An Overview of the RTI Tiers
Response to Intervention

An Overview of the RTI Tiers

April 3, 2016 1

RTI stands for Response to Intervention. It achieves two major purposes:

  1.    RTI ensures that students who would qualify for special education are identified in a timely way.
  2.    RTI provides struggling students – without special needs – with increasingly targeted interventions as soon as possible so that they are able to successfully access grade level content.

RTI achieves these purposes through three tiers of instruction and a collaborative team that meets consistently throughout the school year.


Tier 1

Tier 1 is the high quality instruction that is given through the core curriculum. With differentiation of content, process, and/or product, the core curriculum should meet the entire needs of at least 80% of the class. The goal is for all students to master all grade level standards. Students are assessed periodically to identify struggling learners. These struggling learners (about 20% of the student population) still benefit from Tier 1, but they need additional support from the Tier 2 or 3 program.


Example: Janiah is a new sixth grader at her school with a bright personality and many friends among her classmates. She reads fluently, and has no trouble sounding out challenging words, however, on the Fountas & Pinnell test given at the beginning of the year, she scored two years below grade level, which is a level Q. Because she is rule-follower who rarely asks for help, she is a student who could have easily slipped through the cracks. By October, her teacher, Ms. Tatum, notices that her grades are consistently low and she is usually unable to answer questions about the reading without multiple prompts. She begins scaffolding instruction by checking in with Janiah and a few others in a small group each day to provide context for the upcoming sections when the rest of the class is reading independently. Ms. Tatum also spends this time with Janiah going over the comprehension questions that the rest of the class will receive after they complete the reading. She hopes that this guidance will help her to read with more intentionality and greater comprehension.


Tier 2

Tier 2 is for students who are not making adequate progress in the core curriculum, or Tier 1. The goal of Tier 2 is to remediate skill deficits with the idea that in doing so, students will be successful in the Tier 1 program without support. Tier 2 is small group instruction with specific goals that students are expected to master within 8-16 months. Tier 2 usually includes roughly 15% of the student population.

*Tier 2 is in addition to Tier 1 instruction, not in place of it. Students should never be pulled from core instruction to receive intervention.


Example: Even with Ms. Tatum’s daily check-in’s and prompts, Janiah is still unable to make progress. In fact, after two months of small group facetime, Ms. Tatum’s concern for her grows. She refers Janiah for RTI. Janiah’s Tier 2 screener, another Fountas & Pinnell assessment, confirms her teacher’s analysis. Her accuracy and decoding skills are high but her comprehension is still reflective of a fourth grade reading level, a level R. Janiah enters Tier 2 of RTI. She joins a guided reading group with the reading interventionist during her intervention block, where she works on a comprehension goal crafted based on her assessment results and the standards being taught in her class. By the end of eight weeks, Janiah should be able to determine the obstacle facing the main character, and the character’s actions to overcome the obstacle.


Tier 3

Tier 3 is for students who are not making adequate progress in Tier 1 or Tier 2. The goal of Tier 3 is to remediate academic skill deficits to determine if a student can make meaningful progress with continued tier 3 or 2 services, or if the student should be referred for special education services. Tier 3 is an individualized, intensive intervention in groups of 1-4 students with specific remedial goals that students are expected to master within 16 or more months. Often, scripted curriculums are used at this tier. About 5% of the student population participates iin Tier 3.

*Tier 3 is in addition to Tier 1 instruction, not in place of it. Students should never be pulled from core instruction to receive intervention.


Example: After eight weeks of Tier 2, Janiah is unable to meet her goal of determining the obstacle facing the main character without heavy support. The reading interventionist notes that Janiah tends to focus on the most recent, literal details that she read and is unable to synthesize the details to see the big picture. The RTI team, including Janiah’s mother, meets for a Tier 3 meeting. When given the option of continuing Tier 2 for another 8 weeks or referring to Tier 3, the team determines that Tier 3 is the best route. Janiah is given a placement test for an intensive, scripted curriculum targeting first oral comprehension and then comprehension of written material. Janiah’s success will be determined by the formative assessments provided within the scripted curriculum. At the end of the 65 lesson program, the RTI team will reconvene to determine whether to return to Tier 2, continue in Tier 3, or refer for an evaluation for special education services.

Side by Side Tier Comparison Chart

rti chart
(Click on the chart to see a larger image.)


Check out upcoming articles to learn more about how to place students into these tiers at the beginning of the year and how to shift students into different interventions as their goals and their needs change throughout the year.


As always feel free to reach me at Sandra@GrowingReadersDC.com to get more information on RTI.

There is 1 comment

  • Dan says:

    Really informative chart at the end. Thanks!

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