, P. K. (1984). Effects of frequent curriculum-based measurement on pedagogy, student achievement, and student awareness of learning. American Educational Research Journal, 21(2), 449-450.

Fuchs, L S., Fuchs, D., & Hamlett, C. L. (1989a). Effects of alternative goal structures within curriculum-based measurement. Exceptional Children, 55(5), 429-438.

Johnson, E., Jenkins, J., Petscher, Y., & Catts, H. (in press). How can we improve the accuracy of screening instruments? Learning Disabilities Research & Practice.

Mathes, P. G., Denton, C., Fletcher, J., Anthony, J., Francis, D., & Schatschneider, C. (2005). The effects of theoretically different instruction and student characteristics on the skills of struggling readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 40(2), 148-182.

McMaster, K. L., Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., & Compton, D. L. (2005). Responding to nonresponders: An experimental field trial of identification and intervention methods. Exceptional Children, 71(4), 445-463.

Vaughn, S., Linan-Thompson, S., & Hickman, P. (2003). Response to instruction as a means of identifying students with reading/learning disabilities. Exceptional Children, 69(4), 391-409.

Vaughn, S., Mathes, P., Linan-Thompson, S., Cirino, P., Carlson, C., Pollard-Durodola, S., Cardenas-Hagan, E., & Francis, D. (2006). Effectiveness of an English intervention for first-grade English language learners at risk for reading problems. Elementary School Journal, 107(2), 153-180.

Gersten, R., Compton, D., Connor, C.M., Dimino, J., Santoro, L., Linan-Thompson, S., and Tilly, W.D. (2008). Assisting students struggling with reading: Response to Intervention and multi-tier intervention for reading in the primary grades. A practice guide. (NCEE 2009-4045). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from


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