Improving Academic Achievement Tiered Instruction RTI vs Block Scheduling 'Literature Review' chapter

Excerpt from 'Literature Review' chapter :

block and the response to intervention (RTI) tiered approaches to education. Block education can best be defined as a method of manipulating the time available for teaching in the daily curriculum in a high school environment in a comprehensive and efficient manner in order to most effectively teach students. The RTI tiered approach is an approach that is systematic in its design, and allows for students to move at their own respective pace while still demanding results in a structured manner. The RTI approach in education takes place as a way of intervening in a student's progress (or lack thereof) before the overall effect of the non-progression leads to severe educational handicaps. The block education is used in a more physical educational setting and is used to allow a more flexible approach to education.

This literature review seeks to determine how effective the RTI educational approach is compared to the block approach as well as providing a background concerning each approach. Both methods will necessarily include instructional methods of education (at least in this report) in order to clarify the respective efficiencies or lack thereof.

This study will dedicate most of its focus to how high schools currently approach the teaching of students, both from the viewpoint of the physical structure of the course schedule to the instructional methods being used in that structure. This is important because, as one study states "in recent years the transition from school to working life has acquired a new dimension for education policy and research…education at all levels are becoming empirically evident" (Scheeberger, 1999, p. 612).

During the last decade numerous high schools and school districts have moved away from the traditional educational approach to classroom teaching and into the block scheduling approach. A number of studies have shown the effectiveness of that move. At the same time, many districts have been experimenting with the Response to Intervention approach to address certain situations that have the potential to develop into long-term problems.

One recent report found that "RTI is effective for identifying children at risk for learning disabilities and for providing specialized interventions, either to ameliorate or to prevent the occurrence of learning disabilities" (RTI Action, 2011) while another study determined that "classified students will receive high-quality, effective instruction" (Dunn, 2010, p. 22). Block teaching, on the other hand, does not seek to intervene in individual cases, but allows more flexibility for the vast majority of the students, teachers and administrators who have access to that capability. What many studies have found concerning block scheduling is that teachers are less stressed, there is a decline in student absenteeism and tardiness, and there is a reduction in the number of problems with student behavior after changing to block scheduling from the traditional format (Rikard, Banville, 2005).

Comparing block scheduling to the RTI approach is not really comparing apples to apples. It is conceivable that school systems that implement block scheduling can at the same time implement the RTI approach within that scheduling. Both approaches are seeking to improve student learning and teacher effectiveness, and both are doing so from two different formats, but that does not mean that they are not compatible.

The reasoning behind each approach is to present a method that will facilitate student's growth; however, the block approach is geared more towards the overall student body, while the RTI is geared to specific individuals. The fact that there has been a "significant increase in students being identified for special education in later grades (e.g. A 38% increase from 1991 -- 2001" (Lyons, Fletcher, Shaywitz, Torgensen, Wood, 2001) begs for the intervention methodology displayed by the RTi approach. The RTI approach allows the instructor to intervene with specific students when it is deemed necessary to do so in order to assist the student in addressing potential shortfalls in the learning process. Marston et al. found that 'by providing intervention programming based on student need and by monitoring student's progress, the number of students identified for characteristics of having a learning disability remained constant: (Marsten, Muyskens, Lau, Canter, 2003). What is interesting about the RTi model is that, according toi Bollman et al., it actually helped to lower the rate of special education placement from 4.5% to 2.5% over a ten-year period (Bollman, Silbergitt, Gibbons, 2007). Another advantage that RTi offers school districts is the fact that such a structured approach allows for the efficient monitoring of student's progress. Literature shows that "students' progress with the content of the instructional program can be monitored over time and yield data complementary to traditional psychometric approaches" (Thurman, McGrawth, 2008) while an additional study showed that RTI can help school districts address student's learning challenges through research-based classroom instruction and practices and student-focused intervention programming (Dunn, 2010).

Since RTI is considered as a tiered approach to education it might make sense to define how a tiered approach is used throughout the educational and business environments throughout the world. A tiered approach is normally taken when a set number of standards of increasing difficulty is used to achieve an educational objective. This approach works well when a defined goal and objective is set and progress can be monitored in a physical manner. An example would be reading skills that start at a certain level and progress throughout the educational process (ie; first grade level, second grade reading level, etc.). RTI intervenes in this tiered approach method when regression or non-progression is noted.

The tiered approach is also employed in the business sector, and additionally organizations use it to certify their members expertise. The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) is a good example of an organization that has implemented the tiered approach to educating its members. The organization "utilizes a tiered approach to education and training, allowing adult learners to complete all courses within a track that will lead to certification or to take select courses to meet specific continuing education needs" (Miller, 2007, p. 19). That utilization portrays the strength of RTI and the tiered approach.

In a tiered approach scenario a certification, classification, level or achievement is set and paradigms are initiated that spells out the exact method for achieving what the learner must achieve to meet the overall objective. Such a methodology can also be used in block scheduling, but block scheduling does not necessarily mean that the RTI or a tiered approach will be used, only that it can be used.

Another example of the effectiveness of the tiered approach is the fact that some colleges use it exclusively to enhance their student's education. "A concerted incorporation of ethics strategically targeted to each level of undergraduate education will improve the preparation of prospective research scientists, enhance K-12 teacher training, increase the scientific and ethical literacy of the general public, and improve the awareness of health professionals regarding ethics in medicine" (Zaikowski & Garrett, 2004, p. 943). According to this particular study ethics that are strategically targeted (or tiered) to each level of undergraduate education will be of benefit to the overall improvement of the ethical scenarios of teachers, professionals and students. Yet, one must wonder if such a tiered approach would also be as beneficial if used in the high school level, and specifically whether RTI would work on the high school level.

A lot of the literature concerning RTI states that it is effective for early childhood intervention and that it is especially helpful when students who have not yet exhibited the specific symptoms of a learning disability are targeted. According to Vygotsky "development can be classified into two levels; one is the real level of development on which children can solve problems independently, the other is the potential level of development, on which children can solve problems under the guidance of adult people or in cooperation with peers with higher capability" (Wang, 2009, p. 100).

Perhaps then it's not whether the students have a block schedule or whether they experience education through RTI, but rather if they are helped along by teachers with a good instructional deign model to use in either scenario.

There is one thing that the literature continues to provide and that is the thought that Instructional design for intervention purposes is very complementary to the RTI method of teaching. One 2007 study determined that there are "two factors within the control of the school that can make a difference in the literacy experiences of the young adolescents who attend them…how we use instructional time and the consistency with which we implement literacy-based instructional strategies" (Fisher, Frey, 2007, p. 206). The first factor; instructional time, can be addressed by a block schedule. The block schedule allows for more consistent use of time because there is a long enough timeframe during which the instructor or teacher can interact with the student as compared to the standard scheduling system. RTi does not need a long-term time frame to implement its teaching methods; using the tiered approach, it would only seek to ascertain that the student had…

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