This photo belongs to Melissa Reese Etheridge

 RTI is a structure that aligns instruction and systems of assessment, data collection and analysis, and interventions to best meet the academic and behavioral needs of students. It is based on the belief that all students--including English learners, students with disabilities, students who are economically disadvantaged, and students of all ethnic backgrounds--can learn if they are given the proper materials, strategies, and interventions. The goal of RTI is to maximize student achievement through the use of effective instruction strategies while teaching and promoting behaviors that are supportive of the learning environment. Think of RTI as the framework for a service-delivery system that includes high-quality instruction, evidence-based academic and behavioral interventions, frequent monitoring of student progress, the regular and consistent use of data for decision making, and team collaboration. Evidence-based interventions are implemented to increase the probability of a successful outcome. The intensity and frequency of interventions are adjusted according to student responses throughout the implementation.

Although RTI is considered a general education initiative, its foundation is rooted in special education law; the term was incorporated into the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Educators recognized problems in the deficit model of special education and called for reform. The old model was problematic in that students were not identified as having special educational needs until a large deficit was apparent. In this "wait to fail" model, students could not qualify for special education until they experienced a level in their academic performance that was years below that of their peers. As a result, students did not receive special education services until the discrepancy was such that closing the gap was difficult and often unlikely.

The RTI model is built on the premise that a structure of appropriate curricula, instruction, assessments, and interventions, all based on scientific research, provides a framework in which students will have the best chance at academic and behavioral success. When a student is recognized as having a need that requires a specific intervention, the need is addressed, progress is monitored, and adjustments are made as necessary. Should the student not respond, a different or more intensive intervention is employed. A two-year deficit is not required before action is taken. If students continue to struggle and evidence indicates the need, the potential result is a special education referral. Special education referral and identification are not the main focus of RTI but can be the outcomes for those students who don't respond to the repeated use of interventions matched to their specific needs. Evidence and the constant and consistent use of data are foundational components of the RTI process.

As the U.S. Department of Education does not endorse any one structure for RTI, states can create their own to best suit their needs. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, states must incorporate certain components into the model, such as strong research base and frequent monitoring of student progress.

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