Response to Instruction & Intervention: RTI^2 v. 1.0

I’ve been trying to find others working under an RTI model (our Tennessee brand is RTI^2, for “Response to Intervention and Instruction”) at the high school level. No response to these repeated tweets:

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So I guess we’re out here alone (please prove me wrong)

Here are our first steps to implementing RTI in our high school of almost 2,000 students, grades 9 – 12:

  1. Scheduling: We have a fairly standard 7-period day, so scheduling time for RTI was our first, huge challenge. Level 2 and Level 3 intervention courses were created to address learning deficits in Reading and Math.

     Students who score in specific reading or math areas in the 10th – 25th percentiles will be given a 47 minute period of Level 2 Intervention class each day in addition to their regular Math and English classes.

    Those who score below the 10th percentile will be given a Level 3 Intervention class, also 47 minutes. Although it’s recommended that Level III be more time-intensive, we are, as always, restricted by the bell schedule,.

  2. Data Collection and Progress Monitoring: We’ll collect daily data for specific target objectives for each student in intervention, and are to administer short progress checks at least every two weeks. For now, we are to administer a “universal screener” at least three times a year to get an overall picture of student progress. Our county selected STAR, from Renaissance Learning, as our screener, but many of our teachers are skeptical about the validity of this measure. In fact, we have yet to preview any screener that we really like.
  3. Credits: Students will earn credits toward graduation for the intervention courses, and those who need several intervention courses can meet our state’s graduation requirement for a focus area elective with intervention classes.

    Students who make improvements and no longer qualify for intervention classes can transfer out at the end of a semester, receiving a half credit only. We don’t have any options for exiting students who progress out of the deficit level within a semester. We also haven’t agreed on grading policies for the classes yet.

  4. Inclusion: For the past few years, we have had “inclusion” classes that were intended to be co-taught by a general and special education teacher, with about 1/3 of the students in the class identified with special needs. Teachers had a hard time implementing the co-teaching model well, so we’ve dropped it.

    Students with disabilities will still be in general education classrooms, but distributed more evenly among teachers – and without special education teachers in the rooms. The hope is that the RTI classes will address the deficit areas and students will do better in their general education classes. The 1% or so of students with the most significant disabilities will still have pull-out special education classes, when needed, and support from special education assistants, if needed, in general education classes.

*The RTI model also includes some major changes in identification of students with Learning Disabilities, but these changes effect earlier grade levels more than high school, since most students who truly need services have been referred for special education long before coming to us.

In the future I’ll be reporting about our progress



Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI^2) #1: Am I Dreaming?


Our high school is launching headlong into an RTI initiative this year, so lately I’ve been attending training sessions and reading everything I can find on the topic to help make this work. For years, the special education teachers I know have been lamenting the lack of time and permission to address deficits in foundational knowledge and skills.  Since the launch of No Child Left Behind, we have been told to teach grade level standards and provide accommodations such as reading texts aloud and modifying grades. We lost our focus on education in special education.

Now, special and regular education teachers will be given extra time to pull students into small groups and teach out-of-grade-level foundation skills to fill in the gaps when students lack prerequisite skills. What a relief. And yet, I have so many questions and concerns.

  • How will intervention classes be graded? High schools are so centered around assigning grades and issuing credits that we sometimes forget that our primary purpose is student learning. Can grades and deep learning coexist?
  • Will high school kids buy into the system? Many students who’ve spent years struggling in academic classes will now be asked to spend more school time in English or Math coursework. Will they resist, or is there a way to convince them that they will benefit from the extra help?
  • Will high school teachers be able to effectively teach foundation level skills like basic literacy and numeracy? Few of our teachers have had specific training in this type of instruction.

I’m beginning this series to document our progress as we put this system into practice. I don’t know if my optimism is just crazy dreaming or if this might be the start of something that makes a difference. Who else had tried RTI in high school? How has it worked?