Response to Intervention: History and Use In a Reading Program

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History of Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention (RTI) was originally recognized in the 1970s as a method of identifying students with possible learning disabilities, based on difficulty acquiring instructional information, rather than the traditional “wait to fail” model. The traditional model relied on a discrepancy between Intelligence Quotient scores and grades, while RTI provided a much more rapid means of identification (Lohman, 2007). In the 2004, reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) RTI was noted as an acceptable means of identifying students with learning disabilities. Since approximately 80% of students identified with learning disabilities have reading disabilities, the history of response to intervention reading programs are clearly related to this approval through IDEA (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2006).

Why Use RTI with Reading?

Using RTI provides regular feedback to students and teaching faculty on student progress as individuals. Student progress displays visually, making interpretation of results clear for families, staff, and students themselves. Additionally, using RTI allows rapid adjustment of instruction to meet student goals, rather than relying on a unit test or semester grade. RTI, when used with normed curriculum-based measurements, allows comparisons to student progress nationally to provide additional information to families and school staff. Finally, RTI is a means of recognizing students who may benefit from individual instruction, tutoring, or other supports and assigning them to these programs as rapidly as possible to prevent further deficits.

What Does Response to Intervention Look Like?

The Response to Intervention reading program is a method of modifying instruction to meet student needs, regardless of reading curricula utilized. This method is identified by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs as an “Idea that Works.” This distinction recognizes RTI as a method of modifying instruction and recognizing students in need of remediation. Supported by research, RTI is an evidence-based practice. So, monitoring student progress using RTI is valuable, but how is monitoring implemented?

Often, these tools take the format of ongoing quizzes or brief assessments, known as curriculum-based measures (CBM). CBMs are brief, generally a page or two, probes of information that has been taught or is being targeted. One such example is CBMs on basic mathematics facts, often referred to as ‘speed drills.’ Probes, developed to target specific information, have a set time limit, based on content areas and level. Reading CBMs include two areas of targets - oral reading fluency and comprehension. Probes are administered at regular intervals and scores are graphed to determine anticipated progress.

How Is Reading Progress Determined?

Each grade level has varied probes, and norms established for grades 1 through 8, based on samples of students from across the United States. A determining baseline establishes the student level of performance. Three probes are given in a brief period of time - all at once or across three consecutive days, based on student level. The median of these three probes is determined to be the student’s baseline. Each grade level and type of probe has a typical rate of growth, used to determine the student’s goal. This rate is graphed from the baseline score over a particular period of time, generally one quarter or semester in school. Each week, a new probe is administered and this score is added to the graph. If three consecutive data points are approximately on the goal line, the student is performing as expected. If three consecutive scores are below the goal line, a secondary intervention may be helpful and instruction should be modified for the student. If three consecutive data points are above the goal line, the median score should be used as a baseline and a new goal line should be added to the student’s graph.

How Can RTI Be Used with Any Curriculum?

A student can develop reading fluency on a comparable subject, in a lower-level text using leveled readers and trade books. If, during assessment, a student continues to make consistent errors, these can be targeted through curriculum materials such as flashcards, vocabulary words, or other materials included in the curriculum set. Additionally, if non-standardized reading probes are desired, teaching faculty can pull oral reading passages from the basal reading textbook, or use alternative passages to create comprehension assessments. For students learning English as a secondary language, alternative language formats of textbooks, which may be included in curricular materials, can be used to target fluency.

As the history of the response to intervention reading program is tied to diagnostic criteria for determining learning disabilities and monitoring student progress, RTI is adaptable as a means of assessing on-going student learning. Some reading curriculum come with progress monitoring materials. These can be used in place of standardized CBMs. Additionally, many curricula come with leveled readers. These are an excellent means of adjusting the level of student material to support progress and success, as well as remediation, if necessary.


National Center on Response to Intervention: The Essential Component, 2007 -

Connecticut General Assembly: OLR Research Report, Lohman, Judith, 2007 -

Fuchs, Douglas & Fuchs, Lynn. “Introduction to Response to Intervention: What, why, and how valid is it?” Reading Research Quarterly. January/February/March 2006.

Resources for Additional Information and Training

Curriculum-Based Measurement Warehouse: A World of CBM Resources,

Intervention Central:Response to Intervention, 2011 -

Iris Resource Locator: “RTI,”