Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention



Response to Intervention

            Response to Intervention (RTI) is a program that “integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement and to reduce behavioral problems” (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010, p. 2). In the program, schools collect a large amount of data on students and then use it to point out learners who are threatened by poor education outcomes. The data is also used to monitor the progress that the students are making. Schools use the data collected in the program to carry out interventions. Interventions usually vary in intensity depending on how much the learners are responding to them (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010). The main aim of the program is to ensure that all students have excellent opportunities to be successful in school. To achieve this, two goals have been set for the program. The first goal is to bring together all resources available to reduce the possibility of long lasting repercussions that resulted from poor learning outcomes. The second goal of the program is to improve the process of identifying disabilities in learners (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010).

            The RTI program is divided into three different layers making it a multi-level system. The three levels of focus are primary, secondary and tertiary. Interventions are normally carried out multiple times within each of these levels (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010). Regardless of the number of interventions carried out, schools are supposed to ensure that they are classified under one of the three levels. Doing so enables cooperation and coordination between schools across districts and states. The intensity of the interventions varies in the three levels. The primary level has the least intensity while the tertiary one has the most. In the primary level, interventions are carried out in a manner that makes them beneficial to the needs of a majority of the students. At the secondary level, focus is placed mostly on the students who appear to be at the highest risk. The interventions at this level are influenced by the data collected by the system. At the tertiary level, interventions target individual learners, particularly those who have failed to show any response to any actions carried out before (National Center for Response to Intervention).

The entire RTI process entails six key processes that are crucial to the success of the whole program. The first step of the program is to single out the students who stand a chance of emerging from the learning process with poor outcomes. To identify these students, a two stage screening process is applied. In this screening process, the learners are supposed to go through a series of tests that establish how beneficial the process has been to them up to that point. These screening processes are applied again at later stages of the program to know whether the interventions are working (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010).

The second and third processes of the program are closely linked to each other. In the second process, a research-based curriculum is used to make sure that the students in the program get the most out of their classes. Evidence-based interventions are also used at this point. In these interventions, small group instructions are used to target specific problem areas. Normally, these interventions are of moderate intensity (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010). The third process in the program involves monitoring the learner’s progress. This process is very vital to the success of the whole program. Instructors check to see if the learners in the program are benefiting in any way from the interventions and the special attention. Depending on what the instructors observe, the methods used in the program may change in intensity or the student may drop to a lower level in the system (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010).

            The last three steps of the program give a final verdict on the learner’s abilities. In the fourth process, the intensity and manner of the interventions is changed to match the learner’s reactions. Data collected throughout the program is used to tell whether the learner is making any progress. If progress is being made, then the interventions decrease in intensity. If the learner is still not making any progress, then the interventions become more rigorous (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010). After this, the fifth step identifies the students who are suffering from learning disabilities. Learners who have completely failed to respond to the interventions are likely to have a disability related to learning. The data collected from the whole process is then used to help other schools deal with similar situations. This data includes the intervention methods used and the special curricula that were applied in earlier parts of the process (National Center for Response to Intervention, 2010).

RTI and Assistive Technology

            Edyburn (2013) points out that while describing RTI, there is limited mention of the program’s use of special technologies. He argues that the use of assistive technology should be considered, especially in situations where interventions have failed to assist in all three levels (Edyburn, 2013). The technology should mostly be applied in the second and third levels because applying it in the first one would make it lose most of its assistive value. The three level system used in RTI can go together with assistive technology. Here, learners who fail to improve after the first level are immediately earmarked for use of assistive technology from the second level onwards (Edyburn, 2013).

Repercussions of Neglecting RTI

            Reynolds’ and Shaywitz’s (2009) analysis of the RTI program reveals that there is a lot that is yet to be proven concerning its effectiveness in improving the standards of the education system. Their main criticism of the system is that it has a weak experimental base, and this means that many of the supposed benefits of the system are unproven. Issues such as these make it difficult to identify any negative consequences that could come up because of failing to apply this system in a school.


Edyburn, D.L. (2013, September 5). Response to intervention (RTI): is there a role for assistive technology. Retrieved from

National Centre on Response to Intervention. (2010). Essential components of RTI – a closer look at response to intervention. Retrieved from

National Center on Response to Intervention. (n.d.). Multi-level prevention system. Retrieved from

Reynolds, C.R., & Shaywitz, S. E. (2009). Response to intervention: ready or not? Or watch them fail. School Psychology Quarterly, 24, 130 – 145.

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