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13 Nov

Understanding Response to Intervention (RTI) & Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS)

sped rti mtss

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a system of supports that schools put in place to provide high quality education to students. It was originally developed as an overall framework for prediction and prevention for disabilities, remediation and disability assessment. It comes out of the foundational components of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) including nondiscriminatory evaluation, appropriate education and procedural due process.

RTI is designed to aid in the identification of learning and behavior problems and learning disabilities, improve instructional quality and provide students with academic opportunities. It calls for implementation of a differentiated curriculum with different instructional methods with tiers of increasingly intensive, scientific, research-based interventions.

“When RTI is implemented in a consistent, ongoing basis, students with disabilities thrive as do other students, those have no label but who may hit some bumps in the roads along the way. RTI puts into place a system that is sensitive to the learning needs, growth and progress of all students” says Don Deshler, the Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Special Education and the director of the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas.

RTI is composed of high-quality instruction characterized by cultural and linguistic responsiveness, assessment and evidence–based intervention. RTI has four components:

1) Universal Screening

Used to understand how each student is performing on critical academic tasks in the core curriculum. Teachers provide a universal probe, tapping the students understanding of essential skills and content. One done, there is a better understanding of which students are doing well or struggling – and this gives a baseline for educators.

2) Teaching With Evidence-Based Practices & Curriculum

What is being taught will have been shown to work with students in the past. If educators use those, they can have reasonable confidence that students should respond to that kind of instruction.

3) Monitoring

Periodically educators administer probes to the students in the class, similar to the initial screening to see if they are absorbing the content that was taught to them. This is a cue to teachers to look more closely and make adjustments or minor modifications for struggling students.

4) Tiered Interventions

If minor adjustments don’t make a difference, then educators need to consider more intensive delivered instruction. RTI creates a tiered framework, the number of which can depend on how RTI is being implemented in that educational system. They can be generalized into three levels.

  • Tier 1 – Level of instruction found in general education classrooms
  • Tier 2 – More deliberate, direct and explicit in how students are taught and how feedback is models and details are provided.
  • Tier 3 – Intensive instruction and may bring in a specialist who would have added expertise to weigh in on the challenge.

Depending on your state, RTI can be called different names and different acronyms but the important and consistent element is the tier-based support. Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is an implementation of RTI that has been specifically designed for all students not just those with disabilities.

MTSS supports four core beliefs:

1) Every child learns and achieves to high standards 2) Learning includes academic and social competencies 3) Every member of the education community continues to grow, learn and reflect 4) Every leader at all levels are responsible for every student

According to, “When implemented fully, an effective MTSS results in a self-correcting feedback loop that uses universal screening assessment data to not only intervene at the student level but also to continuously refine the system by analyzing grade, building and district level data for the purpose of school improvement.”[1]

To learn more about RTI and MTSS, visit the resources below.




Important Dates

Application Deadline

December 28
Spring 2019 Term

Next Start

January 14
Spring 2019 Term


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