What approaches are available to schools to help struggling readers and to efficiently identify students who need special education services?
Page 3: The Response-to-Intervention Approach (RTI)
Click on the following movie and watch as the S-Team learns that there are other options for identifying learning disabilities (time: 0:48).
Transcript: Other Options for Identifying Learning Disabilities
Now that the S-Team understands why using the IQ-achievement discrepancy model often results in students having to wait a long time before receiving services, they wonder if there is a different approach to use. Ms. Jacobs, the special ed teacher, and Mrs. Hernandez, the S-Team’s lead teacher, attend a professional development meeting conducted by their state’s department of education, where they learn about a different method that is now allowed by the special education law that was passed in 2004—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, or IDEA. They tell the S-Team about response to intervention, which has two purposes: to provide early support to students who are having academic difficulties and to offer an alternative to the discrepancy model.
What Is the Response-to-Intervention (RTI) Approach?
One basic premise of the RTI approach is that classroom instruction should be high quality; therefore, ineffective instruction can be ruled out as the reason for inadequate academic performance.
High-quality instruction involves the effective use of curriculum and instructional procedures that have been validated through rigorous research. These instructional procedures are referred to in a variety of ways: scientifically based practices, evidence-based instruction, and research-validated instruction.
In the RTI approach, struggling students’ skills are monitored to determine whether they show adequate growth (referred to as responsiveness) following the implementation of high-quality instruction. Students who do not respond adequately to research-validated instruction in the general education classroom are provided with increasingly intensive and validated interventions. Students’ progress in skill areas of concern is monitored frequently (e.g., weekly), and the data collected inform subsequent decisions about whether a student is either appropriately responsive or still needing more intensive instruction.
An instructional technique designed to improve or remediate a certain set of skills.
The RTI approach can be implemented in a variety of ways. In broad terms, RTI is a multi-level approach that is made of the following components.
- Universal screening: All students are given a screening measure. Students at risk for academic failure are identified.
- Tier 1: Students receive effective, research-validated instruction in the general education setting. Student progress is monitored on a weekly basis. (In some approaches, universal screening is considered part of Tier 1.)
- Tier 2: Students whose progress is less than desired receive different or additional support from the classroom teacher or another educational professional. Student progress continues to be monitored.
- Tier 3: Students whose progress is still insufficient in response to Tier 2 instruction may receive even more intensive instruction, which can be provided in a variety of ways. Then, depending on a state’s or district’s policies, students may qualify for special education services based on the progress monitoring data, or they may receive either an abbreviated or comprehensive evaluation for the identification of a learning disability.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) allows states and school districts to use either the IQ-achievement discrepancy model or the RTI approach for determining special education eligibility for students with learning disabilities. Key features of each option are noted in the table below.
|What is the underlying purpose?||To eliminate low intellectual ability (IQ) as the reason for reading problems||To eliminate inadequate instruction as the reason for reading problems|
|Who is targeted?||Students with suspected learning disabilities||Struggling readers
Students with suspected learning disabilities
|What process is used?||
A prescribed set of standardized tests
Identification of discrepancy between IQ scores and achievement scores
Ongoing monitoring of students’ performance
Data-driven decisions leading to increasingly intensive services
|What information is typically used?||
Scores from standardized tests of intelligence (IQ) (e.g., Stanford-Binet)
Scores from standardized tests of achievement (e.g., Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test)
Data collected frequently on students’ performance
Possibly some standardized test scores
|Who is responsible for collecting the data?||Primarily a certified diagnostician or school psychologist||Primarily the general education teacher or other personnel responsible for instructional interventions|
|What are the data used for?||To identify whether a disability exists||To guide instructional placement|