But once educators find themselves working with the framework, either due to a change in certification or school, the excitement of what RTI can do for students is often follow by: “Wow, that looks like a lot of work.”
The first reaction tends to be accurate. But, the latter observation isn't necessarily true -- that is, if you’re smart about managing the resources of your classroom. Here are some simple tips that will help you lower the "fear factor" of RTI implementation.
Tier 1 of RTI is all about differentiation in the whole-class setting. Every teacher would love to differentiate for each child, but there are only so many minutes in a class period or hours in a day.
With the limited time constructs in mind, don’t be afraid to utilize educational technology (if/when available) to help you differentiate instruction. Advanced learning systems can now diagnose background knowledge gaps and help fill them with customized curricula. Effective EdTech learning tools, when used as a center in your classroom rotation, can afford you additional one-on-one time with the students that require reinforcement and assistance.
Avoid uniform or undecipherable assessment data
Accumulating and using data is central to RTI, but particularly in tiers 1 and 2. The assessment and data you collect will greatly improve your ability to move students up/down the pyramid. But if you’re serious about differentiation, that also means providing differentiated assessment.
Frankly, whole-class summative assessments are rarely seen in a true RTI setting. Once again, prescriptive educational technology now exists to help point your teaching effors in the right direction(s) and avoid treating each student as the mean. As students move through a system, data is being accumulated that can be used as a valuable piece of the formulation of a solid and personalized learning plan.
Provide seamless support for tier 2 students who leave main classroom
A popular strategy in Tier 2 is the process of a supplemental teacher (i.e. math coach, literacy coach, special education teacher, etc.) pulling struggling students out of class for more targeted instruction. While this is a necessary intervention and is more beneficial than a struggling student staying in class, these students do risk the chance of falling behind on the details of your class, like homework announcements, quick critical thinking activities, and other “housekeeping” pieces.
Students often become frustrated and disconnected when they fall out of the loop. Instead, be sure to make a concerted effort to keep your class website or LMS updated so the tier 2 students (and their parents) know what happened while they were gone and can keep themselves on top of things. Make accessing the site easy to understand and part of your 1:1 aside instruction time.
Encourage and enrich students who rejoin classmates
In the original design of RTI, students who reached tier 3 intervention were placed under an IEP and would not return to a general classroom environment. But as the trend of mainstreaming continues to grow, tier 3 students often return to their main class(es) following the move back to tier 2 and/or 1. This strategy is very beneficial, because the formerly tier 3 students have accomplished something special and need to be treated as such.
Whether they are succeeding or still struggling, data is key to movement in RTI, so make sure all of your ducks are in a row. Be aware that the returning students will most likely require extra differentiation to catch up with their peers. Approach the situation with the goal of keeping the student in your class, not finding ways to move them back up the pyramid.