Examining Response to Intervention practices

MDRC has issued a new report examining Response to Intervention (RTI) practices and evaluating their effects on the reading achievement in Grades 1-3 (Years 2-4) during the 2011-12 school year.

RTI is a process aimed at preventing pupils from falling behind in class and is arranged by hierarchy: Tier 1 refers to general class teaching, Tier 2 to small-group tutoring, and Tier 3 to more intense tutoring with 1-2 children. RTI practices also include assessing all pupils at least twice yearly, the use of data to determine Tier 2 or 3 placement, and progress monitoring for pupils in Tiers 2 and 3.

A total of 146 US schools using RTI in reading for three or more years and implementing recommended practices (the impact sample) were compared to 100 randomly chosen schools in the same states (the reference sample) that may or may not have been implementing RTI at all. Researchers compared RTI practices between schools, the intensity of RTI use, and impacts on reading achievement.

Among the findings, researchers found that “impact schools” were more likely than “reference schools” to perform universal screening assessments twice a year and to provide staff to help with data gathering and teaching reading.

They also performed a regression discontinuity study of pupils who were just above and below the cut-off point of needing intervention. This showed that assignment to Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention had a negative impact on first grade (Year 2) children on the margin of being at risk for reading delays compared to their peers who were near the cut-off point but remained in Tier 1. Second and third graders in Tiers 2 or 3 demonstrated gains that were not significantly different in the RTI and reference schools.

The authors warn that the effectiveness of the entire RTI system should not be judged based on these outcomes that look solely at a subset of RTI pupils.

Source: Evaluation of Response to Intervention Practices for Elementary School Reading (2015), MDRC.

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