“We felt like reading was the most important because it affects all curricular areas,” Dill said. “We are currently training staff K-6 so we are all using the same system. We can run reports to tell us just about anything. Those reports can show us growth, can help with instruction planning, they can tell us specific skills you need to work on, and they can give us benchmarks. There are a lot of layers in there where we have to identify what is impeding you from learning.”
RTI recognizes different tiers of ability. Tier one means the student is performing at grade level under general classroom instruction. Students who do not show adequate progress with that format are moved to tier two.
Tier two involves more targeted interventions. Often students will be separated into smaller groups to work specifically on the skills with which they are struggling. If that type of intervention still is not helpful, students move to tier three for more intensive individual intervention. If tier three does not work for the student, he or she will be evaluated for a special education plan.
The ultimate goal is to have every child performing at least at grade level, but really any progress is considered a success — and Northwestern is already seeing success from its budding RTI program.
When the school first launched the RTI approach in 2011, 29 second-grade students were identified as needing intervention. Those students continued in the RTI program throughout third grade and now, as fourth graders, 52 percent of that original group is at or above grade level and no longer needs RTI support. Thirty-eight percent still are at tier three or tier two, and 1 percent now receive special education services.
Within just the span of this school year, nine kindergartners who were identified as needing intervention have shown progress. Five of them now are performing at grade level, three are at tier two intervention and just one still needs tier three intervention.