In its second year of full implementation in River Forest schools, the state-mandated educational model called Response to Intervention is beginning to take hold.

Response to Intervention is a three-tiered model that provides extra support in reading and math for students who might otherwise be headed for a special education program. A team of teachers and a psychologist use data from assessment tests to determine how much, if any, extra help each student needs.

“The idea is really helping all students be successful,” whether that means providing extra support or challenges, said Martha Ryan-Toye, director of student services for District 90. “It’s a process more than a product.”

Increased teacher and parent involvement, as well as figuring out how to deploy staff differently, is helping the pieces of the model fit together this year after at least five years of talks and planning, Ryan-Toye said.

Each tier in the model is designed to provide increasingly intense interventions for struggling students. Students in tier 1 learn the core curriculum, while tier 2 is for students who need extra support, either in small groups or in the classroom. Tier 3 students generally need specialized one-on-one instruction.

Even though some of them are separated, the kids don’t seem to have a problem with the intervention technique, said Drenda Cass, a reading specialist at Lincoln Elementary School.

Students who need reading help typically get pulled from their regular classrooms during science or social studies, so they’re still able to spend their regular reading time in the classroom, Cass said. The same goes with students who need math help.

Cass sees about 25 students and usually works with two or three at a time. Students who need intense interventions see her as often as twice a day for half an hour each in the morning and afternoon, but she sees other students three times a week.

Student progress is monitored every two weeks and the team meets with parents every six weeks to discuss who’s improving and whether changes need to be made. Those who improve might get their minutes with the reading or math specialist cut back.

“After six weeks I saw so much more improvement with those students,” Cass said, adding many just need an extra boost before they can move out of the program.

For more information about Response to Intervention, visit

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