The teaching process always involves different methods and techniques that assist students in absorbing learning materials and making progress in education. Among such methods is Response to Intervention or Multi-Tier System of Supports. RTI provides academic support to students who face difficulties in the process of learning. Its aim is to determine a struggling learner and assist them. It is a tool that helps teachers to solve problems that arise in the educational process. Some researchers note the differences between RTI and MTSS or prefer to use the second term as they consider it more inclusive. However, Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017) do not see clear distinctions between the terms and use them interchangeably. The examination of RTI has shown that the method implementation may be an effective way to detect difficulties in the educational process and provide aid to struggling students. Before writing this paper, the work by Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017) was carefully examined. The course allowed me to gain a better understanding of various teaching methods and approaches, in particular, RTI. This paper will discuss the origin and purpose of the model in question. Six core characteristics of the approach will also be reviewed.
First of all, I will address the background of the method and explain how it was first introduced into educational institutions. In 2004 the USA signed the IDEA (Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) into law. The purpose of the act was to differentiate academic achievement and ability when identifying learning disabilities. Instead of using discrepancy, the regulations proposed school teachers to apply a response to instructional intervention. RTI is connected with several acts, which include the ESSA, the ESEA, and the NCLB. The IDEA enactment resulted in the RTI implementation in schools throughout the US. The benefit of the method is that it can be used in any grade and all academic areas. RTI was designed to detect learning disabilities and eliminate problems that may appear during the educational process.
The RTI approach consists of the six core components: use of the evidence-based practice, early intervention, careful monitoring of progress, fidelity of implementation, data-based decision making, and multiple tiers of intervention (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2017). In this paper, I will consider all the major characteristics of the model. According to Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017), the first three components are intended “to integrate early identification and remediation with special education” as well as “to develop a more integrated framework to serve interests of students with special learning needs” (p. 154). RTI encourages teachers to use practices that are underpinned by scientific data and implement curriculum-based evaluation when monitoring a student’s progress. There are cases in which learners fail to make progress despite the teacher’s intervention. On these occasions, extra attention and more intensive intervention may be needed. Hence, the purpose of the RTI is to prevent educational failures by implementing the early intervention, applying progress documentation, and execution of intensive data-based interventions.
Another notable characteristic of the method is a three-tiered system. The three levels, referred to as Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3, represent different levels of intervention: universal, targeted, and tertiary (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2017). Tier 1 is a more general instruction that is often delivered to all students in the class. The second tier implies more intensive and targeted interventions to smaller groups. Teachers resort to the last level instruction when the previous measures have proved to be insufficient.
Treatment-resistant students may need a higher intensity intervention, which is connected with a variety of aspects. Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017) explain that struggling students may demand “more systematic and explicit instruction,” “more frequently implemented instruction,” “instruction of longer duration,” “smaller and more homogeneous student groups,” and “instructors with greater expertise” (p. 154). It should also be noted that there can be variations in the RTI approach. According to Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017), the most common methods are a problem-solving approach and a standard-treatment-protocol approach. To illustrate how the plans can be put into practice, I can provide an example. At Tier 1, after the first approach, the teacher may consult with the student’s parents to solve the problem. If it does not help, at the second level, the teacher could confer with the school assistance team to detect a problem and find a solution to it. When the measures are not sufficient, the agency staff can be called to consider the implementation of Tier 3.
Another characterization of the RTI method is the fidelity of implementation, which helps to assess to what extent the delivered instruction meets the demands. Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017) mention different types of components, such as direct and indirect assessment measures. The first type implies using a checklist of intervention components, which helps assess the effectiveness of instructions by calculating a percent mastery score (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2017). Each institution determines an appropriate checklist and distributes them among the teachers. The indirect assessment consists of teacher interviews, self-reports, rating scales, and the results of teacher and student mutual work. The results may include completed assignments or feedback from the teacher. Indirect measures can help in cases when direct assessments are not high.
When a student does not show desirable progress in a settled period, an instructor should make a decision about their future actions. The decision-making process should be based on the data received by a teacher. For instance, if a learner makes progress, but it is still not enough to attain the same level with their classmates, the teacher should consider the implementation of additional Tier 2 instruction score (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2017). The use of special education might be justified if there is a remarkable gap in the results shown by a student and their peers.
The implementation of all three tiers of instruction requires a preliminary analysis of the student’s achievement. Tier 1 implies general instruction, which is provided by general education teachers to the whole class. This type of instruction is based on instructional programs that are specified by the ESSA and ESEA (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2017). The second level means education in small groups and with the help of more intensive procedures. Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017) state that this stage will require “recruiting new staff,” “substantial efforts in professional development,” and “implementing skill-monitoring procedures” (p. 167). It should also be taken into account that specific difficulties might arise when moving to this level of instruction.
If the progress achieved in the second level is insufficient, a student may need extra support and even more intensive instruction. Tier 3 is conducted more frequently, in very small groups, for a more extended period, and is focused on specific learning goals. Mastropieri and Scruggs (2017) indicate that this level “may or may not involve referral to special education, depending on state and local guidelines” (p. 167). The transition to special education should be made only under certain circumstances when the need for more intensive instruction is evident. IDEA presents criteria that can warrant the implementation of this type of education.
Stakeholders might face challenges when implementing RTI, but teachers, schools, and researchers are making attempts to overcome these difficulties. First of all, some characterizations of the RTI mechanisms should be indicated more clearly as the boundaries between learning disabilities and other disabilities may be blurred (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2017). Secondly, the implementation of RTI in some academic areas has not received enough examination. For example, there is a lack of evidence using the method for writing and maths compared to early reading. Future studies in the field will promote RTI implementation in all subjects. There is also a need for making the implementation of services prompt because, on some occasions, the measurement process is delayed for special education.
All in all, RTI seems to be an effective method for detecting behavioral and academic problems among students. This approach allows teachers to implement appropriate intervention on different levels and provide support for struggling learners. RTI consists of several levels or tiers, and instructors should take students’ progress into account when deciding which type of instruction to implement. I have learned that different teaching methods and approaches can help the teacher identify and address problems that students face in the education process. I believe that this field of study is promising and demands further research.
Mastropieri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (2017). The inclusive classroom: Strategies for effective differentiated instruction (6th ed.). Pearson.