Reading: RTI in a Nutshell

Reading: RTI in a Nutshell

Emerson Dickman, J.D.

1. Screen
2. Teach
3. Intervene
4. Probe
5. Chart
6. Adjust


These are brief tests that are administered to determine if a child is expected to experience difficulty responding (not keeping up) in the core curriculum as traditionally delivered in the regular general education classroom. Such a child may be considered “at risk” for reading failure.


Core curriculum in the regular general education class is research-based and field tested. This means, based on evidence from converging research, that the core curriculum contains all the elements found necessary to effectively teach reading and has a known track record of success. Such curriculum is to be delivered by “highly qualified” teachers sufficiently trained to deliver the selected instruction as intended, i.e., with fidelity to design.


Provide “at risk” children with enhanced opportunities to learn; possibly including, but not limited to, additional time exposed to core curriculum, decreased student/teacher ratio, or special education.

Probe (progress monitoring)

These are brief tests that are administered to determine if the child receiving intervention is responding as intended.


Progress is regularly charted to provide a visual record of actual rate of progress as compared to the rate of progress that is the goal of the intervention. The goal of intervention is individualized to the unique needs of each child. The goal is for the child to catch up and “close the gap” with grade level standards.


Depending on whether the child is achieving a rate of progress determined by his or her individualized goal, the manner and intensity of intervention will be adjusted.


Tier 1 (general education)

In this school – all children start in Tier 1, which consists of a research-based core curriculum. All children are screened at this Tier to determine if they are responding appropriately to instruction before they experience any significant failure in comparison to their peers.

Tier 2 (general education)

In this school – Tier 2 consists of increasing the time and intensity of the child’s exposure to the core curriculum for children that do not appear to be responding appropriately to Tier 1 instruction. For instance, an additional 30 minutes per day devoted to reading, in a small group. Adjustments can be made within Tier 2 to increase time on task or decrease student/teacher ratio. (In some schools such adjustments may be referred to as Tier 3, Tier 4, and so on.)

Tier 3 (special education)

In this school – Tier 3 requires that a child be found eligible for special education and related services. Such eligibility would allow exposure to remedial methods and practices that, although research-based, are not necessarily aligned with the core curriculum.

NOTE: Regular progress monitoring (probes) and charting are required during all Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions.

Procedural Protections

My personal interpretation of the spirit and the letter of the law is that a child cannot enter Tier 2 interventions without parents being told that the child is at risk, informed of the instructional strategies being used, the progress being experienced, and being informed of their right to request an evaluation for special education and related services. If such a request is made it must be completed within the time limits required unless extended by mutual written agreement. The purpose of early parent involvement is to foster a relationship where the parent is engaged and empowered to be an “instructional partner.”