Role Of Response to intervention (RTI) In Special Education

If you look inside any classroom, you’re likely to see a variety of students struggling for various reasons. It can be challenging for teachers to determine which students aren’t concentrating and why they aren’t.

Response to intervention (RTI) seeks to identify struggling students early on and provide them with the assistance they require to succeed in school. The term intervention is critical to comprehending what RTI entails. The goal is for the school to intervene or step in and assist students before they fall significantly behind.

While RTI focuses on ensuring that no children fall behind, Special Education steps in when individuals with learning differences are struggling and falling behind, not because they aren’t paying attention but because the curriculum doesn’t meet their specific needs. 

This blog will discuss the basics of RTI and Special Education and what happens when they decide to join forces.

RTI: Exploring the basics 

RTI was defined by IDEA as a “response to scientific, research-based intervention.” The persistence of RTI is an inhibition of prototypical practice to edge or avoid academic stress for students who are struggling to learn.

The three-tiered RTI approach is improving the achievement of all students, particularly those with learning concerns. An RTI method’s fundamental concepts are the application of systematic and research-based interventions in special education, measuring a student’s response to these intercessions, and using RTI data. At the same time, RTI can have different interventions for different subjects like reading and writing, and different levels like kindergarten, middle schoolers, etc. 

Teachers can provide targeted instruction, known as interventions, to assist struggling students in catching up. Monitoring student progress is an integral part of the RTI process. This allows the school to determine which students require additional academic assistance. 

RTI is not a specific program or method of instruction. It’s a proactive approach: RTI assesses students’ abilities and uses this information to determine which interventions to implement.

Is RTI the same as Special education?

The core considerations underlying both RTI and Special Education are the same, to make education more inclusive and beneficial for all, but especially those who do not benefit from the regular, Tier 1 level of universal instruction. Both RTI and Special Education urge for early identification of any learning concerns so that proactive interventions can be provided to keep the individual’s development on track.

But unlike in Special Education, where students are only provided with Individualized Lesson Plans when they have been diagnosed with learning concerns, RTI is more holistic and broader in its scope and focus. It believes in catching students before they fall behind and start showing symptoms of a diagnosable concern and integrates them into various tiers based on the level of academic and behavioral support they need.

The end goal of RTI is to integrate all the students into the Tier 1 level of instruction where they can all access the same education and through extra support wherever required, equitably benefit from it too.

When special education meets RTI

Response to Intervention and Special Education both focus on the inclusion, healthy development, and quality education of children who need extra support and help. Since they are both data-driven systems of structural support, they can deliver even better results if they decide to come together and join forces. Some of the benefits could include:

1. Data-driven assessments

Response to Intervention prides itself on its regular and data-driven assessments that proactively help in recognizing students that are not benefitting from the regular Tier 1 curriculum. 

This data can be effectively used by Special Education professionals to diagnose students with learning concerns as early as possible and provide interventions that can ensure healthy development.

2. Pooling RTI and Special Education Resources

Response to Intervention is a data-driven, continuously updated research-based system of interventions that test students periodically and updates its databases regularly. 

Special Education consists of specialized legal as well as educational tools, techniques, and resources that are also backed by the latest research and are specifically designed for students with various learning concerns.

By clubbing their resources, together Special Education and RTI can ensure that there is no student left behind.

3. Saving time and money

The Individualized Lesson Plans that some students might opt for along with their different Tiered support instruction might eventually get a little too overwhelming for them. To be following the different concepts being taught in various classes, managing schedules, and keeping up with the homework can end up hampering instead of helping with learning.

This is why, integrating Special Education with Tier 2 and 3 levels of support and instruction can not only save time, money, and energy for both the instructors and the student but can also aid in effective learning and long-term understanding.

4. Integrated Progress Reports

Another key component of Response to Intervention is the regular progress reports that proactively check for any concerns students might be facing and areas they might need help with, as well as gauge the effectiveness of the current curriculum. 

These progress reports when combined with those from the Special Education IEP assessments can help in giving a holistic idea of an individual’s standing. This can help in making an informed decision about what interventions are working for the student and what aren’t and how the goals need to be reworked based on their evolved needs.


Response to Intervention and Special Education are both monumental steps in making education a more inclusive and equitably beneficial process for all. While the three-tiered process of RTI has a lot in common with Special Education, from their core goals to their approach to reaching them, RTI takes a broader view wherein it aims to catch the students before they fall behind and get a diagnosis that warrants special education. Nevertheless, combining the resources, techniques, and motivational tools like quotes and innovations made by RTI and Special Education has several benefits like timely integrated progress reports, saving time, money, and energy, and using data-driven assessments to make informed decisions and design more effective interventions.

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