Let’s Put the Horse Before the Cart!


Before exploring progress monitoring and interventions, we must put the horse before the cart. That is, we must first look at Response to Intervention or what the N.H. Department of Education calls Response to Instruction.  In this post, we will briefly explore RTI’s history and New Hampshire’s RTI framework (frameworks vary slightly state-to-state).

A Little RTI History: 

The RTI practice stemmed from Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law was passed in 1997 to ensure schools were held accountable and that academic progress was occurring. In 2004, IDEA was reauthorized to further the push for results in students progress and increase funding (5% to 15%). Also, individuals are now able to qualify for Special Education by their response to interventions. In the past, students would qualify for Special Education “based on the discrepancy between academic achievement and intellectual ability” (Buffum, Mattos, Weber, 18) Thus, educators use a framework to closely observe students struggling and provide interventions prior to referral (Buffman, Mattos, Webber, 2008).

What is RTI?

Response to Intervention is a practice used to ensure two aspects of teaching:

1. High-quality instruction and interventions meet the needs of learners.

2. Rate of academic growth and levels of performance is used to guide instructional decisions (Buffman, Mattos, Webber, 14).

The RTI framework is based on a three tier model.


Figure 3. http://education.nh.gov/innovations/rti/documents/framework.pdf

A Brief Look at the 3 Tiers:

As seen in the above figure, New Hampshire’s Response to Instruction (RTI) triangle has 3 tiers.

Tier I includes:

– Core instruction and universal interventions for all students.

– Universal interventions include flexible grouping, learning centers, scaffolding, peer tutoring, enrichment or extensions, differentiation, reteaching, and additional practice (Integrated Instructional Framework for Transformation: NH Response to Instruction Model for Implementation, p. 10).

– Universal screening for all to identify at-risk students and those who surpass benchmarks.

Tier II  includes:

– Additional explicit and systematic instruction aligned with Tier I core instruction.

– Targeted skill instruction to students not making adequate growth or meeting benchmarks.

– Interventions that are differentiated and scaffolded based on student’s targeted skill.

– Progress monitoring to track growth, level of performance and effectiveness of intervention/instruction.

– Instruction that is provided by highly qualified staff

Tier III includes:

– Instruction for students with severe academic needs and students who have not made adequate growth at Tier II.

– Instruction that is systematic, more intensive and closely aligned with student’s needs.

– Frequent progress monitoring to track growth, level of performance and effectiveness of intervention/instruction.

– Instruction provided is delivered by highly trained staff.

In conclusion, Tier 1 provides instruction for all students. As universal screening data is analyzed, slow-to-respond or non-responsive students receive more intensive and individualized interventions/instruction based on targeted skills. After analysis of progress monitoring data of Tier II students, a small percentage may need more intensive Tier III instruction due to persistent and sever academic needs.

Now that we have put the horse before the cart, we can explore interventions and progress monitoring in future blog posts.

Please feel free to post thoughts and questions pertaining to the tiers of RTI.


A. Buffum, M. Mattos & C. Webber. Pyramid Response to Intervention. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2008, Print.

New Hampshire Department of Education. Integrated Instructional Framework for Transformation: NH Response to Instruction Model for Implementation. September 2013.  Web. February 8, 2015. (http://education.nh.gov/innovations/rti/documents/framework.pdf).


You Can’t Build on a Weak Foundation!

Before exploring RTI in further detail, I want to make sure that each of you understand that state’s, district’s and school’s Response to Instruction frameworks vary.  I have experienced states and districts with extremely strict and time-consuming frameworks and districts with informal frameworks.  Both experiences have provided me with knowledge on best practices for RTI and an understanding of components that are vital for reaping the most growth from interventions. Please use this and future blog postings to inform you on a variety of educational topics (most chosen by you). I hope information provided supports you to be a reflective and responsive educator.

If you have information to share to further our knowledge, feedback on information or questions feel free to comment on any posting.


A home builder cannot build on a weak foundation. Similarly, a teacher cannot build on students’ foundational skills when they are weak. As part of Response to Instruction, educators identify at-risk students using universal screeners. Interventions provide instruction to strengthen the foundational skills of students.

What is an Intervention?

Defining the term intervention is simple. An intervention is a set of researched-based procedures designed to teach specific skill(s).

Is there a Difference Between Accommodations, Modifications and Interventions?


Accommodations are adjustments made to instruction that enable students to complete activities/assignments at the same expectation as other students. Accommodations do not change the elements of activities/assignments. Examples: extended time, individual or small group, preferential seating, typing instead of manual writing.

Modifications are changes made to the elements of knowledge expectations in activities/assignments. Examples: simplifying curriculum with lower reading levels and vocabulary, reducing the amount of outcomes to master, assignments are changed by lowing readability, worksheets and accessible vocabulary.

Examples of interventions for various skills and grade levels:

General Academic Interventions

Comprehension Interventions (scroll to bottom of linked page)

Various Literacy Interventions Gr. 2-3

Various Literacy Interventions Gr. 4-5

Comprehension Interventions #2

Vocabulary Interventions

Fluency Interventions 

Modifications and Accommodations:

K-4 Modification Checklist

5-8 Modification Checklist

Accommodations, Modifications (in-depth explanations with examples)

Professional Books on Interventions:

Click on the book to linked information.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photophoto 4

(Each one of the above texts are available in my office.)

Of course, many publishing companies have their own boxed intervention programs for purchase. For example, Linda Mood Bell (LIPS, Seeing Stars, Visualizing and Verbalizing), SRA Corrective Reading (comprehension and Decoding), READ 180, etc.  These boxed programs tend to be more intensive and time-consuming.

Researched-based instructional frameworks, such as guided reading, can be considered an intervention. This can occur when instruction is above and beyond the core instruction. For example, a teacher meets with guided reading group A (her lowest achieving group) 5 days a week for 20 minutes. This is her school’s minimum expectation for guided reading. She increase the time to 30 minutes, 5 times a week.  This would mean group A receives 50 minutes more of a guided reading intervention each week.

Defining and locating an intervention is easy. To implement an intervention so it constitutes as an intervention (an intervention that accelerates growth) is not as simple! In the next posting, I will explore what are the important components to an implemented intervention.

Technology and the Impact on Our Students

Last week, I found a posting on Facebook of an article from Huffington Post titled “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12” by Cris Rowen. First, I read this with my mommy hat, but I quickly jumped to wearing my teacher hat. For the most part, technology usage by our students is out of teachers’ hands. But overuse of technology does impact the student we teach. Below is a snapshot of the “reasons” to ban handheld devices.

1. Rapid brain growth: Excessive exposure is “associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increase impulsivity, and decreased ability to self-regulate.”

2. Delayed Development: 1 in 3 children enter school developmentally delayed. This delay greatly impacts their overall academic success.

3. Epidemic Obesity: When a device is allowed in a child’s bedroom it increases the occurrence of obesity by 30%.

4. Sleep Deprivation: 75% of 9-10 year old children are sleep deprived due to their excessive use of technology.

5. Mental Illness: Excessive use raises the rate of depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, ADD, autism, bipolar, psychosis and problem behaviors.

6. Aggression: Due to the aggression viewed on technology, the U.S. has determined that media violence is a Public Health Risk because of its effects on children’s aggression.

7. Digital dementia: Excessive use causes brain pruning! Need I say more?!

8. Addictions: Parents who excessive use technology reduce the relationship they have with their children. Reduced parental relationships cause an increased risk of addiction.

9. Radiation emission: Wireless devices have been classified as a category 2B risk (possible carcinogen).

10. Unsustainable: “Children are our future, but there is no future for children who overuse technology.”

As educators, how do you think excessive use of technology impacts our teaching? Can we do anything about the use of technology in our students’ homes?

Here is the link to the entire article:


Row, Chris. “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12”.  Huffington Post. March 6, 2014. online. March 13, 2014.

RTI: Tier I Follow-Up

The expectations placed upon teachers increase with every passing day. These expectations include committee, staff and team meetings, parent teacher conferences, completing of report cards, behavior forms, Office Discipline Referrals, academic forms, paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.

Within my current school district, we have implemented a new Tier I and Tier II RTI process. Part of this process consists of forms that are completed on every students that receives any Tier I intervention. These forms have been added to the plate of….you guessed it, TEACHERS!

These forms are time consuming to complete. Many teachers have requested a flow-chart to help guide in the completing the forms. Attached is the flow-chart for the Tier 1 RTI process and forms. While constructing the flow-chart it seemed that a glossary of terms would assist in understanding RTI terms which are part of the forms. With these two documents, I hope to decrease the time teachers spend on completing the Tier I forms. Yes, this is another form, but it clarifies the steps in a straightforward fashion (rather than the paragraph explanations found on the Tier I forms).

Please feel free to use the RTI flow-chart and the glossary of terms (these pertain to the RTI Tier I process within my school district only). If you think of something that would make this process easier, let me know.


RTI: Tier 1

“You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

Teachers know that a strong foundation helps to create strong students. When skills are weak or missing, students struggle due to their fragile foundation.  Tier 1 of Response to Intervention (RTI) is the foundation of learning. Without a strong tier 1, we create students with weak foundational skills.

Tier 1 consists of high quality core instruction, screeners, and classroom based interventions.

High Quality Instruction:

Tier 1 focuses on HIGH QUALITY INSTRUCTION! This encompasses many aspects.

“High-quality instruction (curriculum, instruction and assessment) is:

The RTI Action Network states researched based high quality instruction “…. can be summarized as follows:

  1. Teach essential skills and strategies.
  2. Provide differentiated instruction based on assessment results and adapt instruction to meet students’ needs.
  3. Provide explicit and systematic instruction with lots of practice—with and without teacher support and feedback, and including cumulative practice over time.
  4. Provide opportunities to apply skills and strategies in reading and writing meaningful text with teacher support.
  5. Don’t just “cover” critical content; be sure students learn it—monitor student progress regularly and reteach as necessary” (Denton, nd).


Differentiation is a term used in both explanations of tier 1, but what is differentiation?

“Definition: To differentiate instruction is to recognize students’ varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning and interests; and to react responsively. Differentiated instruction is a process to teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is and assisting in the learning process.

Graphic organizer: Learning Cycle and Decision Factors Used in Planning and Implementing Differentiated Instruction

Figure 1. Learning Cycle and Decision Factors Used in Planning and Implementing Differentiated Instruction” (http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/differentiated_instruction_udl#.Um0MApHuUds).

Universal Design for Learning (UDL):

The Maine Department of Education believes that teachers should use “differentiated instruction practices built on UDL principles” (Response to Intervention Guidelines, 13).

CAST is a non-profit working to expand learning opportunities for all using Universal Design for Learning. They say that when teachers plan instruction they need to take into account three primary brain networks.


Image 1:  http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html

Tier 1 Interventions:

Tier 1 all starts with high quality instruction, but some RTI frameworks include classroom based interventions within that first tier. Students are identified for tier 1 interventions through universal screeners.  These measure monitor students within the core instruction.

Students identified through screeners will receive tier 1 classroom based interventions that are beyond the core instructional time. For example, if a district states that core literacy instruction occurs for 90 minutes, then literacy interventions will need to be implemented outside of that time.

The State of Maine Department of Education states that tier 2 (though some districts consider core instruction and classroom interventions tier 1) is “multi-tired interventions provided by the classroom teacher when teachers group student into homogenous groups for an intervention period , or provide the targeted instruction during a classroom small group instruction time.”  This intervention is monitored through monthly, or more frequent, progress monitoring. The progress monitoring will show progress over time or the need to adjust the intervention intensity or focus.

The following is a summary of the RTI tier 1 academic framework used in my school district:

– Tier 1 includes quality core instruction using the district’s curriculum and standards.

– Universal screeners administered to all students 3 times a year to identify those who may require additional support. These screeners also identifies skills to target with tier 1 interventions.

– Tier 1 interventions are delivered by the classroom teacher using researched-based interventions.

– Progress monitoring probes are administered every two weeks , or more frequently, for student receiving an intervention.

– Interventions are implemented with fidelity and consistency for at least 6 weeks.

– If progress of tier 1 intervention(s) are limited over the 6 weeks, then initiate a tier 2 referral (tier 2 referral is used to bring a student’s data and concerns to a team to evaluate for tier 2 interventions).

– If progress is made (met standard/goal) before the 6 weeks then end intervention.

– If progress is being made and student will met the standard/goal, continue with intervention or increase the intensity to match the student’s needs.

– Classroom based interventions can delivered in small group or to individual formats.

Above is just one example of how RTI is used to create a framework to fit the needs and resources of a district.

Tier 1, specifically high quality core instruction, is vital for ALL students. With strong differentiated core instruction we can ensure that the majority of students get their needs addressed. Therefore, as schools focus their teachers on the tiers of RTI, they MUST NOT forget tier 1 classroom core instruction.  All too often, it is evident when a school district focuses on a specific tier and looses sight of the others.


Denton, Carolyn A., RTI Action Network. University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. nd. Web. October 26, 2013.

Hall, T., Meyer, A., Strangman, N., National Center on Accessibility Instructional Materials. Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. Nov. 2, 2009. Web. October 27, 2013.

“High Quality Instruction”. Wisconsin RTI Center. np. nd. Web. October 26, 2013.

“What is Universal Design for Learning?”. CAST. nd. Web. np. October 27, 2013.

The Start

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Henry Ford

Welcome to the “Exploring Literacy: Assessment, Instruction and Research” blog! The goal of this blog is to bring educators together to explore Literacy. As Henry Ford said, “Working together is success”. Therefore, COMING TOGETHER TO LEARN is an even greater success!

Please feel free to ask questions, share thoughts, and give ideas for future posts. Be sure to watch for the first post titled, “Response to Intervention #1”.