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Why is RTI at Work™ best practice for creating a multitiered system of supports?

Our experts answer your frequently asked questions

A highly effective multitiered system of supports (MTSS) requires educators to work collaboratively and take collective responsibility for every student’s success. RTI at Work™ builds upon the power of the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) at Work® process to create the learning-focused culture and collaborative structures needed to ensure all students receive the time and support they need to learn at high levels.

RTI’s underlying premise is that schools should not delay providing help for struggling students until they fall far enough behind to qualify for special education, but instead should provide timely, targeted, systematic interventions to all students who demonstrate the need. (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2012, p. xiii) [Behavior Solutions, pp. 9–10]

What is the difference between RTI at Work and MTSS?

RTI at Work is the highly effective way to implement MTSS and is research-affirmed, results-oriented, and proven to accelerate learning and close achievement gaps. The key difference is that the RTI at Work approach is purposely built upon the PLC at Work process.

The essential characteristics of the PLC at Work process are perfectly aligned with the fundamental elements of RTI. PLCs and RTI are complementary processes, built on a proven research base of best practices and designed to produce the same outcome—high levels of student learning. PLCs create the foundation required to build a highly effective system of interventions. [Taking Action, p. 11]

Does RTI at Work address the behavior element that is critical to implementing MTSS well?

RTI research—specifically focused on behavior interventions—has been ongoing since the 1960s.

The phrase “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports” was first coined in the reauthorization of the IDEA; however, the practices, principles, and systems that characterize PBIS have been described, studied, and implemented since the early 1960s and 1970s (Carr, 2007; Carr et al., 2002; Sugai & Horner, 2002).

RTI at Work, specifically, with its split-pyramid design, was developed to ensure that academics and behavior are addressed and featured in a systemwide support process for students.

RTI at Work professional development ensures educators are provided the guidance necessary for ensuring time and other resources are efficiently and effectively allocated for academic and behavioral support.

How does RTI at Work address academic and social behaviors?

In the PLC at Work process, four critical questions drive the school’s collaborative efforts to ensure student learning:

  1. What knowledge, skills, and dispositions should every student acquire as a result of this unit, this course, or this grade level?
  2. How will we know when each student has acquired the essential knowledge and skills?
  3. How will we respond when some students do not learn?
  4. How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient? (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many, & Mattos, 2016, p. 36)

In our RTI at Work approach, we use these four questions to guide the teaching and intervening of essential academic and social behaviors.

Educators should view misbehavior as the absence of an academic or social behavior skill; misbehavior or organizational struggles are an educator’s cue to fill that gap by teaching the expected skills. [Behavior Solutions, p. 3]

To this end, the staff should work collaboratively to:

  • At Tier 1, identify the essential behaviors all students must learn and demonstrate for future success
  • At Tier 2, provide time and support to students who need additional help mastering essential behaviors
  • At Tier 3, target intensive support for students who demonstrate severe behavior needs

Finally, the RTI at Work process delineates how to allocate staff best to guide academic and behavior interventions. This is critical, considering most schools and districts have extremely limited resources, and staff is already overwhelmed.

Our school is focused on accelerating learning, not remediation for students who have fallen behind. Does Tier 3 of RTI at Work focus on accelerating learning?

Far too many students needing “remediation” have failed to close their achievement gaps because they miss grade-level essential curriculum to receive Tier 3 support. Our RTI at Work approach was purposefully designed to address this problem, beginning with defining Tier 1 as “all students having access to the grade-level essential curriculum.” Additionally, we advocate that students are not “moved from tier to tier”; instead, additional tiers of support are “value-added.” This means that any student who needs intensive remediation (Tier 3) on essential skills from previous years must receive this support:

  • In addition to access to the current grade-level essential curriculum (Tier 1) AND
  • In addition to additional time and support to master grade-level essential curriculum (Tier 2)

The RTI at Work process is perfectly aligned with the current efforts by many states to discontinue the use of traditional “remediation” and instead advocate for “acceleration.” (In fact, the RTI at Work approach has been advocating for this approach since Simplifying Response to Intervention was published in 2011.)