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An Article Review of
RTI for English Language Learners: Considerations in Screening and Progress Monitoring.
Elisabeth Clapp
Post University



Response to Intervention (RTI) is a systematic, data-driven, research-based approach to

instruction that benefits every student (Carter-Smith, 2014). A thorough summary and
evaluation of Esparza-Brown and Sanfords article demonstrate evidence that RTI helps promote
English literacy among English Language Learners (ELL) from Hispanic backgrounds.
Additionally, the case study included in this review establishes that ELLs incidentally benefitted
in other subject areas when implementing the framework of RTI effectively.
RTI Framework
According to Esparza-Brown and Sanford (2011), the focus of RTI is on practical,
research-based high-quality instruction, which is culturally responsive to the student.
Consideration of the students primary language (L1) may prove beneficial in English reading
development. Schools then use the data collected to monitor the student's progress and provide
evidence-based interventions varying in intensity depending on the student's response (p. 7).
Data Based Decision Making
According to Esparza-Brown and Sanford (2011), all pertinent data must be considered
when making decisions for ELLs. The students L1 and L2 skills, cultural background and prior
formal education are taken into account when making decisions regarding placement and
instruction for ELLs.
Screening Recommendations
Esparza-Brown and Sanford (2011) suggest tools that are reliable, valid, and concrete to
ELLs when collecting data. The authors recommend assessing the students language skills in


their L1 and L2 to determine their current level of performance and to encourage linguistic
transfer of the L1 literacy skills to English literacy (p. 6).
Multi Level Prevention System
Esparza-Brown and Sanford (2011) suggest teachers plan instruction based on the data
collected regarding the students performance and their L1 and L2, and if possible, teach to
transfer from the L1 to the L2. Teachers are encouraged to consider students cultural and
linguistic needs, and to adjust instruction accordingly with intensive evidence-based intervention
available for those demonstrating the most need. RTI uses a multi-tier approach to differentiate
instruction for all students. The RTI three-tiered model intensifies instruction with each level and
incorporates research-based interventions to the student needs.
Progress Monitoring
The authors list four recommendations when monitoring ELLs progress. The first is to
monitor student progress in all languages of instruction (Esparza-Brown & Sanford, 2011, p.
7). The second is to set goals that assist students in meeting grade level requirements. The third
is to evaluate students frequently and to intensify instruction when there is not sufficient
progress. The fourth is to compare student growth to peers of similar educational and linguistic
backgrounds to determine if growth is consistent with peers.
Esparza-Brown and Sanford (2011) state professional development is necessary to train
teachers properly and provide the support needed to implement RTI effectively. Teachers must
have the time, resources, and support both in training and collaboration time to implement RTI
effectively to improve student outcomes (p. 19). The case study included in this article review


illustrates the successful implementation of RTI when teacher training and collaboration have
Esparza-Brown and Sanford (2011) state that progress monitoring occurs at least
monthly (p. 9), which is used to access students performance and to evaluate the effectiveness
of instruction. Monitoring should be occurring on a weekly if not a daily basis to correctly
assess the students, the instruction they are receiving and the effectiveness of the program.
Case Study
To meet the academic needs of the 72% Hispanic population of students, Godfrey-Lee
Early Childhood Center (K-2) in Wyoming, Michigan accepted a grant from the ISD to fund RTI
in 2008. The result was a school-wide all hands on deck multi-step process of integrating RTI
through a comprehensive system of core instruction and intensive intervention that benefitted
every student.
Professional Development
The grant to fund RTI provided materials purchased from the 95 Percent Groups Phonics
Continuum (95% Group INC, 2014-2016) and professional development (PD) for the teachers.
Specifically, each teacher received 24 hours of PD in the first year and eight hours a year in each
for the following two years. A PD program was provided for the paraprofessionals titled ParaPro University. Twice a week, for thirty minutes. Training was supplied by the principal,
reading specialist and curriculum director, to instruct paraprofessionals how to teach.


An initial English language assessment was conducted for all students, including the
28% non-Hispanic. Teachers met and reviewed a screening for each student. Each classroom
had approximately 20 students with seven classes per grade level or 140 students per grade.
Students were then divided into groups of no more than five or 28 groups of students working on
a single skill at their predetermined level. The groups would spend at least 30 minutes each day
in these groups, working exclusively on one skill. On some days, groups would meet twice, but
never more than 30 minutes at a time to accommodate the students age and attention span.
Games and contests were made out of the skills that needed to be learned. Blocks of time were
mandated into the daily schedule so RTI could function.
It is important to note that the monolingual approach was used by the Early Childhood Center.
Esparza-Brown and Sanford (2011) stress the importance of linguistic transfer (p. 6),
transferring literacy skills learned in L1 to English literacy. Spanish was minimized by the
school in part due to the students ages, but because it was believed that the L1 would hinder
providing enough comprehensible input for acquisition to occur.
All Hands on Deck
Initially, there was a shortage of teachers to accommodate the number of groups. First
grade had seven teachers and seven paraprofessionals assigned. An "All hands on deck
approach supplied each group with an adult instructor, by soliciting the help of two speech
pathologists, one reading specialist, a school psychologist, seven paraprofessionals from second
grade, the librarian, and the principal. There were more than enough qualified adults to keep the
groups between three and five students. Everyone had a role to play, and everyone was
responsible for the students success. RTI is a labor intensive program for the adults. RTI at the


Early Childhood Center was organized with every adult teaching a deliberately small group of
students in a very structured way, and collecting and recording data, every day.
Ongoing or continual evaluation of the skill to be mastered and placement of the students
into the correct groups occurred every three or four days. If there were sufficient progress, the
students would move to the next sequential skill in the process. Feedback was instantaneous.
Students were not allowed to make more than one mistake before the teacher would catch,
correct, re-teach, and enable the student to try again. Feedback was immediate.
Every two to three weeks the teachers would confer for a two-hour session to confirm
progress was being tracked and kept current. Some students did warrant leaving their groups a
day or two ahead of others, so the tracking process was pertinent and done daily. The students
were assigned to the appropriate skill or lesson based on their assessed needs, rather than a
particular teacher or group.
Assessment is necessary when determining the target for every child. The skills for reading are
sequential. A child cannot be expected progress from a low-level skill to a higher skill without
the intermediate skills being learned in a predictable order (McLeod, 2015).
Minority Students
According to Carter-Smith (2014), RTI will reduce the disproportionate number of
minority students and ELLs in special education. The Early Childhood Center reduced minority
failure to 0%.
One Goal
The school had only one goal, and that was for all students to be reading at grade level by


the time they finish second-grade as measured by the MEAP test. The administration believed it
would take at least three years to demonstrate significant growth. With the RTI program in
place, it took 18 months.
The Early Childhood Center wanted all of the students to move forward. The goal was not for
the slower students to catch up to the brighter students. That would mean the school had failed
the bright students and not challenged them to grow as much as the slower students. The goal
was for all students to be reading at or above grade level by the end of second grade. All of the
first grade students were above grade level by the end of the first year. By the end of the next
year, the first-grade students were above the second-grade level. The curriculum outside of
reading was designed to be grade level specific materials. With the improvements in reading
levels, incidentally came improvements in all subject areas, especially in math.
The MEAP Test
By putting the focus on language acquisition, the Early Childhood Center in 2010 rose
from being ranked 27th out of 28 schools in the ISD, in reading and math, to number four in
reading 96.2% and number three in math 93.8% (USA.Com, 2016). The math score was a
surprise. As a result, of the students being able to read better their comprehension improved and
their language skills integrated into other subject areas. MaRTI is an RTI math program the
school began for students needing intervention in math.
Every crack any child could fall through was sealed. Severely hyperactive students were
made to run to the far playground fence and back twice before they started RTI lessons because
they need it to sit still and learn; everyone learned.
Of the 146 students who took the third-grade MEAP test in 2010, only two did not score
proficient and at grade level. One student was diagnosed with a learning disability, yet only


missed one question less than proficient. The other was a student who arrived in second-grade in
April, from Mexico. He missed three questions less than proficient.
Unfortunately, the success of the RTI program at the Early Childhood Center was brief. In
2011, the arrival of a new administration and program saw the MEAP scores precipitously fall.
By 2012 test scores were lower than the previous year before implementing the RTI program.
Response to Intervention (RTI) is a systematic, data-driven, research-based approach to
instruction that benefits every student (Carter-Smith, 2014). Esparza-Brown and Sanfords
article demonstrate that RTI effectively helps to promote English literacy among ELLs when
schools provide effective professional development and resources for their teachers. However,
the article states that teachers monitor students progress on a monthly basis (Esparza-Brown and
Sanford, 2011). According to the Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center case study, daily
monitoring of students progress advanced students quickly and drastically improved
standardized test scores in reading and incidentally in math. As a result, the RTI model was
expanded into math.



Esparza-Brown, J.& Sanford, A. (2011). RTI for English language learners: Considerations in
screening and progress monitoring. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of

Office of Special Education Programs, National Center on Intensive


Retrieved from
Carter-Smith, K. (2014). Response to intervention (RTI). Response To Intervention (RTI) -Research Starters Education, 1. Retrieved from


McLeod, S. (2015). Jean Piaget. SimplyPsychology. [Website]. Retrieved from http://
95% Group INC. (2014-2016). Phonics. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.
USA.Com. (2016). MEAP test 3rd grade performance 2010. Godfrey-Lee public schools.
[Website]. Retrieved from