RtI on Steroids, or Why I Believe in the 9-Tier Model

  • Response to Intervention
  • 08 June, 2009

The latest rage in the schools is RtI. Special education money (about 15% of it) can now be used for improving classroom instruction and installing preventative intervention programs. I'm a big fan of this movement for several reasons: First, because the best way to determine if someone has a learning problem is to offer really good teaching and if the struggling continues then you know. Second, special education programs simply haven't worked very well for most kids, and the learning disabilities label has been over applied, and those programs are getting expensive.

  But even though I like RtI, I have problems with it (as do others, perhaps most notably, Dick Allington--however, his problems emanate from concerns about who will deliver the prevention services). My concern is that RtI is often so mechanistic that nothing good is happening for the children. Schools buy an instructional program and/or a regimen of professional development and they think they have a good Tier 1 response... they set up a reading class a couple of times a week for groups of struggling students and you can check off Tier 2 as well. That won't work and so if RtI is going to cut the caseload in special education schools are going to have to be real aggressive about meeting students' learning needs in reading.

  This weekend I met with a group of educators from across the country in Santa Fe and I told them about my 9-Tier Model. The first reaction was 9 tiers instead of 3, is this guy crazy? However, once they saw what has been missing from their 3-tier plans, they were more than willing to consider building up their efforts (not by going to 9 tiers, but by implementing a richer set of responses across the three tiers they have been doing). Good for them--and, more importantly, good for the kids whom they are responsible for. 

Check out my powerpoint on RtI that introduces these 9 tiers here on my website.


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RtI on Steroids, or Why I Believe in the 9-Tier Model


One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.