Is DI the same as RTI?

When I read about starting and maintaining a blog, one recommendation was to write on a schedule so that others can expect an update, be it daily, weekly, etc.  It has been one week since I started this and the question of what to write about has been on my mind all week. I just left a live chat on and I found that the presenter was responding less to the questions and the chatters were exchanging valuable information. The last question that popped up at the end of the live chat was, “Is Differentiated Instruction the same as Response to Intervention”? So…what a great topic to write on today!

I would say, NO, they are not the same…BUT, you can’t have one success without the integration of the other! What do I mean by this? Well, if a teacher stands in front of a classroom and gives a lecture day in and day out on how to do X, some (if not many) students will not get the gist and they WILL struggle. After a period of time, perhaps an entire school year (I hope not anymore!!!), there will be struggling students over the concept of X.

Does this mean that the students have issues and should start having Tier II interventions because they performed poorly on their standardized tests and report cards this year?

I say, “NO WAY!” That first instruction in Tier I was not high quality with differentiation and research-based strategies. ALL students are NOT auditory learners. So any student who requires instruction other than lecture are going to struggle. Shame on that teacher…

Many teachers do not understand the difference between Tier I & II of RtI.

The obvious difference between the two tiers is:

  • Tier I is taught to the entire class 
  • Tier II is taught to small groups (ideally of 5-10 students)

The opaque difference is that the topic should be addressed a different way! Therefore, DI is a phonominal way to target those Tier II students by probing deeper into the topic by teaching to alternate learning styles and through manipulatives (taking ideas backwards from abstract down to the beginning). Make sure they have mastered the concrete, then go to the pictoral, then abstract.

A math specialist I once worked with reminded our team over and over to make the FIRST INSTRUCTION the BEST because when students have to hear it over and over again, they shut down! This is why teachers need to tap into their creative sides to make learning events memorable for the students. This approach may take longer, but Tier II  is for only about 15% of your students.

Addressing Tier III MUST MUST MUST be done by a highly qualified educator in that particular area of needs. They are the Subject Matter Experts (SME) and can target backwards to get down to the specific areas, topics, etc. where the student first began to struggle.  Don’t plan to stay in Tier III forever before considering referral to special education. This child is likely to have some underlying issues that needs to be addressed. Maybe they just need an intense tutor to get through school? But, the sooner you know what the underlying problem is, the sooner it can be addressed with strategies in the classroom, at home, and with the tutor.  The sooner the students can become their own advocates and learn the coping skills to address their learning issues, the less information and learning they will miss in the classroom!  I look forward to any feedback you may offer. This blog will only be a great resource if you share your personal and professional experiences/expertise.