Response to Intervention at the Secondary Level

Response to Intervention is a process that involves providing struggling learners with academic interventions that match their needs in order to help all students master the curriculum. My experience in secondary education has convinced me that every secondary classroom needs to begin Response to Intervention at the Secondary Level at Tier One of RTI: differentiated instruction.

Essentially, differentiating instruction means using a variety of methods within a lesson plan to reach multiple ability levels and learning styles. When teachers differentiate instruction, 80% to 90% of students successfully meet achievement benchmarks (Hanson, 2009). In this way, RTI simply becomes “Really Terrific Instruction,” allowing every student to benefit from differentiated instruction strategies.

RTI is Really Terrific Instruction

As a high school special education teacher and a co-teacher working within the inclusion model, I noticed that RTI must consider the very nature of secondary education. For example, RTI interventions must be used across the curriculum at the secondary level since high school students take classes on a variety of subjects. Also, middle and high school students are more socially aware – they are much more reluctant to be pulled out of a class or singled out. This means that interventions need to be implemented during class time.

One way to provide RTI interventions in the general classroom is through the use of acceleration centers (Nilson, 1998). Since they address a wide range of abilities, they are an effective tool for delivering Tier Two and, possibly, Tier Three interventions. They also help to encourage student engagement and combat the apathy so often found at the secondary level.

The acceleration center I’ve developed is not the same as an elementary learning center. I have taken several “station” methods, combined them into a model appropriate for secondary students, and created what I call the Fitzell Acceleration Center. It’s not a product to be purchased; rather, it is a way of using center teaching at the secondary level.

What are Fitzell Acceleration Centers?

Fitzell Acceleration Centers are similar to the concept of a learning center except that teachers do not create a separate center for every unit they teach. There is no holiday center, for example, or math center created for a specific lesson plan. Instead, teachers focus on a curriculum strand taken from their state standard that aligns with the Tier Two intervention needs of students in their classroom.

Fitzell Acceleration Centers- A Co-teaching ModelThat strand might address the standards with which your students had trouble on the state test the year before. The activities in the center range from the very basic skills in the strand (Tier Two interventions for struggling students) to high-level skills (Tier One activities and strategies for all students), and possibly even college-level material (enrichment curricula). Overall, though, the focus of the center should be based on assessment data collected by the general education teacher and, if there is one, the RTI team.

A Fitzell Acceleration Center is a designated area, crate, file drawer, or pocketed bulletin board that provides students with standards-based learning activities at a range of ability levels. These centers are not just more worksheets. Rather, they are hands-on activities that may involve creative tasks, research, or challenges that require critical thinking at varying levels, taking into consideration student learning style. Ideally, they also incorporate computer-based instruction, taking advantage of any computers the classroom might have.

Once developed, each center remains in place for the entire year. The center only needs to be prepped once and then activities can be added or changed throughout the year. The only continuous management is student assignment and assessment. The goal of RTI is to give all students the opportunity to succeed. The Fitzell Acceleration Center is a useful tool for supporting this goal within the general classroom.

Watch the Video: How To Engage In Their Own Learning Quickly And Easily With Student Made Learning Centers

Here are some links to help you get started:
1. Fitzell Acceleration Centers
2. Implementing Fitzell Acceleration Centers – Addressing the Challenges
3. Accelerate Learning in Your Classroom

RTI and Accleration Center Resources:

Fitzell, S. G. (2011). RTI Strategies for Secondary Teachers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Hanson, H. M. (Director). (2009). RTI and DI: Response to Intervention and Differentiated Instruction [DVD]. Port Chester, NY: National Professional Resources. Available at
Nilson, L. B. (1998). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. Bolton, MA: Anker.


RTI Strategies for Secondary TeachersFor more information on differentiation and Response to Intervention, see Susan Fitzell’s book, RTI Strategies for Secondary Teachers.

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