Activity Guide

Responding to Diverse Student Needs

Federal legislation calls for schools to implement a response to intervention (RtI) model for determining the need for special education services. In this process, school teams compile data using a three–tier model of intervention to determine appropriate education strategies. Some schools are well along in this process, while others are just beginning.

This activity can be used in all schools: those schools that have created an RtI plan and could benefit from an assessment of the quality and completeness of their RtI plan as well as those schools that need to establish a process for developing an effective RtI plan. School staff can identify strengths and existing deficits in supporting struggling students, create strategies to address and strengthen them, and create a process to build those supports into an effective RtI plan.



  • Chart paper or computer with projection screen or whiteboard
  • Markers

Activity: Peer Review

  1. Divide the faculty into the following peer review teams and assign them the following recommendations aligned with those in the reading selection:
    GroupRecommendation #Guidance Staff10Department Chairs1Student Support Providers1 & 2Administrative Team7 & 8IT Department/Technology Staff11Leadership Team2 & 6Teacher Group I (Professional Development)5Teacher Group II (Communications, ELL)9Teacher Group III (Intervention Specialists)3(Recommendation #4 is intentionally omitted for review later.)
  2. Have teams review the recommendations offered in the reading selection, “Queries and Opportunities” in preparation for discussion of the assigned recommendation.
  3. Determine and provide local school data to inform the discussion.
  4. Have each team meet and discuss existing strategies and actions in place in the school and visible indicators of implementation of the recommendations. Have a recorder summarize the discussion.
  5. Use the Self-Assessment Template headings to direct your discussion. Based on your discussion, reach a consensus on a current “Ranking” on the effectiveness of your practices/plan based on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being “fully implemented” and 1 being “just beginning.” Spend time discussing “Gaps.” What practices should be added to improve your “ranking” of the recommendation? The group recorder should continue to summarize the discussion.
  6. Ask teams to use the self–assessment results as the foundation for discussions about the findings. These discussions should focus on creating a list of priorities and prevention/intervention strategies to be systematically addressed and to determine required action(s) for column 4, “Recommendations for Improvement.” There are multiple ways to tackle this task. One approach might be to ask various teams to work on the recommendations most closely related to their responsibilities. For example, content area or grade level teams addressing curriculum and assessment–related recommendations in numbers 1, 5, 11; ancillary staff teams addressing recommendations concerning interventions and social service needs in numbers 3, 4, 10; leadership teams evaluating issues of resources, staffing, organization in numbers 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
  7. Have each team prioritize the list of needed actions. Identify timelines for each action and determine staff responsibilities. Use the Process Circle and the Six Steps template to map an improvement protocol for addressing the selected priority. Provide teams with chart paper or computer with projection and storage capabilities to display the completed plans.
  8. After planning maps are posted or projected, allow time for teams to review the work of each team using a carousel review process that allows reviewers to post questions and/or suggestions to the work of other teams. Provide additional space on each chart or working wall, asking each team to suggest professional development activities needed (Recommendation #5) for successful implementation of improvement practices. Carousel documents should be typed and prepared for use at the next planning level.
    • A structure or framework to systemically organize information and its interdisciplinary components.
    • A coherent delivery of academic information that is related and applied to content.
    • A framework for determining appropriate developmental ability and behavior supports for varied learners.
    • A framework for determining a systemic learning progression from early foundations, to increasing understanding, to deepening the level of complexity in later learning.
    • A process upon which to describe cognitive rigor and adjustments and extensions needed for learning activities, essential content, interventions, and aligned assessments.
    • Develop a rationale and mission for the RtI initiative.
    • Identify a process, timeline, and budget for the curriculum/RtI design.
    • Review additional best practices for teaching and learning in this module.
    • Collect local school data to identify strengths and weaknesses. See additional resources in the Using Data Learning Module.
    • Identify criteria and a process for selecting a teacher and staff design team. Include at least one representative from each faculty discussion team. Provide the design team with all discussion summaries containing current indicators, gaps, and initiatives from the self–assessment.
    • Develop a process to monitor all faculty design team initiatives and celebrate all opportunities for success.
    • Assess current indicators, gaps, and recommended initiatives from the self–assessment team.
    • Determine objectives/initiatives for articulating a K–12 or grade–level span that applies to all student learners, from general education to each category of diverse learners.
    • Align planned initiatives with national, state, and local goals, rigorous standards such as Common Core State Standards and assessments, and local school improvement plans.
    • Identify and address curricular issues. Ensure each peer review summary has been considered:
      • Difficulty of content, subject matter/accessibility to courses
      • Higher level cognitive instruction and support
      • Coherence, continuity, and scaffolding of the grade level spans
      • Expectations and cognitive complexity needed for demonstration of proficiency at each grade or course level (rigor)
      • Subgroup population needs, i.e.:
        • Gifted/talented education
        • Special education
        • General education
        • Under–served, under–performing students
        • English as Second Language students
        • Academic and technical learner needs
        • Literacy and numeracy needs
        • School transitions in, within, and out of your school
        • Other
    • Review the budget for teachers, ancillary staff, and resources.
    • Address scheduling and staffing issues utilizing both school and district resources.
    • Identify resources needed for curricular, screening, testing, monitoring, and instruction.
    • Identify community, business, and university in–kind educational and volunteer resources.
    • Assess current indicators, gaps/omissions, and recommended initiatives from the self–assessment review team.
    • Design and share a variety of instructional lessons, strategies, and activities for high levels of cognition linked to the new curriculum/RtI Framework.
    • Share instructional approaches, strategies, and resources that encourage development of various levels of thinking, social skills, and self–management. See additional resources in the Creating a College Going Culture Module.
    • Relate disciplinary knowledge to other subjects, personal experiences, and out–of–class contexts, improving student engagement.
    • Build background and link new concepts to students’ varied background/diverse learner needs.
    • Provide user–friendly, reliable progress monitoring tools and data for tracking student growth data.
    • Identify and align service provider and special education support in and out of the classroom.
    • Provide options for decisions when students are not responding at Tier 2 and 3 levels based on progress monitoring.
    • Review existing plans and additional planned initiatives.
    • Identify evidenced–based RtI models for specified grade/school/content area/social–emotional needs.
    • Align procedures/processes needed to close gaps or support specified learning or behavior needs.
    • Identify valid and reliable universal screening and ongoing diagnostic tools.
    • Determine procedures for monitoring implementation fidelity of core curriculum/intervention.
    • Discuss readiness, language, and culture as considerations for different teaching and learning strategies.
    • Investigate methods and resources needed to personalize learning.
    • Align timelines and processes for special education compliance and RtI processes.
    • Determine out–of–school/stakeholder/family roles and school and provider agency support.
    • Schedule meetings with staff to collaborate/share plans.
    • Schedule meeting with parents and secondary students to collaborate/share plans.
    • Assess current indicators, gaps, and recommended initiatives and professional development needs from the self–assessment review team.
    • Provide training for the leadership team and the intervention design team.
    • Align school–based professional development with initiatives.
    • Monitor teacher professional learning needs and levels of participation.
    • Assess current indicators, gaps, and recommended initiatives from the self–assessment review team.
    • Identify general and special education, ESL, behavior interventionist, service provider, leader, reading specialist, and other roles.
    • Schedule meeting with parents and secondary students to collaborate/share the plans.
    • Ensure flexible scheduling that allows for fidelity of implementation, interventions with grouping and re–grouping opportunities for students.
    • Provide cross–content literacy and numeracy training for content area teachers.
    • Assess current indicators, gaps, and recommended initiatives from the self–assessment review team.
    • Determine resource tools and alternate forms of assessments for various academic and behavioral difficulties.
    • Determine benchmarks for acceptable growth within tiers.
    • Determine progress–monitoring guidelines, timelines, and frequency at Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.
    • Provide opportunities to celebrate progress and success.
    • Assess current indicators, gaps, and recommended initiatives from the self–assessment review team.
    • Ensure time and resources to:
      • Determine what and how data will be used to diagnose needs and inform decisions.
      • Determine data indicators and monitor progress across school/grade levels, core curriculum/instruction, and interventions.
      • Determine a process with input from teachers, parents, and students.
      • Schedule regular collaboration/coordination time with in– and out–of–school service providers built into the schedule.
      • Provide regular opportunities in the school schedule for departmental and grade level teams and intervention specialists to formulate support improvement strategies.
      • Assess current indicators, gaps, and recommended initiatives from the self–assessment review team.
      • Schedule meetings with staff to collaborate/share the plans.
      • Ensure parent/community involvement and knowledge about curriculum/RtI frameworks and the progress of each learner.
      • Prepare and distribute best–practice materials for parents/service providers.
      • Provide opportunities for teachers to share and store best practice lessons and strategies.
      • Hold student–parent conferences to align with student profiles and an academic contract between home and school.
      • Assess current indicators, gaps, and recommended initiatives from the self–assessment review team.
      • Identify key stakeholders, including parents, businesses university partners, etc., that have potential resources for students.
      • Alert community stakeholders to the vision of the curriculum/RtI initiative.
      • Align district, in– and out–of–school service provider roles and responsibilities.
      • Collaborate and organize a “wrap–around”–type service delivery model.
      • Assess current indicators, gaps, recommended initiatives, and digital tools and resources from the self–assessment review team.
      • Identify tiered and ongoing professional development opportunities for all stakeholders.
      • Determine budget and in–kind community resources to link school stakeholders to technology resources.
      • Provide opportunities to utilize technology to improve both instruction and communication within the school and between the school and community.

Implementation Checklist

The checklist offered here provides a detailed guide for principals and faculties designing and/or strengthening an RtI design based on the recommendations above. The checklist will help provide:

  • Checklist for Developing a Comprehensive Curriculum, Instruction, and Responses to Intervention Design
  • Organizing and Pre–Planning
  • Verify progress by following the checklist.

Recommendation 1: A systematic, coherent curriculum model is in place for all grades and subjects.

Recommendation 2: Financial and human resources are fully aligned for effective RtI implementation (money, materials, programs, and staff in the right places).

Recommendation 3: A strategic plan is in place to effectively support the learning of struggling students.

Recommendation 4: A strategic, carefully developed plan exists for the selection of RtI interventions (Response to Intervention Design Task).

Recommendation 5: Teacher professional learning needs are identified and appropriate teacher training opportunities are provided.

Recommendation 6: Attention is paid to the particular change needs of secondary schools (i.e., reading specialists, ESL, advanced and honors instruction, alternative scheduling).

Recommendation 7: Program implementation is carefully monitored and managed to ensure program fidelity.

Recommendation 8: General, special, and ESL educators and support specialists are provided time to meet, plan, and collaborate.

Recommendation 9: All policies, practices, and procedures are clearly articulated and available to all participants: faculty, staff, parents, students.

Recommendation 10: The school establishes and maximizes collaboration opportunities between the school and appropriate agencies such as public and mental health, higher education, and social and family service agencies.

Recommendation 11: Appropriate technology, training, and support are provided to ensure that data collection is accurate, timely, and aligned to the needs of teachers, parents, and administration.