What is RTI and what are the essential components that must be present for it to be implemented with fidelity?


What is RTI and what are the essential components that must be present for it to be implemented with fidelity?


Response from Whitney Donaldson

What is RTI? RTI is a multi-level prevention system designed for improving outcomes for all students. RTI can be used for special education eligibility but it's not specific to special education. RTI actually allows for all students to receive the support they need so they can succeed in school. The National Center on Response to Intervention has defined RTI as a practice that integrates assessment and intervention within a school-wide, multi-level, prevention system to maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems.

One of the key aspects of RTI is that it is multi-level and school-wide. You'll notice that we don't refer to tiers when we talk about RTI, we refer to levels of prevention. I'll talk more about this later. So if you look at the second part of the definition you'll notice that it starts with screening, or schools identifying students at-risk for poor learning outcomes. It then talks about monitoring student progress and providing interventions that are evidence-based, or in a sense, a multi-level prevention system. The definition goes on to say that the intensity and nature of interventions should be adjusted based on student responsiveness. This is data-based decision making, and it is the most important part of RTI.

Finally, the definition says that RTI may be used in the determination of specific learning disabilities or other disabilities, but note that is not the sole purpose of RTI. The National Center on RTI has created a graphic that represents what the RTI framework looks like. In the upper left corner you'll see the circle for screening.

Screening is one of the primary essential components of RTI. Using reliable assessments, in screening we identify students who are at-risk for poor learning outcomes. If you'll move to the right of the graphic you'll see progress monitoring. We use progress monitoring to monitor students progress in primary, secondary, and tertiary instruction.

At the bottom of the framework you'll see multi-level prevention system. The multi-level prevention system allows us to provide increasingly intense levels of instructional support. Many of you may associate the triangle graphic with RTI. The graphic of the triangle represents one component of RTI and that is the multi-level prevention system. The National Center on Response to Intervention describes three levels of prevention within an RTI framework.

The first level of prevention is primary. Within primary all students receive core instruction and core curriculum. All students are screened and some receive progress monitoring. In the secondary level of prevention, we provide more intensive supports for students who have been identified as at-risk for poor learning outcomes. These students may be progress monitored on a monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly basis. In our third level of prevention we provide students intense, targeted supports through what we refer to as tertiary prevention. Levels of prevention are different from tiers because you may have multiple tiers of support within each of the three levels of prevention. Looking again at the graphic, in the center you will notice the most important of the essential components, data-based decision making. Information from the other three components feeds into data-based decision making, and the decisions reached through data-based decision making impact the other three components.

Within data-based decision-making we make data analysis decisions at all levels, including the school, the class, and the grade and the student level. We establish routines and procedures so we can systematically make decisions about instruction, movement between tiers, and disability identification, in accordance with the state law. If you look on the outside of the graphic there are two circles. On the inner circle you see culturally responsive. That means the tools and practices used in the RTI framework are culturally responsive. You will also see evidence based. So within your RTI framework, the tools and procedures you use should be evidence based. With all of these components in place, you would expect to see what is in the outside circle, which is improved student outcomes.

If you want to learn more about RTI and the essential components, visit our website at Here you will find the document, The Essential Components of RTI: A Closer Look at Response to Intervention.


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