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RTI at Secondary: Is That Possible?

By: Judy Elliott, Ph.D.Published: April 17, 2008
Topics: High School, Middle School


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Yes! Some think that because there is little or no ‘research’ at the Middle or High school level that RTI is not valid. Not true. The elements of RTI are the same at all levels. That is, RTI is about providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently, and using data to make educational decisions.


The challenge becomes what multiple measures you will use to decide what skills need more intense instruction or intervention. Although curriculum-based measures are typically developed for K-5, others are currently in development or further underway for grades 6-8. It is not unreasonable to develop them for grades 9-12, if necessary. Other multiple measures typically include scores on state assessments, grades (although subjective), literacy screens, and pre-assessments in core curriculum materials being used in English Language Arts, for example.



In the end, RTI is about strategic and intensive instruction (or behavioral intervention) based on student need.  In the secondary level the challenge is the master schedule and finding time to provide Tier 2 and 3 interventions for students while still allowing students to earn credit toward graduation.  In sum, secondary, in general, has its own set of challenges just by nature.  RTI can be seen as another challenge or a necessary way of teaching and learning that is truly about holding all students to high expectations.  RTI can be successfully implemented when there is a commitment to all students’ learning, alignment of resources, existing mandates and initiatives, the delivery of integrated professional development, and use of data-based decision making.
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Read what others had to say...

RTI implementation i High School
Hi I am an Intervention Specialist in a Georgia High School. One of my responsibilities has been to monitor and facilitate the RTI process in my High School. This is a new position and new approach to tackling the need. Would love to meet and talk with someone who has been implementing RTI at the High School level with fidelity. Thanks


Holly, I would LOVE to learn more about your successful middle school RTI program. I have the task of setting one up from square 1. What assessments do you use? What does the schedule look like? Do you know of conferences or publications that deal with RTI at the MS level?


I think that RTI should be used in high schools, regardless of the problems with master schedules. RTI could be really helpful in getting services to high school students who may have slipped through the cracks. There is no time better than the present to start getting students on track no matter what grade they are in.


To Chantel - I am the RtI coach for a middle school in our district (after having spent 5 years co-facilitating RtI Implementation at a high school). They have an emerging "model." Would be happy to connect you with them!


I am a proud participant in several secondary buildings that are experience the challenge and success of RtI implementation. In one building, RtI has been successfully implemented for 5 years. It has been a year to year process, but the outcomes have gone well beyond increased student achievement. The school staff involved are sold (!) on progress monitoring, utilization of a problem solving model for data based decision-making, and integrity of implementation at each Tier. Other schools have taken on math with a powerful Tier 2 intervention. The data are beautiful. It can be done!!


I am curious with how the RtI model is used at the middle school level. How are the schedules designed when working with students who are at the Tier 1, 2, or 3 levels. I would be very interested in seeing how schools are designing their classroom day by incorporating the RtI model.


RTI Project Coordinator
I really have appreciated Judy leading the way with secondary RTI. Of the models I see evolving besides protocal, problem solving, and blended, I see two kinds working at the secondary level. The easiest one to implement is what I would call a parallel model in which various screeners find the students at risk, place them in tiered classes and progress monitors the students. This model does not actively change tier one core curriculum in general education. The other model is one that does look at differentiating instruction within the core curriculum too. Alternative classes are there also


RtI Facilitator
If the under-pinnings and princiPLES are the same across grade levels and content areas, I think we are way passed due in not creating a different model to implement in middle and high school, but in taking what we know works with younger learners and replicating the processes at high school. If we wait until all the kids are "fixed" at the elementary level and move up with fewer and fewer problems to middle and high school, we will miss a decade of students. One can plan for this for years, at some point we have to put something hopeful in place and DO IT! We'll learn & get better; if we do


Assistant Principal
Lets face it, why shouldn't RTI be attempted at the secondary level. High school students should not be thrown to the side just because they struggle with learning. It would be great to identify all students who struggle at an early age, but that is not reality. Reality is to put interventions for all students at every level. Yes this may be more difficult, but it must be attempted and accomplished.






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