LearnBop Community Blog

RTI Means Response to Inequity: How Can Response to Intervention Help Close the Achievement Gap?

Posted by Zacc Dukowitz

Aug 15, 2013 8:21:00 AM

When it comes to helping underserved students become stronger learners, Response to Intervention (or RTI) has the potential to make a huge impact.

Before we jump into a discussion of how RTI can help underserved students, let’s make sure to define our terms.  According to the National Center on Response to Intervention, RTI includes:

  • A school-wide, multi-level instructional and behavioral system for preventing school failure
  • Screening
  • Progress Monitoring
  • Data-based decision making for instruction, movement within the multi-level system, and disability identification (in accordance with state law) 

Put simply, Response to Intervention refers to the effort on the part of teachers to monitor student progress, to intervene when students begin to fail, and to evaluate the success of that intervention.

How can RTI help underserved students?  One of the main issues teachers at large public schools face is figuring out how to have an impact on each student when the class size has grown to forty, fifty, or in some cases even 60 students.  We know that one-on-one interactions are important for student growth, but when the class sizes are this big, such interactions become less and less possible.

RTI offers a solution.  One reason one-on-one interactions are so important is because they allow the teacher to identify a student’s individual needs.  Students learn differently, are engaged by different types of mediums, and usually need different approaches and strategies for their learning to be successful.  RTI gives us a model for how teachers of large classes can simulate the one-on-one experience.  By identifying the knowledge gaps of each student in a class using some form of diagnostic, and then assigning work to each student tailored to address their knowledge gaps, RTI can help students who might otherwise fall behind receive help in the classroom that can make a real impact.

In an article called “ Back to the Future: A Critique of Response to Intervention’s Social Justice Views” Dr. Alfred Artiles and his colleagues write of RTI that it “…anticipates a different future for all students, particularly learners from racial minority backgrounds and students with disabilities.”

describe the image

The idea is strong, but how does it work in practice?  One goal of RTI implementation is to help teachers with large class sizes and considerable time constraints find a way to reach every student.  But how can teachers implement RTI in the classroom in a way that will actually be time effective and impactful?


The first step is to know your students’ knowledge gaps.  To plan effective interventions teachers have to understand quickly what each individual student in his or her class needs to study.  The most efficient way for a teacher to find out this information is by giving a diagnostic (see item 4 in the National Center on RTI’s list above, regarding “data based decision making”).  

Give students work that will help them close their knowledge gaps.  It sounds simple, but finding resources for each student’s individual needs can be both complicated and time-consuming.  For teachers to implement RTI they must have quick, easy access to resources that clearly define the concepts they want to strengthen, so teachers won’t have to guess about how effective their intervention will be.

Follow up with another diagnostic.  Did the student retain the knowledge from the resource assigned?  Does the diagnostic reveal an increase in ability?  If not, more practice, is needed, and if so—on to the next topic!

describe the image

RTI has the potential to help close the achievement gap in the US, but only if implemented in a thoughtful, deliberate manner.  Time is the major limiting factor when considering implementation, since teachers with large class sizes simply don’t have enough of it to plan individual lesson plans for every single student.  New education technology can help, both by providing in-depth diagnostics to identify knowledge gaps, and by providing follow-up resources and practice problems to help students work on those concepts and skills.

Here are some follow up resources, if you're looking for more information on RTI:

Topics: Teachers Using LearnBop, Differentiating Instruction, Resources, Teaching & Learning

backbone_and_learnbopThousands of K-12 students use our automated tutoring system to improve math proficiency.

Try LearnBop for Free


Want to learn more about how LearnBop's step-by-step system supports math learning?

Attend a Webinar

EdTech Update