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Response to Intervention: Fresh Solutions for Your Biggest Challenges

Feb 23, 2017

Response to Intervention (RtI) has been difficult for many school systems to implement effectively. In an ideal tiered system, general education classroom teachers present core curriculum through differentiated instruction. Reliable universal screening tools help identify students needing targeted intervention in Tier 2. Progress monitoring tools help keep Tier 2 instruction on track for success. Depending on how well individual students respond to intervention, they either move on from requiring help, or their needs are addressed in a more intensive Tier 3 setting. Students in Tier 3 are to receive intensive intervention using evidence-based methods. When a plan is effective, students can learn to their potential.


While the promise of RtI is compelling, student success does not always follow. The numbers of students who struggle with learning, and are identified for Special Education services, continues to rise.  At some schools, the primary goal of RtI–giving students what they need to be successful in the classroom–may seem out-of-reach. Instead, the system of “shuffling kids around” can become the face of RtI, causing frustration for everyone involved–teachers, interventionists, students and their parents.  Our experience working in schools throughout the US has given us insight to the formidable challenges faced by schools in their pursuit of strong RtI practices.


Challenge: Instructional Planning for Tier 2 Instruction

Tier 2 is often characterized as an opportunity to re-teach core curriculum. This may not be helpful in the long run for students who have weak language and literacy skills. And when there is specific programming, many schools choose a Tier 2 intervention that will address the learning issues that most students students face, by grade level. For example, Tier 2 interventions in primary grades are often reading (decoding) remediations. The flaw in this protocol is that students may be struggling in the classroom for different reasons. While some students may, in fact, benefit from decoding help, others may be struggling because of a comprehension weakness that will not improve, no matter how much extra help a student may be receiving. In many cases, Tier 2 is skipped altogether, with only core instruction and Special Education remaining as the “tiers.”


Challenge: Instructional Decision-Making Criteria

Students in Tiers 2 and 3 can spend years receiving services and still struggle in school. Too often, initial assessments are just general tools used for placement in a general, traditional remediation program for “reading” or “language.” A strong assessment plan helps educators identify the weaknesses that are making school hard for a student, and help prescribe instruction that strengthens those areas.


Reading is an integration of processing skills: phonological processing, word attack, orthographic processing, word recognition, contextual fluency, oral vocabulary, and comprehension. The primary cause of a weakness in language and literacy skills is a weakness in one or more of the following:


✓ Phoneme awareness – The ability to auditorily perceive sounds within words.

✓ Symbol imagery – The ability to create mental imagery for sounds and letters within words.

✓ Concept imagery – The ability to create mental representations for the whole; the dynamic imagery of actions, scenes, movement, etc.


The right assessment battery can identify the areas of weakness and help determine what exactly to do for instruction. The right instruction can bring these abilities to consciousness and change an individual’s ability to read and comprehend.


More Challenges:  

    • Not enough instruction time – While often chalked up to lack of staffing, insufficient Tier 2 and 3 intervention hours can also be the result of unclear instructional goals.
  • Tier 3 may be an “intensive” placement but not meet the criteria for  intensive instruction (daily, small group instruction addressing skill goals to get the student back into Tier 2)
    • Instructional goals in Tiers 2 and 3 are not consistent with the Tier 1 – For example, it might be unclear if a student’s goal is about reading accuracy or comprehension and what success looks like.
  • Classroom teachers could benefit from specific professional development in how to differentiate instruction and practice progress monitoring techniques in Tier 1. Administrators often assume their teachers can do this naturally, with any curriculum and combination of students.

Lindamood-Bell’s research-validated programs address the imagery-language connection that is a silent partner to cognition and literacy—often the missing piece in helping students close the achievement gap.  


Reading and Spelling Programs

Seeing Stars (SI)

Symbol Imagery for Phonological and Orthographic Processing in Reading and Spelling


Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing(LiPS)

Phonemic Awareness for Reading, Spelling, and Speech

Comprehension Programs


Visualizing and Verbalizing(VV)

Concept Imagery for Language Comprehension, Thinking, and Memory



Foundational Development in Concept Imagery, Oral Language Comprehension, and Expression


Schools partner with us for our expertise in aligning assessments with instruction for students in all Tiers of instruction. Our programs address the skills needed for students to access any core curriculum. While district needs vary, we help apply our best practices to your biggest RtI challenges.


RtI Plan featuring Lindamood-Bell© Programs


For information on how to address core standards learning for all students, watch our recent webinar, Beyond Expectations: Language Comprehension and Thinking for State Standards Curriculum. Explore our professional development workshops and contact us with any questions or to discuss how your school can get started: 800-233-1819.




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