Three Simple Ways to Transform Your RTI Program

September 20, 2021

A strong RTI/MTSS plan is critical to students’ success. When all laid out, RTI/MTSS processes seem pretty straightforward: screen your students, identify learning gaps, provide interventions, and document growth. Easy enough, right? 

So, why do districts struggle when implementing these plans? The reality is that strong RTI practices require explicitly defined processes, research-based tools, and confidence in your data. As districts think through their current plans, many find themselves lacking the resources they need to get the job done effectively. And, with all of the other important back-to-school prep, sometimes districts don’t even realize they’re not closing the loop on RTI until several months into a semester. 

While back-to-school still feels like a while away, here are a few steps you can take today to help you get a leg up on RTI planning in the new year.

Take Inventory

Before students return to school, we strongly advise districts to conduct a comprehensive review of each stage in their RTI/MTSS plan from start to finish. The goal is to take inventory of all the tools you’re using at each stage and whether or not they are being used with fidelity. If not, it might be a good time to reevaluate why you are using them in the first place. Find out your RTI score.

Start with students’ Tier identification. How are students selected for intervention, and how reliable is that data? A common scenario we encounter is districts over-referring students for special education. Or, on the other hand, you could have students in need of special services who are not able to receive them. 

Having a reliable screening tool can take the guesswork out of determining which students get what level of support. Ideally, you should be screening all students consistently to accurately determine tier placements. 

The National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) provides ratings on validity and reliability for dozens of nationally recognized assessments - like Classworks!

If you’ve already got a solid screening tool in place, the question then becomes about the ease of use and meaningfulness of the data provided. If you’re spending hours of valuable classroom time and thousands of dollars for a cutting-edge screener, the information it provides on your students should be easy to understand and action oriented. Otherwise, teachers will have a hard time putting that critical data to work, leaving you right back at square one. In a strong RTI plan, data should be revisited after each screening administration.

As you move from the screener on to other stages in your RTI process - intervention, progress monitoring, social-emotional learning, etc - keep asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What exactly am I asking staff to do at this stage and do we have the right tools?
  2. Are the tools we use removing a burden from teachers or adding one?

Review the Accessibility of Intervention

This next topic zeroes in on a huge pain point for teachers across the country, and it’s one that districts are totally capable of resolving. After students have been identified and teachers have a clear understanding of where those skill gaps lie, the next step is pretty straightforward: close them. However, as we are all aware, closing learning gaps is much easier said than done, especially when dealing with populations of students with huge swaths of learning needs. Therefore, when districts place that expectation upon their teachers, it’s important that they also provide the tools to do so effectively. Imagine the struggle of a teacher with thirty students now having to hunt down the resources to meet each individual’s needs in addition to helping them master their grade-level standards. This only becomes more complicated as the support becomes more specialized, like in intensive intervention or special education environments.

Ideally, the data you collect from your screener will automatically inform students’ interventions; there should be an un-barricaded flow of information from your screening tool to the system providing research-based, individualized support for students. This negates the need for teachers to spend countless hours searching for resources that may or may not prove to be useful in closing gaps. And, after a year and a half of remote learning, remediating lost skills is at the top of everyone’s to-do list, bolded and underlined. 

For example, in Classworks, a student’s screener data places them on a learning progression unique to their needs. Within the progression, activities are automatically assigned and switched off for the student depending on their assessment or progress monitoring data. This is also true if the school is using a third-party screening tool like NWEA MAP, aimswebPlus, or Renaissance Star.

A good indication of solid interventions is being able to see movement in your tier populations.
Having assessment data directly informing your intervention provides several immediate benefits:

  • Ensures your screener is functioning as intended
  • Saves teachers hours of valuable instructional time
  • Provides students with exactly the right content

Streamline Your Processes & Utilize Data

Now that you have an idea of the processes in place, the tools you’re using, and the level of support you need, it’s time to explore how they can be streamlined for fall. Some of the more time-consuming tasks you are delegating to staff could be removed or, better yet, managed by the systems you’ve put in place. For example, think of the time saved by having a progress monitoring system that automatically charts and tracks student growth towards grade level. Something as easy as collapsing all your progress monitoring tools under one roof can save school psychologists so much time and help classroom teachers better contribute to analyzing the data and modifying interventions. 

In some cases, you might even find that the tools being used for one process can also be used for another. Like having a screener that also offers options for progress monitoring, or an intervention platform that both individualizes instruction and provides whole-group lessons. 

Then, not only are you saving time and money, but you can be sure that the data can be consistently applied at each stage. Oftentimes, districts receive copious and convoluted data from multiple sources and are then tasked to connect the dots. Progress monitoring data is  extremely useful for determining how students are responding to the interventions they receive. If teachers view this as a chore, you are missing a critical component of your RTI process!

Above almost everything, your district RTI/MTSS plan should be data-driven. And, it’s impossible to make important instructional decisions when it’s hard to tell what you’re looking at. Collecting the data required to make tier adjustments should not be hard to do, and should be reviewed at each stage of the RTI process to make decisions with integrity.

Classworks saves districts both time and money by providing a comprehensive approach to RTI that includes screening, individualized instruction, whole-group lessons, progress monitoring, SEL supports, and automatic documentation. 

Set Your School Up for Success

Implementing a structured plan for RTI/MTSS can be challenging for any district, especially when we’re seeing larger Tier II and III populations than years past. Remember, setting your school up for success means setting your teachers up for success. Providing them with the appropriate framework and resources makes it much easier for them to help students achieve grade-level success. 

A strong RTI/MTSS process should start with the end in mind and be composed of simple, sustainable processes. You should encourage regular check-ins with teachers to ensure everyone is clear on the systems you are using and their purposes. Once your plan is in place, invest in professional development to see what areas can be improved or streamlined.

To recap:

  1. Take an inventory of the processes and systems you are currently using
  2. Address whether or not research-based intervention is immediately available for students
  3. Review the data provided at each stage and whether it can be used for effective decision making

Take this quick survey to see your school’s RTI score!

Want to speak with an RTI specialist? Schedule a free consultation.

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