Is RTI Making a Difference?

< 1

When the bell rings at the end of the day, once the desks sit empty and the halls are cleared, teachers, custodians, coaches and office employees all work on preparing for another school day. Why do they do it?

Put simply: the students.

Few others create the opportunities school districts provide to touch the lives of the next generation, and few others hold so high a responsibility.

That’s an exciting challenge. 

The next generation holds as much diversity as it does potential, so having the best possible intervention systems in place is critical. From classroom curriculum to afterschool programs to employee professional development, a district’s ability to support students in coping with the various challenges they face will have an enormous impact on each student’s education.

Frontline Education wanted to find out what educators across the country thought of their districts’ RTI/MTSS processes. We asked how they manage interventions, what they would like to see changed, and what impact their programs had.

Here are the results:

Student success is priority #1.

Q: “What really makes your day?”

Unsurprisingly, survey respondents place a great deal of importance on how it’s impacting students.


1 = “Not that big a deal”  |  3 = “Nice, but not critical”  |  5 = “Really makes my day!”

Educators like crossing that last item off the to-do list. Don’t we all? And knowing their data is accessible and secure is, of course, crucial to doing their jobs efficiently. But far and away, the biggest boost educators get is seeing their students hit their stride and truly flourish.


Q: “If you could magically improve one thing in your RTI / MTSS process, what would it be?”

Once again, it’s clear that program effectiveness is top-of-mind.


Runners up were identifying struggling students as early as possible (18.8%) and analyzing the effectiveness of RTI/MTSS processes across the district (23.8%). And the number one area educators said they’d like to improve is understanding why students are struggling (29.7%).


Many districts experience mixed results.

Q: “ What kind of impact has your RTI / MTSS process had?”

Most respondents indicated their RTI process has had at least some impact, and 12% said that impact was significant.


But more than a quarter either weren’t sure or saw no tangible results. Understanding how processes work help informs how to conduct and improve them, so these results pose an interesting challenge for those managing RTI/MTSS programs.


Q: “ To what extent has RTI / MTSS reduced your number of referrals to special education?”

1 in 10 respondents said they have seen a significant reduction in the number of students referred to special education since implementing their RTI process.


Others indicated varying levels of success, and 21% noted that they haven’t been tracking that data. This makes it difficult for districts trying to determine whether their RTI process has been successfully deployed. 

Methods and challenges differ between districts.

Q: “How does your school identify students who might need an intervention?”*

Of those who said their organization has an RTI process in place, we also asked how they identify students for intervention. Universal screening data is the most common method, followed closely by RTI / MTSS, data or problem solving teams.


*In this question, percentages may add up to more than 100% since respondents were able to select multiple answers.


Q: “What challenges has your district faced in implementing RTI / MTSS?”*

While the cost of Response to Intervention programs wasn’t a primary concern for most respondents (fewer than 1 in 5 said that cost/funding was something their district has struggled with), process was.


42% said that their process wasn't documented well or wasn't followed consistently, and nearly 1/3 said that training and getting buy-in has been an issue.

*In this question, percentages may add up to more than 100% since respondents were able to select multiple answers.

Q: “ How do you document and keep track of students’ intervention plans?”*

Another challenge a majority of districts face is how they manage their RTI data. More than half said that they use paper-based systems to keep track of intervention plans.


*In this question, percentages may add up to more than 100% since respondents were able to select multiple answers.


The results are in, and educators agree: student success is the number one priority for districts across the country. With a growing understanding of the unique challenges students face, many districts have implemented RTI/MTSS processes with exciting success. Still, many others have struggled to get their programs off the ground. Since so many educators (over 40%) feel their processes aren’t well documented or consistently followed, perhaps that could help explain why some districts have seen lukewarm results to implementing their programs. Could inefficient documentation processes and lack of easy access to data be inhibiting the effect these programs have on student growth?

Daniel Caughill

Daniel is a magazine editor and freelance writer who spends most of his time procrastinating reading.