An Educator's Guide to RTI and Funding: Part IV

Thursday, September 17, 2015 -- Winnie O'Leary

So far, we’ve introduced the fundamentals of designing an RTI program blueprint and answered the 10 critical questions about your school and the interventions you will implement. With your answers to those questions handy, let’s take some time to focus specifically on how to approach the three main funding sources for RTI programs: Title I, Title III, and CEIS.

In part three, we introduced the concept of schoolwide and targeted assistance implementations of Title I funding. It is very important to understand these models and how they affect funding; plus, we need to review the use of Title III and CEIS in conjunction with Title I.

Title I

This program is widely known and likely to be the funding source that is most familiar to you. According to the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the intended purpose of Title I funds is this:

“. . . to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and State academic assessments.”

Title I provides funds to school districts for use in high poverty schools. It is designed to support efforts to improve outcomes for the lowest-achieving students. The program expects that schools and districts identify those students who are failing—or most at risk of failing—to meet state academic achievement standards and address their achievement gaps. ED outlines the following uses as appropriate applications of Title I funds in order to achieve the program’s overall purpose:

  • Ensuring that all resources (teacher, assessments, professional development, curriculum, and materials) are aligned and rigorous; and ensuring that progress can be measured
  • Meeting the educational needs of all children(including impoverished children, ELLs, migratory children, children with disabilities, Native Americans, neglected or delinquent children, and young children in need of reading assistance
  • Closing achievement gaps
  • Accountability-identifying and turning around schools that have failed their students ,as well as providing alternatives to students, enabling them to receive a high-quality education
  • Distributing and targeting resources where needs are the greatest
  • Improving and strengthening accountability by using state assessments
  • Providing greater authority and flexibility in exchange for greater responsibility for student performance
  • Ensuring enriched and accelerated educational programs that increase the amount and quality of instructional time
  • Promoting schoolwide reform toward effective, scientifically based instructional strategies and challenging academic content
  • Providing quality instruction as a result of professional development
  • Coordinating services
  • Ensuring parent involvement by providing meaningful opportunities

Depending on the level of student poverty within a district, Title I funds can be distributed and applied in two different ways:

Schoolwide implementation is available for schools with a poverty rate of 40% or higher. Under this model, the funds do not need to focus on specific students but can instead be applied to the entire educational program within the school. The goal here would be to improve the achievement of all students and the school as a whole. 

Targeted assistance implementation is available as an option for schools with an overall poverty rate under 40% or schools with over 40% poverty that do not want to utilize the schoolwide model. A targeted assistance school receives Title I funds that can only be used to provide additional instruction to specific students who have been identified as failing or most at risk of failing.

Keep in mind that Title I funding focuses on providing targeted academic assistance, either to a whole school that is struggling or to a specific population of struggling students within a school. Understanding the differences between schoolwide and targeted assistance Title I implementation as it applies to your program is very important in determining the applications of funding. How you structure your program can significantly affect how federal funds may be used to implement your RTI program.

Title I Schoolwide Implementation

In general, a schoolwide Title I school has more flexibility in its spending options than a targeted assistance school. This model allows a school to consolidate all of its funding, which essentially means that Title I funding can be applied to core instruction as well as supplemental intervention. Remember, the main stipulation of Title I funds is that they need to be focused on populations that are not making satisfactory gains toward state and national standards. In a schoolwide implementation, the entire student population has been identified as being in need of assistance toward meeting these standards, which provides much more freedom in application of Title I funds.

Title I Targeted Assistance Implementation

In a targeted assistance Title I school, federal funds cannot be used to implement core instruction. Using these funds for core instruction would violate the supplement not supplant rule. This is because a targeted assistance program provides additional instruction to specific students who have been identified as failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet a state’s academic achievement standards. These at-risk students cannot comprise an entire class.

Title III

Title III funds can only be used to assist limited English proficient (LEP) students in mastering the English language. These students must also meet the same standards as non-LEP students. States are required to demonstrate that students who show limited English proficiency are progressing by meeting annual measureable achievement objectives. Title III eligibility and application are easier to grasp than Title I because it only has two pieces of MUST-HAVE criteria:

  • Schools must offer high-quality language instruction for LEP students that is scientifically based.
  • Schools must offer high-quality professional development for educators teaching LEP students.

CEIS

Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS) funding is offered as a component of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funding, which ensures that students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education. It is designed to target K–12 students, but places a special emphasis on K–3 students. CEIS funding is available for students who are currently identified as NOT needing special education services but who do require additional support to thrive in the mainstream education environment. CEIS funds must also meet one of three criteria to be used as a source of RTI program funding:

  • Schools must offer high-quality professional development to instructors teaching students in need of academic and behavioral support, and where appropriate, instruction on the use of adaptive and instructional software.
  • Schools must provide direct academic or behavioral interventions to students needing additional support or materials and supplies that are directly related to those interventions.
  • Schools must provide services that are aligned with programs and activities funded under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 

Once again, this funding is intended for programs and resources designed to support, not supplant, core instruction. 

You’ve made it to the finish line! Hopefully we haven’t scared you off. Designing and funding an RTI program is no easy feat. It takes thorough research into the RTI model and the various funding sources that are available. It also takes a strong understanding of your district profile and expects you to review your school model, student population, and curriculum and intervention framework. However, that hard work can pay huge dividends in the form of an effective RTI program that significantly boosts the achievement of your most at-risk and struggling students.

Looking for additional in-depth information on RTI and federal funding sources? The RTI Action Network offers a wealth of information on the efficacy of RTI, as well as resources to help you design, implement, and optimize your own program.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s online solutions for RTI? We provide a variety of web-based diagnostic and personalized instruction tools that accommodate the three-tier RTI model. Our programs feature real-time progress monitoring to support data-driven decision making, as well as assessment and curriculum tools which pinpoint and address your students’ unique needs. Check out our Intervention Bundle featuring Study Island and Edmentum Assessments for more info!