An Educator’s Guide to RTI and Funding: Part I

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 -- Winnie O'Leary

Here’s the scenario: you have been charged with putting together an RTI program, but you have no idea how you are going to fund it. Where do you start? There is a clear understanding that a strong RTI program can make a significant difference for your students, but how do you fund it? What resources are available?

The key to launching a successful RTI program is to first create a blueprint that identifies and addresses your needs. From this point, you can then determine the best way to fund it. Developing such a design takes time, and navigating funding channels is always a challenge. However, the gains in student achievement that an effective RTI program can produce certainly make it worth the effort. An understanding of RTI and government funding frameworks goes a long way in making the process manageable.

Typically, public school monies are reaped from three buckets: one local, one state, and one federal. Keep in mind that exceptions exist, but for the most part, we can consider this funding structure a general rule. Of course, each funding stream comes with its own stipulations. To understand which bucket to reach into, it is important to establish a strategy for your RTI program, and that plan will help define which funding source best meets your needs. 

Over the next few weeks, we will review some of the typical sources for RTI program funding. The three that are utilized most frequently and which will be the focus of this series are Title I, Title III, and CEIS funds. However, before we get into the details of funding, let’s start with taking a closer look at the elements that create a strong RTI program.

RTI has many incarnations, but for the sake of common language, is a multilevel framework designed to maximize student achievement by providing supports for at-risk students. Most RTI programs include the following four components:

Core Instruction: Powerful classroom instruction begins with the adoption and use of an evidence-based curriculum. Core instruction is the content provided to the entire class that is adopted by the district and meets rigorous state expectations. Consider it as the scope and sequence of classroom instruction, and it is typically Tier I instruction in an RTI model.

Universal Screening: A universal screening is an assessment that is conducted on a regular basis for an entire school and is a means of identifying students who may need additional interventions. The federal government expects that all students are routinely screened, and thus, the assessment bill is not generally allowed as an expense because those funds must be used to provide services that supplement the services that the schools would otherwise provide. Hmmm, this is tricky.

Increasingly Intensive Instructional Interventions for Identified Students: When a student is identified through universal screening as struggling academically, interventions are provided. These interventions are typically categorized as either Tier II or Tier III. Tier II interventions are directed toward specific academic gaps and are provided in addition to core instruction. If a student shows little or no progress with Tier II interventions, more intensive Tier III interventions are then recommended. If these produce no significant academic gains, the student may be evaluated to determine if he or she has a disability and qualifies for special education and related services.

Progress Monitoring: Progress is monitored with regular assessments, using a research-based tool, which measures the effectiveness of the intervention and tracks student’s academic performance over time. It allows teachers to see the success of the instruction and provides critical data to help teachers determine and modify that instruction.

To effectively incorporate all four of these RTI components, there are several questions that you MUST answer as you develop your program blueprint. Today, we will introduce those questions, and in our series of posts over the next two weeks, we will dive into the nitty gritty of how to answer them and how they affect funding.

Designing Your RTI Program Blueprint: Key Questions to Answer

About Your Interventions:                                           

  1. What universal screening tool will be used to assess all students?
  2. For the core instruction provided to all of your students, do you have a strong scope and sequence in place? Is it research based, and does it make pedagogical sense?
  3. For those students who are struggling with elements of the core instruction, what interventions will be put in place? What will be considered Tier II, and what will be considered Tier III interventions?
  4. What determines when interventions will be instituted, and what are the criteria for students to receive Tier II or Tier III interventions? What course of action will be followed if interventions do not work?
  5. For the interventions put in place, what will be the mode of delivery? What will the length of each intervention be? How frequently will students receive each intervention? 

About Your School:

  1. Federal and state departments of education have various systems for classifying schools based on performance, which can affect funding eligibility. For example, is your school eligible for Title I, Title III, or CEIS funds?
  2. If your school is eligible for a Title I funds, is it a schoolwide program school or a targeted assistance program?
  3. Are you currently utilizing federal, state, and/or local funds for Title I services?
  4. Do you have students who need additional help meeting the criteria for Title I, Title III, and/or CEIS services?
  5. Will you be supplementing instead of supplanting other funding sources to create and implement your RTI program?

Take time to consider these questions, and check back next week for Part 2 of this series, when we will take a deeper look at how best to answer the first five questions about your program. The following week, we will dive into the five key questions about your school to assist you as you complete your program blueprint. Finally, in the last installment of this series, we will look at the three primary funding options for RTI—Title I, Title III, and CEIS—and help you take the information you have gathered to determine the best funding source for your program! Stay tuned!

Don’t want to wait until next week for more info? Check out this on-demand webinar in which we explore Data-Driven Intervention and Best Practices!