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Response to Intervention in Primary Grade Reading

By: What Works Clearinghouse, U.S. Department of Education
Learn more about the four recommended practices in Response to Intervention (RTI): universal screening; progress monitoring and differentiation; systematic skill instruction; and system-wide implementation.

This visual diagram illustrates three essential practices (universal screening, progress monitoring and differentiation, and systematic skill instruction) based on the recommendations in the Practice Guide. Use this diagram to compare the recommended practices for implementing a Response to Intervention system in reading with the way your school or district provides services to students who are at risk for reading difficulties.
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Recommended practices

Screen all students for potential reading problems in the beginning and middle of the year.

Effective RTI begins with universal student screenings. Research shows that teachers can use beginning- and middle-of-the-year screenings in the primary grades to accurately predict future reading performance. Accurate identification of at-risk students requires efficient, reliable, and valid measures of appropriate grade-level reading skills. Setting cut-point scores allows schools to identify an initial pool of students who may require interventions. Because no single assessment is perfectly reliable, schools should engage regular progress monitoring to track at-risk students' achievement. A building-level intervention team can help coordinate the staff and resources needed to implement a schoolwide screening process.

In this multimedia overview, learn about the value of universal screening, the recommended components of an effective screening system, and establishing benchmarks and using cut-points to identify at-risk students.

Differentiate instruction based on assessed reading skills for all students

Differentiated instruction is essential for all students, not only those receiving Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. Teachers can vary instruction by changing content focus, amount of instructional time, and degree of scaffolding. In Tier 1, differentiation can be provided during independent work or small groups. In Tiers 2 and 3, teachers should use progress monitoring and analyze data to assess reading proficiency growth, differentiate instruction, and determine if students need additional help.

Progress monitoring is critical for regrouping students based on changing skill levels. Teachers will need professional development to learn how to collect data, interpret results, and use data to differentiate instruction. Staff may want to work collectively to develop guidelines for grouping students for instruction. Teachers need strong classroom management skills to provide Tier 1 differentiated instruction. Some teachers will need help developing classroom routines that allow them to lead small groups with selected students while others work independently.

In this multimedia overview, learn the importance of progress monitoring as a tool to guide differentiated instruction, and how data from reading proficiency assessments can be used to adapt instructional focus and time and the degree of scaffolding provided at each tier level.

Plan intensive instruction on foundational reading skills for students in Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions

Instruction at Tier 2 and Tier 3 must be intensive and focused on the critical grade-level reading skills, such as phonemic awareness, decoding, reading comprehension, and fluency. Students in Tier 2 interventions should receive small group instruction focused on up to three foundational reading skills three to five times a week for 20 to 40 minutes per session. At Tier 3, schools should intensify instruction by focusing on fewer skills and providing extended daily sessions. Research suggests systematic, explicit instruction is most effective, so teachers should incorporate instructional strategies and supports, such as modeling, scaffolding, thinkalouds, and graphic organizers, and provide students with immediate corrective feedback. Teachers need to build skills gradually and provide frequent practice opportunities to ensure that students have mastered a reading skill before moving on.

In this multimedia overview, learn the key elements of systematic instruction, explicit strategies teachers can use to help students master critical reading skills, and the importance of instructional dosage, scaffolded instruction, student practice, and corrective feedback.

Establish a systemwide framework for RTI to support the three recommended practices

Implementation encompasses the groundwork and support needed to put the recommended practices into action. RTI begins with a systemwide framework that includes universal screening and ongoing progress monitoring, differentiated instruction based on data, and systematic teaching that is explicit and focused on foundational skills. Districts and schools need leadership and specific guidance at all levels to support implementation of the components of a multi-tiered system. State-level leadership teams can inform policy decisions and provide guidance on assessments, instructional resources, and funding allocation. Some states have provided high-level support for RTI implementation through special training or technical assistance centers that are charged with working with local districts and schools. In those cases, district-level teams can access professional development and coaching in RTI implementation. Schools will need to provide extensive training and ongoing support to staff to ensure fidelity and sustain an RTI framework.

In this multimedia overview, learn how RTI systems are designed to identify students potentially at risk in reading and then provide them with the support they need to develop foundational reading skills.

What Works Clearinghouse, U.S. Department of Education (2011)

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