RTI and Reading: Response to Intervention in a Nutshell

The effort to understand Response to Intervention (RTI) has occupied many thousands of hours and hundreds of position and policy statements, white papers, consensus documents, and research articles. RTI is a process intended to shift educational resources toward the delivery and evaluation of instruction, and away from classification of disabilities. RTI is not a particular method or instructional approach. The success of RTI depends on the timely delivery of research-based instruction by highly qualified instructors. Although RTI can be implemented at any grade level, it is likely that the development of language and literacy skills will be addressed most prominently in the early grades, kindergarten though third grade.

The sheer volume of information that is available on RTI, much of which poses more questions than answers, makes it difficult for parents, educators, and other interested parties to develop a basic conceptual understanding of the process. The following is a brief guide to RTI and reading; it does not reflect how RTI will be implemented in all cases. The guide avoids detail on such issues as the changing roles of school professionals and parents; the need for reallocation of human and economic resources; staff development; or how to choose among methodological alternatives. However, this “nutshell” framework may provide a foundation upon which the interested, albeit not profoundly involved, individual can gradually build a working understanding of the process.
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When, Where and How are Disabilities Diagnosed?

Children may be diagnosed with a disability by a medical provider or by the school district. However, one must understand that being simply diagnosed with a disability is not a guarantee of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Having a disability is the first question when determining if a student qualifies. The evaluation team must also answer two additional questions:

  • Does the disability impact the child’s educational progress?
  • Does the child need specially designed instruction (which is the IDEA definition of special education)?

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Is My Child Making Progress towards IEP Goals?

By the time “Mrs. Bailey” contacted a professional to evaluate her son, she had been receiving quarterly progress reports from his public school for five years, telling her that Kevin was making progress toward achieving the academic goals listed in his Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, her observations of Kevin’s homework and the graded school work that came home didn’t match the school’s evaluation, and she wanted a psychologist to provide a “second opinion.” The outside evaluation confirmed his mother’s concerns — he had deficits in math calculation and written expression skills. In fact, Kevin’s written expression skills were severely delayed and fell in the first percentile — meaning that 99 percent of students his age performed better on the test. Naturally, Mrs. Bailey felt astonished, frustrated, and guilty about not realizing Kevin’s lack of progress sooner in his schooling.

Parents of children with learning disabilities (LD) who are receiving special education services receive regular reports of progress on their children’s IEP goals, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). Often these progress reports don’t really provide parents specific information, based on assessment data, as to whether their child is making progress or not.

There are several key factors that can have a positive impact on determining whether or not a child makes real, measurable progress. These include:

  •  a comprehensive evaluation that identifies a child’s strengths and weaknesses; and appropriately identifies a child’s educational needs
  •  explicitly stated present levels of performance
  •  appropriate and measurable goals/objectives
  •  effective instructional methods, and
  • continuous progress monitoring

Ask a parent how their child’s progress toward goals and objectives is being monitored and reported to them, and most often the response is “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know.” As in Mrs. Bailey’s case, it can be years before parents realize that their child is not making progress — or that the achievement gap between their child and his peers has actually widened while receiving special education services. So, how can you really know if your child is making progress? What should you do if you don’t think your child is “making expected progress” toward IEP goals and objectives?
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5 Common Techniques for Helping Struggling Students

Teachers know that students walk into their classrooms with a wide range of abilities. But teachers try to find ways to meet the needs of all students, including those with learning and attention issues. Here are five common teaching methods.

1. Differentiated Instruction

With this approach, teachers change and switch around what students need to learn, how they’ll learn it, and how to get the material across to them. When a student struggles in one area, the teacher creates a plan that includes extra practice, step-by-step directions, and special homework. Find out more about differentiated instruction.
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Protections for Students Not Yet Identified as Eligible for Special Education

The parent may assert any of the IDEA protections (i.e. manifestation determination, due process hearing, mediation, complaint, and functional behavior assessment) if the LEA has knowledge that the student is a student with a disability before the behavior that precipitated the disciplinary action occurs. When a parent asserts IDEA protections, the LEA must determine if it has a basis of knowledge or not.
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