What’s to know about RTI?

Katie and I have been reading and chatting about the book “RTI From All Sides:  What Every Teacher Needs to Know” by Mary Howard.  It came out in 2009 – don’t know how we missed it, but perhaps we were knee deep in writing our own book!  Howard makes some great points.  She talks about the mistakes we made with NCLB, but how we can now use RTI as “our opportunity to change direction” and make “effective, excellent literacy instruction a collaborative venture in our schools.”  She suggests we proceed with caution as we make decisions for how, when, and with whom we will meet the needs of our struggling readers.


Howard gives us a list of everything that RTI promises to do if done right.

Response to Intervention (RTI) isn’t just part of the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), it’s a chance for us to really do right by our struggling readers. The idea is for early intervention plans that will successfully keep many students from entering special education. Every school’s faculty has probably heard about the three tiers, but it’s the first tier that interests Katie and I the most.  Tier I supports the professional development of all teachers so that classrooms can be the first place where struggling readers’ needs are met.  It’s one of the reasons we wrote “Catching Readers” – to help layer everyone’s understanding about reading process and how best to support struggling readers.

Here are just a few nuggets contained in Howard’s thought-provoking book:

“Teachers who differentiate recognize that the best lesson plan is the student sitting right in front of them.”

“Making meaning should be the goal of every instructional action and every activity in which we engage students.”

“Failing to support our teachers is the same as failing to support our students. This makes students pay for our limitations on both counts.”

“… the more assessment moves away from real reading, the less information we glean from it.”

Howard says, “I defy anyone to show me a skill (one worth teaching, of course) that cannot be expertly integrated into authentic reading.”

“…movement between tiers is not linear….The important thing is that instruction in all tiers is interconnected to promote strategies and skills across the curriculum and reinforce this learning in multiple contexts.”

“There is always the risk that the data collection process will overpower rather than support instruction.”

And my favorite…. “There’s no such thing as program nirvana.”

Hopefully these quotes will get you thinking or perhaps inspire you to add this book to your summer reading list.  We welcome comments/reviews from others who have read this text.


  1. “There is always the risk that the data collection process will overpower rather than support instruction.”…Wow! Great statement. If the data is used appropriately, then we would know the strengths and weaknesses of every child (IEP for every student). Just imagine how we could tier instruction then. 🙂

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