Category Archives: Response to Intervention (RTI or SRBI)

Meeting Needs Part 2

In the past year I have helped two 7th grade students who are categorized as twice exceptional (2e). Both had more severe math anxiety that impacted their performance and masked their ability. When we started both were working on elementary school level math. Within a couple of months both were working on algebra. (Both had gaps but I was testing their ability by test running higher level math with them.)

As I shared in a previous post my approach is to focus on meeting needs. I want to elaborate on this. My secret is I listen to the student… In other words, the student drives the instruction.

Here’s an analogy. You go to a frozen yogurt or ice cream store and they offer you a sample. You try a couple then go with the one you like. That’s what I do. I try out different types of instruction (samples of the ice cream) and the student tells me (verbally or by the response to the instruction) which one they want. That is the I in IDEA and in IEP.

icecream samples

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Meeting Student Needs

One of my beliefs about the education is that teaching is built on a delivery based model. If teachers take certain steps the learning will happen – an educator’s version of Field of Dreams. Often the result is a focus on having students assimilate into the teacher’s class environment. 


I subscribe to the exact opposite approach. Teacher’s should accommodate student needs as the focus of the classroom environment.


Below is a quote from a parent whose child benefited from my effort to be hyper responsive to her daughter’s instructional needs. The child had veto power over any activity or strategy I attempted. If what I used didn’t work for her I would try something else.

“Working with Randy has been life changing for my daughter. 

Math was her biggest source of frustration and no matter how hard she worked it never made sense. Teachers would tell me she was ‘doing awesome’ but she was really just following steps without understanding any of it. I thought she was going to go through life unable to even buy a candy bar without being taken advantage of.

Randy changed all that. He is able to break math down in a way that makes sense. He is able to identify what is confusing her and find different ways to explain it. He makes it meaningful for her.”

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Juggling Gaps and New Content

In math, many students with special needs fall behind. What results is a Catch-22 in programming and services. If the student is provided extra time to work on the gaps, he or she likely falls behind with current content. If the student is provided extra time to receive support for current topics, the gaps are not addressed

In both cases the extra support time can actually be counterproductive.

  • The focus on gaps likely results in the student working on different math topics which in effect means the student has TWO math classes – just what a student with math anxiety doesn’t need.
  • The focus on current topics means the student is trying to learn math topics for which he or she doesn’t have the prerequisite skills needed.

I recommend identifying the prerequisite skills for a current math topic and address ing these skills concurrently in math support or during the summer. For example, I used a Common Core coherence map (top photo below) to identify Common Core prerequisite standards for the standards a student faces in her upcoming school year. Then I listed these with each grade level standard (bottom photo below). The prerequisite skills can be identified using a task analysis approach as well. Screenshot 2018-06-12 at 6.03.52 AMScreenshot 2018-06-12 at 5.45.22 AM

This approach allows for a systematic approach to fill in gaps and to prioritize when they are to be addressed. When implemented effectively, the student can see the immediate benefit of the support time – it helps them in math class. Even better, the support teacher can match instruction and work with what is covered in math class.

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RTI – Response to Intervention

RTI Process

The photo above shows a model of the RTI (called SRBI in Connecticut) process. RTI is a systematic approach to addressing student academic needs. Here is a link to a video explaining the process and below is an outline of the process:

  1. Students are served in a classroom that provides high quality initial instruction. This includes the use of UDL, differentiation, formative assessment, instructional strategies to make content meaningful and concrete and to meet student needs in general. The general classroom is Tier I.
  2. Assessment is used to evaluate student progress AND the effectiveness of the instruction. If students are not understanding a math topic or unit (as demonstrated by data not observation) the student can be moved into Tier II which involves intensified focus of instruction and in a small group.
  3. Assessment is used again. If the student is not making sufficient progress despite changes in instruction the student can be moved into Tier III which involves maybe 1 on 1 or 1 teacher and 2 students. The level of intensity is ramped up further.

Here are a couple of key components:

  • The initial classroom includes an effort to meet individual needs.
  • Data is the key to decision-making. Assessment is objective.
  • The programming is evaluated using the data.
  • RTI is included in IDEA 2004.
  • Student placement at the different tiers is fluid. Students are moved into and out of tiers based on data.


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