You have been introduced to the essential elements of RTI and how it forms the foundation or framework for your school's literacy instructional plan. Now, you will learn what it takes to efficiently and systematically use assessment data to enhance learning for all students in your school.
Schools often “do a great job collecting data, but generally do not do a good job of actually using the data” (Burns & Gibbons, 2012, p. 43). Your campus’s assessment system is not simply test administration. The RTI framework should ensure that an explicit system for using data to inform instruction and set goals for all learners is in place. Research has found that these latter steps, beyond just assessment administration, are the most challenging.
The Implementation Indicators for Action Step E1 outline many of the key elements of a system for using data during RTI implementation. Here are some questions you and your team may consider:
- What assessments will you use?
- How will you manage data so that it can be analyzed and communicated effectively?
- What criteria will be used to determine whether students need to begin, continue, or discontinue Tier II and Tier III instruction?
- How will you use data to monitor the effectiveness of Tiers I, II, and III instruction and group students for instruction or intervention?
- How will you use data to set and monitor progress toward literacy goals?
Let’s explore what your team may need to do to establish and sustain each of these elements of the RTI framework.
Data management system
You may need to select a data management system to collect and report assessment data or evaluate the effectiveness of any system currently in place. Your school may choose to subscribe to a service or create your own management system. Ideally, the system will have the capacity to generate reports for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.
A valid and reliable assessment plan is the foundation of your instructional framework. The Assessment component of the TSLP focuses your team on the creation and implementation of this plan, so it may be helpful for you and your team to review that course in addition to the information provided in this section.
You will need to plan to conduct universal screening at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. In addition, you and your leadership team need to establish criteria for monitoring student progress (e.g., every two or three weeks) to inform instruction and evaluate progress toward targeted goals. How often you monitor student progress in each tier and at each grade level may also need to be determined.
Your team may need to inventory and evaluate all the current assessments at each grade level in your school. The goal is to determine how effectively they are being used, if their purposes match your screening and progress monitoring needs, and which assessments might need to be eliminated. If there are assessments in place that are required by your district for other purposes, such as STAAR benchmarks, your team may need to evaluate the usefulness of the data you receive from those benchmarks. (See Lesson A1—Literacy assessment plan for further guidance.)
Basic to your RTI plan is identifying and selecting valid and reliable universal screening and progress monitoring assessments for the secondary level. One option is to select a screening assessment that includes additional progress monitoring forms for tracking specific indicators or skills during intervention.
You will need to establish an assessment calendar or schedule with a standard timeframe or assessment window so that data can be compared from year to year. The TSLP also calls for each school to develop a process for screening students who enroll after assessments have been given.
Because secondary schools must prepare student schedules prior to the first day of school, many schools use screening data such as standardized test scores that come from students’ previous schools. (Secondary schools may also need to consider additional data such as attendance and credit acquisition when determining intervention placements.) It is still recommended that, in addition to using prior scores to determine grouping, schools administer BOY universal screening. They can also help you determine whether additional intervention is needed, adequate response has been demonstrated, an instructional change is needed, or more or less intensive tiers of instruction are required.
For example, some schools review prior year data for students scheduling in early August, collect BOY during the middle two weeks of September, MOY during the last two weeks in January, and EOY during the last two weeks in May. Setting a cycle across tiers for collecting progress monitoring data (e.g., every two to three weeks for Tiers I and II and weekly for Tier III) is important.
Your team may also evaluate current systems for test administration and identify unresolved logistics and additional resources needed. For example, you may decide to designate a coordinator of the assessment process at each school or grade level to order materials and manage the assessment process. This coordinator would also ensure that administrators are trained in reliability and adhere to reliability standards. You may determine who will administer assessments, such as classroom teachers, interventionists, reading coaches, or an assessment team. Some schools use assessment teams to administer the BOY, MOY, and EOY assessments and give classroom teachers and interventionists the responsibility for conducting ongoing progress monitoring. It is also important to determine the location for assessment administrations for small-group or individual progress monitoring (e.g., at stations set up in the hallway outside of classrooms or in a central location such as the library).
To use assessment data within the RTI framework, you need to determine criteria for identifying students who would benefit from Tier II and Tier III interventions for each grade level. You may want to define preliminary criteria and then revisit and refine the criteria for each grade level, as needed. These criteria can help you make informed decisions about which students begin receiving and discontinue Tier II or Tier III instruction. They can also help you determine whether additional intervention is needed, adequate response has been demonstrated, an instructional change is needed, or students should receive more or less intensive tiers of instruction.
The following are some suggestions for determining decision rules or for beginning or discontinuing Tier II and III instruction:
- You can use established cut points. Consideration for supplemental instruction (Tiers II and III) is often determined by a cut point, which is a score on the scale of the screening or progress monitoring tool. It may be a specific score at or below the target for that norm period (e.g., fall, winter, spring), or it may be a pre-determined percentile (e.g., 25th percentile).
- You can develop the cut points or use guidelines from sources such as test publishers and researchers. Your current assessment or data management system may provide some cut points or target scores that determine if students are above, at, or below grade level in specific skills. For example, a school might use the STAAR raw score conversion tables published by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to determine rough cut-off percentages for STAAR benchmarks.
- You can determine exit criteria as a certain number of consecutive (e.g., at least three) progress monitoring scores at or above a targeted, grade-level score (Hall, 2008). As a general guideline, students are ready to discontinue Tier II and Tier III instruction when they have consistently reached grade-level targets on previously identified skill deficits.
- Your campus-based leadership team should revisit criteria for beginning or discontinuing Tier II and III instruction often to meet the changing needs of your school and to assess the impact of intervention on student literacy achievement.
As you develop your RTI assessment plan, consider what professional development or training is needed on assessment administration, scoring, data-entry procedures, and understanding how the measures are linked to instruction and intervention. Initial training should include practice and feedback on administration and scoring. Training sessions may be conducted before each screening or progress monitoring assessment.
Your plan should also include how assessment results will be communicated to teachers and parents.
Data analysis meetings
To use the data within the RTI framework, campus leaders will need to establish a schedule and expectations for data analysis meetings and identify a process for reviewing and discussing data. Typically, in secondary schools, data analysis will take place departmentally (e.g., in English department meetings). Some schools are able to group teachers and students in grade-level teams that can also function as data-analysis teams. Schools should ensure that all members of the data-analysis teams share a common planning time. These regular (i.e., weekly, monthly) grade-level data review meetings are designated times to use screening and progress monitoring data to identify and plan for students’ instructional needs. This includes identifying students at risk, grouping students with similar instructional needs, forming intervention groups, and planning targeted instruction. Administrators must ensure that all providers of Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III instruction regularly attend data analysis meetings to communicate about and collaborate on instructional decisions.
It will be important to provide professional development to all staff who need it on data analysis and using the data to make instructional decisions.
After screening measures are administered, you will first need to determine if there is a class- or grade-level problem with Tier I instruction before identifying students for additional intervention in Tier II or III.
Read an example of how data may be used to identify problems in Tier I.
Scenario: At XYZ Middle School, BOY screening scores were generated for all sixth-grade students. The grade-level team met during their scheduled data analysis meeting and reviewed the data. They noticed that a large number of students in every classroom were unable to draw reasonable inferences from text. This suggested a grade-level problem with Tier I reading instruction. Because of the widespread distribution of students needing additional instruction and support, the teachers realized that they needed to improve their Tier I, or core, instruction by including more think-alouds to model drawing inferences and by providing more frequent opportunities to practice the skill. The campus-based leadership team decided to utilize the coaching model for in-class modeling of evidence-based reading instruction practices and to continue to examine the data more closely to identify any other underlying issues with student reading performance and the reading instruction being delivered.
Barring gaps in Tier I instruction like the one illustrated in the scenario, data analysis teams use assessment data to identify students in need of Tier II and Tier III intervention instruction, or students performing below expected grade-level targets, based on the entry criteria. Teachers and other instructional staff in the data analysis meetings identify students who score below the determined cut point and discuss the specific needs of these students. Some schools use “data walls” by teacher and grade level to make data visible and to facilitate the data-based decision-making process.
Although universal screening correctly identifies 80–85% of the students at risk for reading difficulties (Burns & Gibbons, 2012), sometimes students may be misidentified. For example, you may notice students who are obviously struggling in the classroom but do not meet the entry criteria. Other students’ scores may indicate that they’re at risk, but their current classroom performance and reading ability contradict the test results. In situations like these, more data needs to be gathered and considered. You may need to delve deeper by discussing data, reviewing other data, administering diagnostic assessments, or even rescreening to determine if these students require intervention. Remember that using multiple data sources results in more accurate and effective decisions regarding responsive instruction and intervention.
Instructional skills-based grouping
During data analysis meetings, grade-level teams and other educators collaborate to group students with similar instructional needs in small, skills-based groups for all tiers of instruction. Forming small homogeneous groups of three to five students allows teachers to provide those with deficit skills more intensive and targeted instruction, as well as additional opportunities to practice.
Here is an example of how one school analyzes data to group students.
Scenario: At LMN High School, the English department met at the end of September to set specific goals using results from their BOY universal screening assessment. Looking only at students who had failed to meet a pre-established overall cut score on the assessment, and with guidance from the school’s English instructional specialist, they identified three areas of focus for literacy achievement: determining meaning from context, identifying cause and effect, and summarizing. Teachers worked in teams, and each team analyzed the scores of approximately 50 students. On sticky notes, they wrote each student's name and his or her lowest screening score for one of the assessed reading skills. They placed their sticky notes on a whiteboard under columns labeled with the possible ranges of scores for each assessed skill (e.g., 1–3, 4–7, 8–10).
The teachers could easily see how many students needed additional instruction in each skill, as well as the number of intervention groups they would need. This data helped them determine the instructional focus for each intervention group. Classroom teachers established appropriate groups for support within Tier I instruction. The teams also confirmed that all students who failed to meet the cut score had been scheduled in a reading intervention class, and team members worked with administrators to change schedules as needed.
At data analysis meetings, educators use screening and progress monitoring data to routinely and periodically regroup students. You may want to establish a scheduled cycle for regrouping during the initial stages of RTI implementation. For example, you may have initial intervention groups meet for three weeks and then monitor student progress and analyze and discuss the data at the next data analysis meeting. You can make informed decisions based on the data, including regrouping. You might use sticky notes to regroup students, similar to the scenario.
An important activity at data analysis meetings is setting literacy goals for all learners, including both individual and grade-level goals. Using screening and progress monitoring data, you can routinely and periodically re-evaluate these goals.
Here’s an example of how you can use data to set individual and grade-level literacy goals.
Scenario: At ABC Middle School, the English language arts department met for its scheduled data analysis meeting after the BOY assessment. The fluency data indicated that 48% of all students were at or above the grade-level target for this norm period. The team decided to set a MOY grade-level goal for fluency. Their goal was to increase the number of students at or above the grade-level target to 60% on the MOY assessment. Although the principal cautioned that this was quite an ambitious goal, all of the teachers made a commitment to collaboratively plan and work together to improve the Tier I fluency instruction. To keep their pulse on student learning, the teachers devised a monthly progress monitoring plan to track learning for all students. They also worked with their campus-based leadership team to plan and engage in professional development while focusing on effective fluency instruction. Instead of scheduling a staff development session, the campus-based leadership team planned for the English language arts and reading instructional specialist to visit classrooms to model new fluency-building strategies and provide follow-up co-teaching.
In addition to setting grade-level goals, the department also collaborated to set weekly individual goals for Tier II students. Teachers began by analyzing students’ scores and then subtracting each student’s beginning score from the MOY fluency goal. They divided this number by the number of weeks remaining in the semester. That gave them the number of points each student needed to gain each week (weekly growth) to reach his or her goal. For example, one student had a baseline score of 152 words correct per minute (wcpm), and the targeted score for MOY was 200. The difference of 48 words was divided by 8, the number of weeks remaining in the semester. The goal for this student was an increase of 6 wcpm per week (Burns & Gibbons, 2012).
Students’ literacy progress can be easily analyzed if you graph their progress and compare it to their goal(s). Graphs can help you quickly interpret results, evaluate the effectiveness of instruction, guide instructional decisions, and communicate progress to students, parents, administration, and staff. You may construct your own graphs or use those generated by data management systems.
A progress monitoring data graph includes an individual’s progress monitoring data points (scores) with the corresponding dates of administration. It also provides an aim line that connects the baseline (or initial data point) to the final goal for that student. The trend line, or the student's actual rate of progress, is also mapped. Data points are consecutively connected together to show the student's trajectory in relation to the aim line (goal). For example, if the slope of the trend line is below the aim line, the data indicates that intervention instruction needs to be adjusted because the student is not learning at a sufficient rate to meet his or her goal (Burns & Gibbons, 2012; Hall, 2011).
View this set of progress monitoring graphs to learn more about them. The sample data is based on a hypothetical elementary school student, but the process for using the data applies to all levels.
TO LEARN MORE: You may find the following resources helpful as you work with your campus-based leadership team in evaluating your data use and level of RTI implementation:
“Create Your Implementation Blueprint: Avoiding Implementation Pitfalls” provides a useful list of mistakes that your team can avoid. Some examples come from the elementary-level setting, but the lessons learned can be applied to secondary as well.
“Create Your Implementation Blueprint Stage 4: Full Implementation” is another article that can guide your team’s steps in implementing RTI.
The High School Tiered Interventions Initiative: Progress Monitoring is a webinar that explores how RTI and tiered interventions are being implemented at the high school level.
NEXT STEPS: Depending upon your progress in implementing RTI, you may want to consider some of the following next steps:
- Review the resources listed in To Learn More for Parts 1 and 2.
- Examine your current practices to determine which components of RTI have already been implemented at your campus.
- Assess the need for professional development (e.g., coaching, professional learning communities) to build capacity for assessment-driven instruction within the RTI model (e.g., screening and progress monitoring assessments, data analysis, data-based decision making, and small-group literacy instruction and intervention).
- Determine how you will facilitate collaboration to most efficiently and effectively implement RTI (e.g., reduce duplication of effort, make information accessible within and across grade-levels and campuses, leverage human and material resources, and promote collaboration).