In our work with teachers, we often hear comments like, "it's such a waste of time to take all this data." Or, "the data just ends up on a shelf somewhere."
We believe data is only valuable when it is understood and used to guide instruction. Here is an RTI process for reading in simple terms. We've included some free resources and references to guide your team's RTI process.
An RTI overview:
Tier One: Good instruction begins with solid, research based curriculum choices. Reading curriculum must include systematic phonics, vocabulary instruction, and language comprehension strategies such as asking questions, summarizing, finding the main idea, etc. Common Core also now mandates specific word study/phonics, including syllable type instruction. Many schools who operate under Guided Reading models will be out of compliance with Common Core unless phonics is added to Tier 1. In many cases, word study can be taught as part of a spelling program.
Tier Two: Teaching all students with a program does not ensure that all the students will master the curriculum. Tier two instruction is given as a supplement to Tier 1, and gives students extra time to master Tier 1 curriculum. Most Tier 2 instruction should be given by the classroom teacher.
Tier Three: If students still are not making progress at Tier 2, then educators need to figure out what is limiting progress. For some students, Tier 3 consists of even smaller groups with more directed instruction or re-teaching. Some students just need a much slower pace and more repetition, and Tier 3 can provide this. Other students have specific learning disabilities that limit progress and need to receive specialized accommodations in order to learn. Tier 3 is usually provided by learning specialists.
How to decide who belongs where? Data!
The word "data" has gotten a bad rap lately. Instead of thinking of data as just numbers for administration, let's think about data as "collecting information to decide what children know and using information to make sure that children have learned."
Tier 1 Data: Many schools already universally benchmark students three times a year for reading. This often includes phoneme awareness, letter identification, nonsense word fluency, and timed reading fluency. The purpose of this data is to:
- Identify group outliers: Here are Reading Fluency Norms. Universal benchmarking can be used to identify students who are not performing within age expected ranges. However, most universal benchmarks in isolation will not be enough data to create groupings.
- Ensure that all students are improving on grade level material: If students are below grade level, teachers may not be using grade level reading material within instructional groups. However, we would expect to see some carry over of skills into higher level material. Three times/year benchmarking also helps ensure that our learners with grade appropriate skills continue making growth.
Tier 2 Data: Universal benchmarking has provided teachers with a list of students who fall below grade expectations. Now teachers need to determine the appropriate reading level for these students. More information is needed. We recommend that school support personnel, such as literacy specialists or speech language pathologists, help collect this data.
Ideally, educators will want to collect information on outlier students' phonics skills and comprehension levels for Tier 2. For comprehension level, we recommend the Developmental Reading Assessment Here is a Phonics Inventory from Scholastic.
After collecting this information, one team member should create a spreadsheet listing all the available information like this simple example here. Then, the instructional team including classroom teacher and specialists should meet to place students into groups, using this information.
If you notice, the group instructional level was chosen to meet the needs of most the students. If a group pace moves too fast/slow for a particular student, the groups can be adjusted accordingly. Another thing to note is that not all the groups are the same size. In order to meet the needs of the students performing at lower academic levels, teams may want to make these groups smaller right from the start.
At this point, a classroom teacher has two Tier 2 groups with specific group goals: To increase comprehension strategies at the specified levels and to master phonics patterns listed. These groups can remain the same for 6-8 weeks.
A teacher might meet these goals with a combination of small group instruction, independent computer work, silent practice, and/or specialist-lead groups during a literacy centers block. Computerized instruction, like that offered through Read Naturally can also target students' needs on an even more individualized level.
Classroom teachers might even go a step further and specify reading comprehension strategy or reading fluency targets(i.e. using punctation appropriately, chunking information while reading) for each 6-8 week intervention block. Identifying a specific instructional target allows specialists like the speech-language pathologist to come in during a literacy block and target the same skills as a classroom teacher. Literacy specialists might also come in during a literacy block to help run small groups.
Bi-Weekly Progress Monitoring: Tier 2 groups remain in place for 6-8 weeks. However, teachers should take bi-weekly data to ensure students are progressing. This can be as easy as having a student read for one minute at the instructional level of the group and counting the words correct and errors, or giving all the students 5 words to spell that include the targeted the phonics pattern, collecting the number of words correct/incorrect.
After 6-8 weeks, the educational team should re-meet to discuss observations and bi-weekly progress monitoring data. Have students increased every two weeks on the number of words they can read aloud in one minute at a specified instructional level? Have the students' consistently spelled 4/5 of the spelling words with the targeted phonics pattern correctly each week? Students that have can continue in Tier 2, with new group goals at higher levels, either using phonics information from the original testing period or taking a new phonics inventory. Reading levels can be increased as appropriate. Tier 2 groups can also be adjusted as needed.
If a teacher believes that one round of Tier 2 instruction has moved a student into the average range, the original universal benchmark can be re-administered to compare the student to his peers. If the students scores within the average range, Tier 2 services can be discontinued.
Some students will not meet the goals as determined by a lack of progress in the weekly progress monitoring. These students need to move to Tier 3.
Tier Three: Students who do not make progress, despite small group instruction and targeted goals, need further team discussion. At this point, parents should be invited to a team meeting. A team member should compile all the information, including universal benchmarking numbers, Tier 2 data, and bi-weekly progress monitoring information.
Specialists should be invited to this meeting to help brainstorm more ideas, including accommodations. For some schools, educational testing is part of this Tier 3 process. Tier 3 students can be placed within instructional groups, but unlike TIer 2, there is no group goal. All the goals are individual. Specialists should help create these plans and assist teachers in delivering this instruction.
Response to Intervention puts a great deal of responsibility on the general education teacher to be the master of information. Therefore, it is crucial that teachers develop organizational systems to keep all the information organized and accessible. Here are some free organization systems:
We recommend creating one system before the start of the year and maintaining the system for at least 6 months, creating changes mid-year as needed. In our opinion, starting and stopping new systems mid-year reduces quality of instruction to students as teachers spend more time worrying about organization than on instruction.
When data is organized and used to drive instruction, it is well worth educator and student time. Think of "data" as a pre-test and a post-test. Teachers want to figure out what students don't know, teach it to them, and then test them to make sure they have learned. This is our job as teachers, and it's also quite enjoyable watching our students bloom on paper.
Want to Learn More?
RTI for Kindergarten Language: Language skills at age 5 are directly correlated to reading comprehension in fifth grade. RTI approach to language using the Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment can help guide your school team in making decisions to ensure that all students master deeper level language skills.
Phonics/Word Study: With Common Core putting more emphasis on phonics/word study, it is also imperative for educators to fully understand the composition of the English phonetic system. Unfortunately, many educational training programs lack solid teacher preparation in this area. We recommend Online Orton Gillingham Phonics Training for all teachers and specialists looking to better serve students with reading needs.