What are special considerations for English Language Learners within a Response to Intervention (RTI) model?

The term English Language Learners (ELLs) refers to students whose first language is not English, and encompasses both students who are just beginning to learn English (often referred to in federal legislation as "limited English proficient" or "LEP") and those who have already developed considerable proficiency. The term underscores the fact that, in addition to meeting all the academic challenges that face their monolingual peers, these students are mastering another language. Branching Minds takes students’ ELL level into account when collecting the Insight Survey, as well as recommending interventions and accommodations matched to their needs.

It is helpful to take into account the following considerations when supporting ELLs through an RTI model:

  • Teaching should be culturally responsive: The student’s prior experiences should be considered, including home language background and socio-cultural background.

  • Interplay of English Language Learning & Reading Instruction: Teachers should consider the relationship between a student’s language proficiency and his/her literacy skills. Reading fluency and comprehension may be strongly determined by vocabulary and linguistic proficiency of both the first and second language.

  • Interplay of English Language Learning & Math Instruction: Linguistic proficiency and vocabulary comprehension are important when understanding math concepts. Several concepts of math are not necessarily universal.

  • Additional Variables: Within RTI problem-solving, literacy and oracy (in both home and new languages), culture, and educational history are variables to be considered when assessing and planning instruction for ELLs. In all three tiers, these variables stay consistent. 


  • English Language Learning: core instruction for all LEP/ELL students must always include English language learning as well.

  • Matching Instruction to Student Need: Differentiated instruction should be used for ALL students; however, differentiated instruction for ELLs should consider the student’s level of English proficiency and prior educational experiences in addressing cultural and linguistic differences. When determining appropriate instruction/intervention, the following list applies to all levels of ELL students:

    • Consider the amount and type of ELL instruction the student received in the past and in the present 


    • If applicable, consider the amount and type of home language instruction in the past and in the present 


    • Ensure that the language(s) used for intervention matches the language(s) used for core instruction

    • Consider the impact of language and culture on instruction and learning

    • Contact the family for guidance and feedback

    • Ensure that certified ELL teachers serve on the RTI instructional decision-making team 


  • Assessment: 
In order to better understand the needs of LEP/ELLs students

    1. Home Language Questionnaire: To identify if a language other than English is spoken at home 


    2. Interview: To assess the relationship between their 2+ languages and the extent of formal education the student received in any other language 


    3. Initial ELL Placement State Assessment: Based on the interview results students are identified on their level of proficiency. It 
will identify the initial placement within ELL


    4. ELL State Assessment: End of the year assessment to determine next year’s placement. It decides a students’ 
proficiency level

Monitor: Proficient students who have exited the ELL program based on ELL State Assessment scores