RTI in Action:  Using Data for Student Placement
Response to Intervention

RTI in Action: Using Data for Student Placement

April 22, 2016 1

This is the hypothetical Harris Middle School’s first year of implementing RTI. They want to make sure they do it right, so the leadership team has decided to do a soft launch with just 6th grade Literacy. They’ve collected their beginning of the year data, and now they are ready to begin placing their students. Let’s walk through the process with them. (If you’d like some practice, take a look at the following data yourself and determine what groups you would make.)


Harris Middle School gave a universal screener at the beginning of the year.  They chose to use the SRI, a computer adaptive assessment. The results gives us a big picture view of sixth grade.


Universal Screener: SRI


Placing students SRI


As you can see, only fifteen of the 100 students are below grade level. Fifteen students is less than 20% of the student population, which means that the general education instruction is strong enough to meet the entire needs of 80+% of the students. This is foundational for the successful implementation of RTI.


Note: If you are looking at your draft and the Tier 2 need is much greater than 20%, you will need to reevaluate and adjust your literacy block as a whole to meet the entire needs of 80+% of the student population.


The literacy teachers pulled the 15 students over the course of a week and administered the Fountas & Pinnell assessment to each one to find the root issue of their struggle with reading. The literacy teachers gave each student as many tests as necessary until they found his or her independent reading level. Then, they gave the assessment right above the independent level, which is either the student’s instructional level (yellow) or  frustrational level (red). Looking at the root issue of the student’s struggle allowed the team to place each student in the intervention he or she needs the most. 


This is the result of that data. The F&P Level is broken down into three categories: accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. When students had a low accuracy score, the teacher provided some clarifying notes from the running record.

Fountas & Pinnell: Targeted Assessment

placing students FP 2


When making decisions about initial placements, the leadership team also incorporated classroom data. For the sake of simplicity in this hypothetical example, we will just look at Accelerated Reader (AR) quizzes and unit tests. In a real life scenario, the team could include interim results, exit tickets, or any other normed classroom data points.

Classroom Data

placing students class data


The Harris Middle School leadership team also used the following chart to help them determine where to place students. The big idea of the chart is that when students have multiple gaps, building up decoding skills is the priority. Students will never read fluently with strong comprehension if they cannot first decode accurately.


Reading Intervention Matrix

placing students matrix

(The next article will go into detail on how to pick the appropriate interventions for your students.)


This is the result of the leadership team’s deliberation. Compare the groupings you’ve created with the leadership team’s decisions, as well as their thought processes. 


Harris Middle School Draft of Tier 2 Groupings

placing students phonics group

placing students fluency group

placing students comp group

placing students not placed group


The leadership team has completed their draft. They are ready to  listen to their teachers’ feedback about specific students. They are prepared with an agenda of specific students they would like to discuss, and have planned targeted questions out beforehand to guide the discussion.


Teacher Feedback Questions


Further Recommendations


Drafts should be conservative to allow for flexibility for the groups to grow or shift throughout the year. The goal is not to place every student below grade level in an intervention in the beginning of the year. RTI is an ongoing process that allows for students to shift placements throughout the year. The goal is to initially place only the students with the greatest level of need.


Including less than 20% of the student population does not mean initially having a smaller number of teachers providing the interventions. The full capacity of teachers should be providing intervention to smaller groups of students. This will help the teachers adjust to teaching intervention and allow for space for students to enter later in the year.


Check out upcoming articles to learn more about Response to Intervention in action! Please reach out to me at Sandra@GrowingReadersDC.com for support in creating an intervention framework for your school.

Have I missed anything important? Do you agree/disagree with the way I placed the students? Leave a comment below!


There is 1 comment

  • Elke Oquin says:

    Good write-up. I certainly love this site. Continue the good work!

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