Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Third Advisor

Dr. Steven J. Sanocki


multi-tiered systems of support, response to intervention, high poverty schools, elementary schools


The Michigan Department of Education has identified schools that are beating the odds as either schools that perform better than expected based on risk factors of race, ethnicity, low socioeconomics or/and English Language Learner populations, and/or also as schools performing above their comparison group of the most demographically similar schools in the state. Many districts in the state are attempting to incorporate multi-tiered systems of support with a Response to Intervention (RTI) Framework, as the academic component for assisting students in accomplishing skills needed to help them meet grade level expectations.

The purpose of this study is to describe and interpret how the RTI process, and elements outside of the RTI process, helped four high-poverty elementary schools in Michigan beat the odds. This qualitative case study seeks to explore and understand how high-poverty schools’ beat the odds as identified through the Michigan Department of Education. The study involve interviews with three staff members per school, including the principal and two other educators who were familiar with the RTI process at each school, specifically teachers, literacy coaches, and a psychologist.

Overall, participants describe how they implemented their basic RTI components using an integrated data collection assessment system to inform decision at each tier of service delivery. Additionally, participants describe their tiers of academic intervention instruction support, and how the problem-solving method within RTI is used to assist teachers and students with improving teaching and learning. Other elements outside of the basic RTI components were found to help schools in my study beat the odds. One outside element was that of having a laser focus on reading instruction, particularly implementing the workshop model for reading, focusing on the five reading components of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Within the reading workshop, students received one-on-one reading support at their personal independent reading levels allowing for more student engagement and a higher motivation to read.

Another outside element that helped students beat the odds is the transformational leadership qualities of the school principals and other educational leaders within the schools. School administrators created a school-wide culture of support and direction for teachers and students, while teachers created an atmosphere of support and direction within their classrooms for students. The passion and commitment revealed from participants during the interviews also assisted in enhancing students’ ability to beat the odds.

This study will add to current literature pertaining to the RTI Framework regarding using basic RTI components, as well as elements beyond these basic components that may be necessary to accelerate the learning of students in poverty, helping them beat the odds.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access