Response to Intervention: RTI



Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, Director of Professional Services at National Center for Learning Disabilities, stated in his Research Roundup: LD News: July, 2005 article that more students with learning disabilities receive services in special education than any other category of special education.  A total of 48% of students in special education are those with learning disabilities. Given this number of students identified and receiving services, one would think that there would be a history of clear cut methods of identification and assessment.

When 94-142 was first passed in 1975, there were no guidelines regarding the identification and assessment of students with learning disabilities. Over the years, several different methodologies came to pass, but the one that stayed with the educational system was the discrepancy model.  Basically, this model requires the use of I.Q. tests to identify a discrepancy between the students I.Q. and his/her classroom achievement. Although the idea of using this model seemed clear cut, it resulted in many students ‘falling through the cracks’, failing before intervention was provided, a lack of identification in some cases, and a general level of confusion from district to district and state to state. Each state, and even districts within each state, set up their own criteria for the level of discrepancy between I.Q. and achievement that would qualify a student for services.  Many students were not identified early and provided the appropriate services; thus, it became a ‘wait to fail’ model in many cases.

With the change in the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 came an alternative method to the discrepancy model. The option is Response to Intervention (RTI), a systematic method of identifying and providing intervention to students struggling to learn.  Dr. Horowitz delineates RTI as the following:  “it is based on evidence that informs the decision-making process. In other words, RTI is a service delivery approach that guides educators to anticipate, recognize and document student learning, and to provide timely, well-targeted and effective instruction. How students respond to this instruction (in combination with more formal assessment as needed) determines a students' eligibility for classification as LD”.  

Basically, the process begins with and is inclusive of the general education classroom where screenings are conducted on all of the students. Small groups are formed with those students falling in the lower 20% ; goals are set for the groups ; the allotted time for the intervention is determined;  a scientifically - based intervention program is chosen and implemented; and finally,  progress is monitored through data collecting and charting. From this information, teachers determine who is making acceptable progress with the intervention in place and who will need more in depth testing and further intervention.
Does this process really work?  Is it easy to implement RTI?  Certainly, it is a different model than what previously has been accepted as widespread practice in identifying those students who struggle with learning. RTI is based on solid principles, but it is a different approach AND a different philosophy than what many teachers are used to. It requires a strong commitment to the RTI underlying philosophy for administrators, teachers and support personnel. Collaboration among the team members is vital to the success of the RTI program. Willingness to change processes and ways of doing business in schools today can benefit many students.

Emphasis is on a TEAM.

T= Total Commitment

E =Expect Participation

A= All

M = Members

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Response to Intervention

The following sections in RTI will take the reader through an introductory course that discusses what RTI is, how it developed, who should be involved in RTI, and particulars about beginning to develop an RTI program. A sample list of resources is available at the end of the document.