Monday, April 14, 2008

What is RTI (Response to Intervention)?

In my last post about attending Fred Gensee's presentation at the TESOL conference in New York, I mentioned that he suggested using Response to Intervention (RTI) to address the needs of struggling English Language Learners (ELLs). I realize that "RTI" is a term that is surfacing more and more in K-12 contexts, especially where ELLs are being served. I also realize that many of us don't really know what it is, so let's define it.
So what is Response to Intervention (RTI)?
"Response to Intervention is designed as an early intervention to prevent long-term academic failure. Instruction and interventions are matched to meet students’ needs. It is generally depicted as a three-tiered model. Progress monitoring is frequent enough to fine-tune the instruction to students’ needs. Based on student response, interventions can match the specific skill deficit. (Reading Horizons)"

I should note that the traditional RTI model is designed more for lower grades, specifically grades K-2, as the goal is early intervention; however, it is also used with adaptations in other grades--even at the high school grade level. To see how RTI works, check out this short documentary video on my company's website:
Happy Tiers - A Three Tier Model. I highly recommend taking a look if you're interested in becoming better informed about what RTI is and seeing an example of how it works.


  1. I am currently teaching in a district that is 3 years into using the RTI model to meet students’ needs although it will not be required in Illinois until 2010. Your reference to Mr. Genesee caught my eye because we realized that our ELL students were scoring very poorly on our literacy screener and therefore qualified for our reading intervention. A debate ensued as to whether or not these students should “double dip” into the resources that our school offered or if the ELL services would provide the necessary supports to bring the students up to speed.
    Midway through the school year, we decided that some of our ELL students, (while improving in their language skills), had not made appropriate gains in their literacy skills. This group of students was then placed in a reading intervention group as well as remaining in their ELL group. The results were extremely positive when we screened for the last time earlier this month. Each of the English Language Learners tested significantly higher after receiving dual services. In fact, 5 out of the 7 met their spring benchmark for their respective grade levels.
    While this is certainly a small sample and it was not a controlled study, the potential implications are promising. I know that we are planning to involve our neediest ELL students in RTI as well. I think Mr. Gensee is on the right track!

  2. Maggie, thanks so much for your testimonial! I agree that the implications are very encouraging, especially after hearing anecdotal feedback from individuals who are currently involved in employing the RTI model. I'm curious as to the grade level of your ELLs that are being exposed to the RTI model...

  3. At the time of my posting, I was speaking of 2nd graders only. However, we also had all ELL kindergarteners involved in RTI and they also showed dramatic improvements. Of course, it all comes down to funding for staff. Encouraging results, though!

  4. could you describe to me how RTI reduce ELLs?

  5. Again. Could you explain the overpopulation in special education of ELLs and describe how RTI reduce this?