Clayton Early Learning

Early Childhood Response to Intervention- Best Practices in an Emerging Field

Nathan Pope

Posted by Nathan Pope


Nathan Pope

Many readers may have heard of the concept Response to Intervention (RTI), but may not know what it looks like in practice, or that RTI can be applied to Pre-K settings.  This blog is an introduction to RTI, and the goal is for educators and administrators to recognize the need and value in implementing or expanding an effective RTI program in their preschools.  Future articles in this series will address what parents need to know about RTI, emerging RTI models, and effective interventions.


What is RTI?

RTI is a recognized evidence-based practice to improve educational outcomes for all children regardless of whether they are in general or special education.  In addition, federal and state accountability policies support the use of RTI in annual reporting of individual child progress (Head Start for School Readiness Act, 2007).  The RTI problem-solving model has been increasingly implemented in K-12 education since the late 1990s, and research suggests that an RTI approach can be beneficial in the years prior to kindergarten.

Why Do Schools Need RTI?

Many children enter preschool without having a strong foundation of language, early literacy, and socio-emotional regulation skills.  Do you have a child that is having trouble recognizing letters?  If so, implementing RTI could help children learn key skills.  Pre-K RTI provides an evidence-based practice for preventing or mitigating the occurrence of language, literacy, and academic learning difficulties or learning disabilities.  In schools where universal screening in key areas of academic and behavioral areas occurs, students who are falling behind are quickly identified and interventions are discussed, implemented, and monitored to see if the interventions help the student get back on a trajectory for success.

What does a RTI model look like?

RTI is a dynamic, multi-tier framework of support to provide differentiated instructional interventions for individual students based on their demonstrated need.  There is no universal model of RTI, but the common features of Pre-K RTI include:

  1. Providing all children research-based curriculum and instructional methods to reach the desired educational outcomes (Tier 1).
  2. Universal screening to identify children not learning as expected, and providing additional focused, intensive instruction and monitoring their progress more frequently (Tier 2).
  3. Providing additional support to students when Tier 2 instruction failed or who need even more intensive intervention (Tier 3).

At the state level, the Colorado RTI framework promotes high-quality research-based curriculum and interventions based on children’s academic and behavioral needs.

What can RTI look like at my Preschool?

Many preschools already have some of the components of RTI in place, but need to supplement their existing program and refine professional development in areas that need additional support.  For instance, if a preschool is already using a research-based core curriculum such as Teaching Strategies Gold, Tier 1 instruction will stay the same.  The universal screening measure will depend on what skills or behavior you want to evaluate.  Schools evaluating receptive vocabulary may want to use the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-4) or the Preschool Language Scale (PLS-5).  There are now several pre-k progress monitoring tools available for Tier 2 including the Early Communication Indicator (ECI) and the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS).  Tier 3 interventions include more frequent and intensive individualized interventions.  Under the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children may be referred to see if they are a “child with a disability.”  RTI may not be used to delay or replace a full evaluation to determine if they are eligible for special education and related services.

Next Steps

Are you ready to implement or improve RTI practices at your preschool?  You can start by filling out a school-level RTI rubric.  Stay tuned for additional blogs on this critically important topic!

My Top 5 RTI Resources
  1. Colorado Department of Education RTI page:
  2. Colorado Response to Intervention: A Practitioner’s Guide to Implementation
  3. Roadmap to Pre-K RTI: Applying Response to Intervention in Preschool Settings
  4. The Response to Intervention (RTI) Approach in Early Childhood
  5. The RTI Action Network

Assessment- A ‘Stickery’ Situation

Nathan Pope

Posted by Nathan Pope


Nathan Pope

As a recent addition to the Clayton Research and Evaluation department, I wanted to share my perspective on the challenges and benefits of assessing young children. I am a data collector for the Evaluation of Program Options at Clayton Early Learning research study. My responsibilities include assessing preschool-aged children in the center-based and home-based program options. To assess these children, we are using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-4) and the Preschool Language Scales (PLS-5). These standardized assessments provide valuable information to parents, teachers, and other stakeholders about children’s receptive vocabulary.

Sponge BobThe example below is a glimpse of what a day in the life of a data collector is like at Clayton Educare: To assess children one of the first things you need is to make sure you have all of your supplies. Supplies consist of: Testing kit- check. Test booklets in English and Spanish- check. Class rosters- check. Sharpened pencils with erasers- check. School Id- check. Stickers- (flowers, princesses, Sponge Bob, and Spiderman)- check. My hands were full with the bulky set of testing materials, and I felt like a traveling salesman selling an unpopular but necessary product as I walked the 100 yards across the parking lot from the Clayton House to the Educare School. The fall assessment season had begun, and I was ready to start assessing children!

At Educare, I was warmly welcomed by the people attending the Help Desk. At first the master schedule showed all the meeting rooms were occupied by other staff members and assessors, but after making a few calls they helped me find a quiet space where I could assess the children on my roster. After setting up my testing materials, I went to look for students to assess.

The first classroom I tried was empty since the class had gone for a nature walk to gather sticks and leaves for a project. In the second classroom, children were engaged in learning activities and naturalistic play and I felt bad interrupting them. I asked the teacher if ‘Maria’* was present and if this was a good time to work with her. The teacher told me that ‘Maria’ was no longer in that classroom, so I made a note to make sure that this information was updated in our records. Next I asked if ‘Markus’ was there, and unfortunately he was absent. Several other children asked if they could go with me, but since these kids didn’t have consent forms signed by their parents yet, I told them they would have to wait until they were on my list. Finally I asked if ‘Jamir’ was available and he was. What a relief to finally have a child to assess!

The teacher called ‘Jamir’ over and said, “Mr. Nathan wants to play games with you. When you’re done you will get a sticker!” I was relieved when ‘Jamir’ came over willingly and seemed excited to go ‘play games’ with me. I guess that kids play all kinds of games, and some are more exciting than others, so saying a word and identifying a picture that corresponds to it could loosely be considered a game too. As ‘Jamir’ and I walk down the hallway to the assessment space, I tried to build rapport by talking. We chatted about his striped green shirt and about his brothers and sister. When we arrived in the testing room, I gave the directions and we started the assessment. ‘Jamir’ was engaged in answering the questions, and didn’t seem to be too nervous about his efforts. During the middle of the assessment ‘Jamir’ sneezed and I helped him blow his nose, then we got back to work. Around twenty minutes after starting the test, he reached his ceiling score so we stopped testing and he chose a Sponge Bob sticker! I always want to help kids have a positive assessment experience, so I told him he knows how to answer lots of questions, and that he has the potential to do anything with his life. We returned to his classroom, and I started working with the next available child on my roster.

From my experience this fall, I have come to learn administering assessments to children requires lots of flexibility. At first, I assumed I would be able to show up at the school and do back-to-back testing, quickly finishing the kids on my roster. Now I know that testing takes much more time than anticipated due to logistics and human factors. There are many challenges such as verifying the student is in the correct classroom, finding students when they are attending class, arranging assessments to minimize interruptions to the classroom schedule, and encouraging kids to do their best work during the assessment.

Although there are many challenges to collecting data, the results are beneficial and worth the time and effort. The assessment results are used in ongoing data-driven discussions between teachers, mentor coaches, and assessors in order to ensure all of the goals and objectives of the program are met. The individual child results are also used to identify areas where teachers can provide additional instruction to the child during class time. The assessment results are also compiled and the evaluation report of the Educare Program is generated. Our annual evaluation report is used to inform private funders and other invested partners about the high quality of Clayton Educare and the resulting outcomes for our children.

As a member of the Research and Evaluation team, I want to thank all the people who are involved in the assessment process. Everyone has an important role, and together we tell the story of Clayton Educare. We value parents who allow us to assess their children to display the high quality work taking place in our classrooms. We value teachers who encourage kids to ‘go play games,’ and who utilize data to provide meaningful lesson plans. We value Child Family Educators who explain the goals of our research study to families to obtain consent to assess their children. Finally, we value the stakeholders who share our educational philosophy and fund our programs. Together, we generate information about children which can be used to identify areas of strength and areas of support. With this information we work together towards closing the achievement gap and providing the best opportunities for the children we serve. For all your hard work and support you deserve a sticker too!

*All names are fictitious to protect the identity of the individual.