Overview of the RtI Process


Response to Intervention (RtI) is the practice of providing a high-quality, integrated educational program (general, remedial and special education) which utilizes a systematic, data-based problem solving approach to address the academic and behavioral needs of all students.  RtI involves a multi-tier, integrated school improvement model which is research-based and standards-driven.  It involves regular measurement of student achievement and student behavior and addresses both prevention and intervention.

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) defines RtI as:

The practice of providing high-quality instruction and intervention matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about change in instruction or goals and applying child response data to important educational decisions.


The 2004 reauthorization of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) stipulates that fifteen percent [15%] of federal special education funds may be used with general education students who have not been identified for special education services.  The funds are to be used to develop and implement coordinated, early intervention services for students who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in a general education environment.  IDEA 2004 also provides for responsiveness to scientifically-based interventions (RtI) to be used as part of a process to determine eligibility for special education services for students with specific learning disabilities.

RtI has gained momentum as a means of increasing achievement for all students while also reducing the number of children that are identified for special education.  Research on RtI supports that, if used as intended, RtI can reduce the number of children identified with a specific learning disability. There are numerous variations on RtI and there is no one formula that guarantees success.


Response to Intervention is often represented as a three-tiered model for service delivery which is applied to both academic and behavioral outcomes (see figure below, which is an excerpt from “The Illinois State Response to Intervention (RtI) Plan” adopted by ISBE on January 1, 2008).  It calls for the collection and analysis of formative student assessment data for initial screening to determine instructional needs.  If problems are detected, interventions should be designed and then implemented, targeting these needs on an individual basis.  Data should then continue to be used to regularly monitor the student’s progress to determine if any instructional changes or more intensive interventions are needed.

Instruction and interventions should be based on scientifically-validated curriculum and teaching methodology.  Under RtI, lack of student response to interventions is used to determine a student’s need for additional targeted or intensive support.


In a three-tier model, tier 1 occurs in the classroom and provides universal instruction with differentiation to meet all students’ academic and behavioral needs.

Tier 2 is intended to provide additional interventions to tier 1 instruction for a targeted group of students who demonstrate a specific need.  Frequent assessment allows the educator to respond rapidly to those students’ needs.  Here the students’ schedules typically require additional time so that interventions in a small group setting may occur.

If tier 2 interventions are not successful, RtI problem-solving intensifies the level of support.  These most intense interventions would be identified as tier 3 interventions.  Often tier 3 interventions are individually administered and require additional time on top of tier 1 instruction and tier 2 supports.

If this systematic, research-based instruction with multiple interventions is not successful, then the problem-solving team determines if the student should be a candidate for special education designation.