In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Response to Intervention

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Books
  • Reference Resources
  • Special Journal Issues
  • Practitioner Guides
  • Position Papers Supporting RTI
  • Cautions and Critiques
  • RTI for LD Identification
  • Assessment
  • Problem-Solving Teams and Models
  • Culturally Responsive RTI for ELLs
  • RTI Referral and Decision Making for ELLs
  • Interventions for ELLs
  • Literacy Interventions for Primary Grades
  • Gifted Students
  • Secondary Education
  • Emotional and Behavioral Support
  • Mathematics
  • Family Involvement

Education Response to Intervention
Amy Eppolito, Kathryn White, Janette Klingner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 04 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0075


Response to intervention (RTI) is a comprehensive, systematic approach to teaching and learning designed to monitor academic and behavioral progress for all students, provide early interventions of increasing intensity to struggling learners, and potentially identify learners with more significant learning disabilities. The model is implemented with multitiered instruction, intervention, and assessment. The key components of the RTI model include (1) high-quality instruction matched to the needs of students, (2) evidence-based interventions of increasing intensity, (3) ongoing progress monitoring, and (4) data-driven decision making. Components of the model, such as data-driven decision making and multitiered instruction, have been studied for the past few decades, but the model as an integrated whole has been developed more recently. One catalyst for increased research and interest in RTI has been a change in federal legislation in the United States. The most recent reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) in 2004 permits the RTI model to be implemented as an alternative means to identify students with learning disabilities (LDs). These amendments to IDEA stipulate that the RTI process may be used to determine if a child is responding to research-based instruction and intervention as part of the special education evaluation process. Although driven by special education policy, RTI has been lauded as an instructional model that can improve general education overall and for special populations. However, critiques of the model argue that it has been implemented with limited research, resources, and funding and may not be valid for identifying LDs. Some experts question the psychometric validity of the model and promote using multiple forms of assessment, including more traditional standardized psycho-educational tests, in combination with RTI when evaluating students for possible LDs.

General Overviews

Literature addressing response to intervention has been increasing over the past decade. Most of the research was originally focused on primary-grade implementation and the application of the model to identifying students for LDs. More recently the research has broadened to cover implementation in secondary schools, RTI frameworks for gifted students, culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students, and students with emotional and/or behavioral needs and to some extent the application of RTI beyond literacy and early reading to include mathematics. A theme throughout the literature addresses the research-to-practice gap and the rapid rise of RTI in practice. This section includes a few articles that provide an overview of RTI, including Hughes and Dexter 2011, Griffiths, et al. 2007, and Vaughn and Fuchs 2003. Denton 2012 outlines RTI’s main components and processes and identifies the current state of the field and the gaps that exist. Griffiths, et al. 2007 is a comprehensive bibliography of resources for researchers and practitioners. Hughes and Dexter 2011 includes outcomes of published field studies analyzing the model in its entirety. Vaughn and Fuchs 2003 offers a more critical view of RTI and the complexity of LD identification.

  • Denton, Carolyn A. 2012. Response to intervention for reading difficulties in the primary grades: Some answers and lingering questions. Journal of Learning Disabilities 45.3: 232–243.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022219412442155

    This article provides a current review of gaps in the research on RTI. The author reviews research on early reading instruction and intervention, the implementation of multitiered reading interventions, and the determination of intervention responsiveness. The author discusses the positive potential of RTI given gaps in the research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Griffiths, Amy-Jane, Lorien B. Parson, Matthew K. Burns, Amanda VanDerHeyden, and W. David Tilly. 2007. Response to intervention: Research for practice. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

    Comprehensive bibliography of publications on RTI covering the following areas: historical context and rationale for RTI, critiques of the traditional discrepancy model, in-depth explanation of RTI, selected field implementations, discussion of reading and social–emotional–behavioral interventions, and implications of RTI for minority student populations. Excellent resource for pursuing selected topics.

  • Hughes, Charles A., and Douglas D. Dexter. 2011. Response to intervention: A research-based summary. In Special issue: Current perspectives on learning disabilities and ADHD. Edited by Linda H. Mason and Robert Reid. Theory into Practice 50.1: 4–11.

    DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2011.534909

    This article gives an overview of the main components of RTI (i.e., universal screening, progress monitoring, decision making across the tiers), drawing from the literature and research centers. It describes the RTI process and provides examples of thirteen published field studies that have examined the efficacy of RTI, including the outcomes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Vaughn, Sharon, and Lynn S. Fuchs. 2003. Redefining learning disabilities as inadequate response to instruction: The promise and potential problems. In Special issue: Research & practice. Edited by Sharon Vaughn and Lynn S. Fuch. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice 18.3: 137–146.

    DOI: 10.1111/1540-5826.00070

    In this introduction to a special issue of the journal, the authors describe the possible benefits and potential pitfalls of applying RTI as an approach for LD identification. The overview gives background and rationale for development of the model. The authors call for a redefining of learning disabilities as nonresponse to intervention. Available online by subscription.

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