By Nancy E. Bailey.

Response to Intervention (RTI), the program to identify children with learning disabilities early, was recently described by the Chalkbeat in Tennessee as having problems with implementation. In many places, like Tennessee, RTI has replaced —a model which has been used for years to identify students with learning disabilities, the “discrepancy” model.

The discrepancy model compares a student’s IQ test score (e.g. the WISC-IV) with achievement scores (e.g., Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test). A learning disability is thought to exist if the student’s IQ scores are at least two standard deviations (30 points) higher than scores on the achievement test. This indicates a significant discrepancy between the two tests. Consideration of the student’s work in the classroom is also given. All of this usually comes about when the teacher, and/or parent, observes a student experiencing difficulty in school and requests school psychological testing.

RTI uses what’s called a multi-tiered approach to identify students. All students are screened in a serious effort to keep students from special education classes. School districts might use different kinds of formats with RTI, and parents are supposed to be able to request a formal evaluation at any point in the program. Students remain in each tier for a specified amount of time.

Tier 1: Involves regular classroom instruction, repeated screening, and group interventions. Students who do well here go back to doing all regular classwork.

Tier 2: Students, who do not do well in Tier 1, get interventions and repeated screening with small group instruction. This is mostly in reading and math for younger children. Students still get regular class work along with the interventions.

Tier 3: Students get this instruction if they don’t do well in Tier 2. It is more individualized and if they don’t do well at this level they are referred to special education using the information gathered in Tiers 1, 2, 3.

RTI raises many concerns. Some parents worry that RTI winds up denying children with learning disabilities services. One fear is that some parents don’t think they can request an evaluation, or they are led to believe it isn’t necessary.

Two quotes the Chalkbeat provides, by Douglas Fuchs, a respected researcher from Vanderbilt, sum up the controversy surrounding RTI, as I see it.

RTI was introduced to the educational mainstream in 2004, when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act IDEA—a law meant to protect students with disabilities— was reauthorized. For the first time, RTI could be used to identify learning disabilities. Before that, students were often identified as having a learning disability if there was a large discrepancy between a child’s academic performance and his or her’s (sic) IQ, or “potential.”

First, was IDEA devised to protect students with disabilities? Or, were IDEA re-authorizations more about cutting costs to special education and creating one-size-fits-all schooling? Much of IDEA surrounds concerns that there is an “over-identification” of students for special education. Students in special education are said to cost twice as much as those not in special ed. By putting all students with special needs into the regular classroom (largely what IDEA is all about) special education services for children cost less.

Second, many would say the discrepancy model served students well. So, before foisting RTI on school districts, why weren’t these two methods compared more in serious randomized studies, with small groups in select schools? Such studies take time, but a review of the literature shows few studies before RTI was implemented. Like Common Core, it seems RTI was pushed into school districts before it was proven to be better than the discrepancy model.

Another quote the Chalkbeat uses, also by Fuchs, demonstrates quite clearly the effects of school reform on special education.

This [old] method [he is talking about the discrepancy model] of identifying learning disabilities has always had many critics, and one of the main concerns has always been that there’s been a presumption that the children […] were receiving good academic instruction, when in fact they were often […] doing poorly because of poor instruction.

This is the message conveyed to all of us by school reformers who support the privatization of public schools. Children, they tell us, are doing poorly because of poor instruction. This unsubstantiated message, that teachers do badly teaching, has been used to justify Common Core, Teach for America, charter schools, VAM, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, stepping in to save teachers with their teacher effectiveness program. And now add RTI to that list!

These two quotes appear to indicate that the basis of RTI is to ensure that all students with disabilities will wind up in the regular classroom, even though they may need individualized assistance in school, and, that RTI originated, due in part, to what is perceived as bad teaching in the past.

Yet, there really is no basis for RTI except the reformers’ generalized assumptions. Completely ditching the discrepancy method that worked fairly well for years, with a totally different, rather obscure program, has caused a lot of problems, especially by leaving students who need special education services with no services.

Tennessee, which adopted RTI as the main way to identify children with learning disabilities, rejected the discrepancy model (except for use in some schools), and now they don’t have enough funding to administer RTI. This could mean they will not be able to identify students with learning disabilities and those students won’t get services! Of course, this is a serious matter.

Here are some questions and observations about RTI:

  1. RTI is confusing. It’s wordy and complicated. Spend time with the RTI Action Network to see what I mean. This confusion leads to states doing things inconsistently, and, as in Tennessee, students may not get identified and receive the help they need.
  2. RTI relies on regular education teachers to do the remediation of learning disabilities. Where does the special education teacher fit in the overall picture?
  3. How early can you identify real learning disabilities? HERE is one practical list for preschool and elementary school. Most of these are observable. You don’t need to put children through repeated testing. Instead of RTI, wouldn’t an early-childhood teacher’s observations of children playing at recess, and their class behavior, be better than an overemphasis on testing young children?
  4. RTI uses a lot of student time looking for problems in all students. By focusing on everyone, the child who has real disabilities might be overlooked. Students who don’t need interventions might be mis-placed.
  5. Wouldn’t well-qualified teachers and smaller class sizes, K-3rd grade especially, be better for spotting disabilities in children without putting all children through so much screening?
  6. Students with learning disabilities might not be identified as having learning disabilities if they have to wait to go through RTI. RTI should not keep children from getting evaluated for learning disabilities. This is noted in the program and should be made more clear to parents.
  7. RTI emphasizes data, and there is a lot of paperwork. But is it useful data?
  8. RTI is connected to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Reading First. Both are controversial with troubled pasts—especially Reading First.
  9. RTI materials are available from many companies Pearson, Corwin, and Scholastic to name a few. But funding isn’t always smooth. The Chalkbeat notes there was money to purchase the assessment but not for hiring qualified people to administer the tests. Often young children are administered the assessment by people other than their teachers, who they don’t know, and who might not have a background in reading.
  10. It is difficult to distinguish, with RTI, if a child has real learning disabilities, or if they just work slowly.
  11. Is waiting until a learning disability manifests itself really “wait to fail”? This is an argument used by RTI advocates against the discrepancy model. Maybe the young child will self-correct the problem on their own.
  12. It is worrisome that RTI seems to complement Arne Duncan’s push to get everyone working on the same page in the regular education classroom. It also seems to supplement Common Core State Standards.
  13. RTI implies disabilities are fixable, when ongoing learning adaptations are what really might be needed.
  14. When RTI becomes the district’s LD identification program, many other valuable assessments, even those more appropriate to identifying disabilities, are left out.
  15. RTI primarily looks at reading, but there are many other kinds of learning disabilities. The Chalkbeat provides a poignant example at the beginning of their piece.
  16. RTI is questioned by many concerned about identification of learning disabilities and dyslexia. Retired psychology professor Cecil R. Reynolds and Sally Shaywitz, MD and Co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia, say in “Response to Intervention: Ready or Not? Or, From Wait-to Fail to Watch-Them-Fail,” The approach and definition embedded in RTI followed to its ultimate conclusion have the strong probability of eliminating the basic concept of learning disability as it was intended and as it is currently understood. This would be extraordinarily unfortunate, particularly since so much progress has been made in neuroscience in understanding and validating for example, dyslexia, the most common SLD [Specific Learning Disability].[1]
  17. RTI places children on 3 tiers. The tier for struggling readers uses DIBELS, which are tests done repeatedly to check on a child’s ability to name nonsense syllables. Ken Goodman, Professor Emeritus of Language, Reading and Culture, from the University of Arizona, wrote Examining DIBELS: What it is and What it Does. The book is worth a read if you are concerned about RTI, but here is the last paragraph to sum up. DIBELS is based on an outdated, limited scientific theory, and the evidence provided by the present study does not justify its use for the evaluation of an instructional program. Each successive sub-test is not a good predictor of success on the next sub-test, and none of the tests we examined show much relationship to real reading or writing.[2]
  18. The tiers are elitist. Students who do well on RTI get enrichment activities in regular classes, and those who do not do well get more assessment with DIBELS and interventions. This reminds me of the old Bluebird, Redbird grouping from the 1950s.
  19. Students may learn to believe they have a learning disability when they really don’t.
  20. RTI sprouted from NCLB and Reading First, as I said before, and advocates of RTI often use the words scientifically-based or scientifically-proven. Many question those words today because of their arbitrary use with NCLB and RF and other programs.

While those who created RTI might have good intentions, it is unproven. Also, as we see in Tennessee, it isn’t working or being funded. RTI is more time consuming and complicated than the discrepancy model. Furthermore, until school districts get their acts together, there are other assessments and methods for teachers and school psychologists to use today, to identify the children with real learning disabilities.

But, most important, RTI appears to seek to eliminate a diagnosis of learning disabilities. This is hugely debatable. Students struggling with learning disabilities should get the help they need in school. They should not be denied assistance because of RTI and its problems, and more randomized research studies are needed before RTI is considered the gold standard.

[1] Reynolds, C.R. Shaywitz, E.E. (2009). Response to Intervention: Ready or not? Or, from wait-to-fail to watch-them-fail. School Psychology Quarterly, 24 (2). 130-145.

[2] Goodman, Ken. Ed. Examining DIBELS: What it is and What it does. Vermont Society for the Study of Education, Inc. 2006.

 Nancy E. Bailey, PhD is a former special ed. teacher and principal, and is the author of Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students. Her website and blog are found at  


Anthony Cody
Anthony Cody

Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC in 2011 and he is a founding member of The Network for Public Education. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Jose State University, he now lives in Mendocino County, California.


  1. chris
    Difficult to run clean rct’s but there is plenty of research.

    1. David Berk    

      Having read the results summary on RTI’s own website, it seems that very little can be concluded about RTI’s impact based upon that research.

  2. John Bestor    

    I am a school psychologist who has worked for 41 years in an affluent suburban school district; most of my career has been spent at the elementary level. I agree with all that you have said regarding the roll-out of RTI and its impact on slowing the identification rate of children with special education needs. What I found lacking in your commentary is that the academic expectations for children have changed to the extent that there no patience for allowing children to grow developmentally while their neurological readiness for decoding or number sense matures. So, as a result, it is difficult to decide whether a child’s learning difficulties stem from an over-emphasis of rushed RTI interventions or from a learning disabilities condition impacting the child’s overall learning experience. It is commonly recognized that kindergarten is the new first grade, second grade expectations are taught in first grade, and so on. I complain all the time that we don’t provide classroom instruction that is tailored to the individualized readiness needs of our students. Common Core and its associated high-stakes testing merely exacerbate this problem. When I entered education as a professional provider, the guiding principle of classroom instruction was referred to a “individualization”, meaning that teachers would attempt to individualize a child’s instruction to most appropriately meet his/her developmental readiness levels. This has long-since been lost, as schools continue to meet the needs of the group – falling short for those ready for more, and moving too fast and beyond the readiness for those not yet ready. That is why many educators decry the one-size-fits-all instruction that is required by today’s education reform movement. Unfortunately, children are learning that they cannot perform well enough or need remedial instruction because they are unable to meet the unrealistic expectations that schools – even the best – place on them in the classroom everyday. Imagine what that does to their sense of adequacy and confidence as a learner! Imagine what that does to parents who only want the best for their children! So, it is not the children who are failing, but the system that is failing the children, their parents, and their teachers as well (because many have courageously spoken up, only to be shouted down by powerful, well organized and well financed, destructive self-interests). Sad and shameful, but it is important to keep up the discussion in speaking truth to power. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this month: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

    1. nancyebailey    

      John, Thank you for mentioning the development aspect regarding RTI. I agree! I have written several blog posts concerning the way children are pushed to learn so early. And it is indeed a worry that young children will be identified as having a problem when they are developing normally or a bit slowly. And yes, it is the system!

    2. Ruth Bevan    

      John, thank you for an excellent analysis. I too started my career back in the day of individualizing instruction based on the child’s developmental level. I retired early so that I could once again do just that. I have a thriving clinical practice serving children with dyslexia, individually, and my students are reaching grade level skills in 6 months to a year. The individualized approach using diagnostic, structured literacy is powerfull for this population. How is it that the school system “experts” refuse to acknowledge this? I do know it is a financial decision, sadly. I am so happy with my students’ progress, I only regret not doing this many years sooner!

  3. H.A. Hurley    

    There is so much going on in the ever-changing field of Education.
    Every cook is making this broth! Too many cooks & most are not real cooks.
    Whenever more demands are required for all kids, we have such a mess. Those of us who studied Learning Disabilities, children with SLD, not a generic Interrelated mish-mosh of mild disabilities – which also includes MID (nothing mild about intell.skills of 55-70 IQ kids), should be working with, screening and treating SLD kids. But, those days are gone.
    RTI became a new Industry of DIBELS for every child in every The logistics are insane and all testing is, IMHO, rather unreliable. Now, with all testing done on computers, regardless if kids have tech skills, have the attention span, whose little feet reach the floor in computer labs, tested in noisy locations by strangers & volunteers…nothing but masses. These scores along with IQ measures & WJ-R + others determine SLD eligibility. With the CC scores shifts, what are the appropriate standard scores?
    When will RealSpEducators determine what works for those children? Most likely…NEVER!

  4. nancyebailey    

    H.A. Hurley, Thank you! Excellent points.

  5. Jennifer whiddon    

    Well who serves the developmentally delayed child with no specific identifiable learning disability?

    1. nancyebailey    

      Jennifer, I think H.A. Hurley’s advice is right on. I’d get some other opinions. Young children might believe they are failing when they are not.

  6. H.A. Hurley    

    Only people who do not know children, real children over time, and swallowed the Kool-Aid of quantifying every scribble, utterance, smile, poop, response…know NOTHING about children or child development.
    The RANGE OF NORMAL in child development is real! Pediatricians, trained educators, psychologists, parents and grandparents know this. However, the number crunching public policy wonks counting and quantifying (katchink$) are the final word in what is NORMAL? Why are we drinking their Kool-Aid? We MUST challenge them, toss their crap back at them, stop being intimidated and stand up for children.

    Even when these number crunchers have their kwn children and write about their kids’ academic struggles…guess what?…Conclusion: it’s the teacher’s fault! Read Jason Zimba’s NPR article or follow BS PoliSci Fordham Institute Michael Petrilli writing about how poor their children’s teachers are & how they have to tutor their kwn kids in Saturdays. Paleeeese! Maybe their children are perfectly normal and are not ready for the ‘Imposed Rigor’ of Euclidean Geometry at five. Only to impress the Dr.Mengele sociopaths among us!?

    Developmental delays can be real, but I would never take THEIR WORD for it. Get second & third opinions from those who know children.

  7. John Thompson    

    This is all so complicated, but reformers tend to seek simplicity. Yes, students were over-identified under the discrepancy model, but they were also under-identified. I never saw RtI contributing constructively, but just reducing the students identified. It also increased the number of angry parents, asking why their children were being abandoned.

    1. nancyebailey    

      John, I think there are many parents who are frustrated that special ed. services have been cut. Some have turned to home schooling. So great point! Thank you.

  8. Diana Shea    

    This article is about the effects, or ineffectiveness, of RtI for students who may suffer from learning disabilities. Your next article can address the negative effects for the entire classroom. Anywhere from half an hour to two hours a day the teacher is working with the Tier II and Tier III small groups (sometimes as small as a single student out of 25) while the rest of the class is functioning without teacher attention. At this point you have even more students falling behind and being funneled into the tiers.

    1. nancyebailey    

      Diana, I have to wonder about all the time spent assessing the students who have no problems whatsoever. And three different groups of children, especially younger students with a variety of needs, sounds like a huge managerial challenge. There will be children most likely left out as you indicate.

  9. Dale Lidicker    

    Excellent post, Nancy. It rings true.

    As a special education teacher at the middle school level for 20 years, I was more than dismayed when our school district eventually left the discrepancy model behind. Both the WISC and the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement did a commendable job detecting the cognitive and academic achievement skill scatter that is a hallmark of learning disabilities. These are valuable diagnostic tests and we are scrapping them.

    The WISC informs the SPED teacher of the internal scatter of cognitive processes that the student possesses. The WJ Tests of Achievement informs the SPED teacher of how these cognitive processes are applied in an academic sense and the discrepancies between these academic skills. Uneven skills are what learning disabilities are all about. These tests identify the gaps. All the teachers have to do is to teach to the gaps and use student strengths to compensate for the weaknesses while teaching the content areas in the curriculum. It can also inform the teacher on what learning strategies to teach to the students with learning disabilities. As we all know, teaching students metacognitive skills and strategies are critical. A student who knows how their memory works and who knows how to apply learning strategies to their academic tasks will be able to navigate their learning successfully.

    Now, we are left with with a plethora of criterion-referenced tests, such as the annual state high stakes tests and all of the other test prep instruments, for determining who has a learning disability. These are mastery tests, not diagnostic tests. Makes no sense at all. I am positive that RtI does not serve as a valid or reliable method to identify those with learning disabilities.

    These days, the educational deck is stacked against those with learning disabilities. Heck, it is stacked against those with any disabilities…

    1. nancyebailey    

      Thanks, Dale. I agree. Sadly, all the data collected today doesn’t seem to really help teachers understand real student needs.

  10. 1rooneyboy    

    RTI and Direct Instruction, its pedagogical companion, is a direct decedent of the behavioralists– of BF Skinner, Doug Carnine, Stan Deno, Drs. Fuch, In data we trust. Deno evaluated teachers on their students’ data charts only. If it did not show weekly progress (celeration) you were not teaching. Measure everything. One U of MN Doc student had a bracelet with beads on a loop that he would slide over every time he did something he wanted to change in his behavior. They dismissed other orientations to reading (because reading was the main focus with a “oh yea, it works with math too”) because they were too complex to be reduced to 1 minute timed tests. If you can’t measure it, it is unteachable.

    I began teaching SLD/ED students before PL 94-142 took effect. On 2nd grade teacher commented that my LD kids sure knew their beginning consonant sounds. Of course they did, I had the data to prove it. Soon reality set in. There were still and always be many students that do not do well in dominant instructional method without some kind of help/interventions (they fall through the cracks). I got into trouble a number of times by helping students who were falling through the crack, by “not qualifying” under the dominant assessment/discrepancy formula. Then I then got a position where I could look at struggling students and find a way to Quantify their struggles for the auditors. That caused a lot of heart burn for the auditors. It did not fit the labels on the boxes on the forms.

    It is true that ineffective instruction will produce either ineffective learners, average learners and very good learners. But, generally it is difficult to prove that a 4th grade student still reading at a 2nd grade level had 2 or 3 years of ineffective teachers. I did “rescue” some students from a problematic class, but those were by in large behavior problems. I did assist teachers as well as students when I went into classrooms to work with only qualified, certified LD/ED students (wink, wink).

    It is not about the students. It is about the money. RTI can be a cost effective way to provide services and generate a set of data to justify your actions. We play Caesar’s game.

    In reality, it takes a very caring, loving, persistent team of problem solvers to teach all children well. It is an intensive labor of love. That can’t be easily measured with 1 minute timings and they certainly don’t want to pay for it. But we do it anyway.

    1. nancyebailey    

      This is very interesting. I think with serious developmental disabilities data might become more important due to communication difficulties. But RTI is not a program for students with developmental disabilities. Your point is well-taken. I especially like the last paragraph! Thank you!

  11. Terah    

    Just for your information, you state “Dibels” being used exclusively, when really Pearson’s AimsWeb is used widely in Tennessee counties as well as Dibels and other assessments.

    1. nancyebailey    

      Yes. You are correct, Terah. DIBELS isn’t the only program used. Thanks!

  12. Susan    

    I’m so tired of hearing complaints about RtI, discrepancy model, the need for services, etc… Services really? Normal is broad, not narrow. LEARN each child and teach to the child… Guide them, embrace differences, capture and learn from their thoughts. A 15 point discrepancy means a student with a 138 IQ would qualify for EC services in an area if they perform at 123 in an an area. Still, that student is out-performing most of their peers. The issue comes when adults use ‘cookie-cutter’ lessons for all students. What kind of society are we creating?

    As of now, too many adults can’t even think for themselves and have to receive support from outside sources. We live in a crumbling system that robs the majority of individuals of their God given strengths to succeed and be role models for others.

    Define services? Everyone has a different definition. Education is the service no matter how it is defined. If educators truly want to be a service to others, then stop complaining about the changes over time and focus on the strengths of every single child you come across in your career. Help their weaknesses become models for others. LISTEN and WORK with the STUDENTS! They are number one, not any program, test, process, framework, etc.


    Oh, “I don’t have time.” Really? It’s your job to focus on the students.” No one says to spend countless hours grading papers to be filed in the trash.

    Greatness happens outside the bell curve!

    One teacher can make or break the life of a child… Inspire greatness from all starting points, embrace differences. And according to Robyn Jackson, Never work harder than your students.

    Teachers should go home feeling as if they have conquered the world and students should go home tired from thinking so hard all day.

    Less than 5% really need intense services, including medical needs etc. Stop trying to blame low performance on students. Get out of the box…

    This is coming from a successful educator of 20 years with a learning disability. Thank God my parents saw a label as a last resort. Did I have challenges? Yes. Did I succeed? Yes. Challenges, like mistakes, provide us with opportunities to grow.

    Soapbox moment… Focus on students, nothing else.

    1. nancyebailey    

      You raise some very serious questions, Susan. Thank you.

  13. Vicki Gartner    

    You have twisted the intent of RTI. It is to prevent OVER IDENTIFICATION of students thought to have a learning disabilty who do not. It also provides intervention to ALL children who need it…including the advanced and gifted children. It actually blows up the old discrepancy model of “you dont qualify…therefore….sorry”. Implementation is a problem in some places….because folks do not understand that RTI is a framework to run a school….NOT a program to be implemented. It is time for my book 🙂

    1. nancyebailey    

      Thank, Vicki. I guess all I can say is we disagree. But I appreciate your comment.

  14. Julie    

    I, too, am a longtime special education teacher. I believe RtI is an attempt to reduce costs and to eliminate, if at all possible, the concept that there are real, measurable differences in student “abilities” to profit from education. My teaching career began in the mid 70s and I have observed IQ and intelligence become “dirty” words. We prefer to insist that all children can be made “college ready,” all can learn algebra, all can read “college level” texts. There is no such thing as natural talent, it is all about “good teaching,” which can overcome all obstacles to achievement. RtI is blind to what factors may be causing low achievement. A student who is functioning below average across the board can be placed in special education when what is needed is appropriate general education.

    Today we can speak of people who have, or lack, talent in art, music, sports, but alas, everyone has what it takes to achieve at a “proficient” level in all academic areas. Suddenly what has been obvious about human beings (the ugly truth that we do not all come with equal amounts of talent and we will never achieve equal outcomes) since humans have walked the earth.

    At the high school where I teach, every single student is taking college prep classes, and we are adding students to our special education caseloads at a feverish pace. We previously offered high school level classes for less academically inclined or interested students, today they are gone, so we have particularly high numbers of students failing and the only place we can deliver a more appropriate curriculum to them is in special education. This practice was never conceived by teachers, it is the result of ugly, misguided political pressure and reinforces the view that all failure to achieve can be traced to teaching.

    We do not fix LD, anyone who has spend time with LD youngsters in a “clinical” setting across a span of years can tell you that LD is a result of differences in the brain and impacts “specific” areas of functioning, not all over functioning (which is a hallmark of below average cognitive functioning). When allowed the opportunity and access to good teaching techniques, we are able to improve the outlook for LD youngsters, however it is the rare LD student who becomes an average reader, or a decent math achiever. Much like the kiddo who is awkward and struggles with coordination and physical activities. We do not “fix” them, though we may improve their performance (they are unlikely to ever ENJOY the physical activities with which they struggle). Or, the child who cannot sing in tune, we may improve their singing somewhat, but this student probably will not pursue a singing career.

    1. nancyebailey    

      Thank you, Julie. I agree that all students have strengths and weaknesses and schools should be about shoring up the weaknesses and emphasizing the strengths. And students with LD can move forward when they learn to adapt to their weak areas. I like the book Learning Outside the Lines by Jonathan Mooney and David Cole for high school students.

  15. Tammy Reid    

    As a special education teacher, I see each county and school doing RTI differently. I have seen students with a 70 IQ and achievement scores in the 80s to 90s be identified as SLD. At the same time I have seen students take years to be identified with SLD after repeating 2 grades in kindergarten through 2nd grade. Yes the 10 year old failing second grader does exist. RTI is a daily system.

    1. nancyebailey    

      Thank you, Tammy. Sorry for the delay in responding. I can’t believe we don’t have a better way of identifying students with disabilities and providing them with immediate appropriate support.

  16. Tammy Reid    

    RTI is a failing system.

  17. Ed    

    RTI has become another layer of CYA in our school system. I am a special education teacher with over thirty years teaching experience and personally have learning disabilities. RTI was recently presented as another layer of “intervention” for students struggling. We were told we had to create an RTI for any student with two quarters of a failing grades in a course ( high school level) AND we, the case managers, had to initiate the interventions, document the results and have at least three separate interventions before requesting a Pupil Personal Worker visit. In other words, the RTI has become an obstacle to intervention. I feel I am now spending more time filling out paperwork than actually working with children and it seems that the paperwork is more important than the authentic learning of the students.

  18. nancyebailey    

    I believe you are right about RTI becoming an obstacle, Ed. And the paperwork…isn’t that something? Making you document worthless information that most likely holds a child back. It reminds me of when I started teaching and the IEP was about three pages and teacher driven. When I left teaching it was more like twenty pages and much more standardized and impersonal! Thank you!

  19. thenextlevel2000    

    I suspected that RTI delayed services, and could not figure out why the school would offer solution after solution, but never go through with full testing, until they finally tested 8 years later, and then labeled the child with autism.

    Our district has had increasing special ed costs, in conjunction with a lowered prevalence of sped. Would RTI fall under sped accounting?

  20. carter M    

    im doing an argumentative essay on rti any suggestions of topics?

  21. Chris    

    I agree with some commenters that this article twists the intent of RTI. Neither model is perfect. Why? Because we’re working with humans, who are prone to error. The discrepancy model overidentified students–bottom line. On top of that, there has been ample research conducted to show that this model has unfairly impacted poor students of color. In my experience in education (in Louisiana), students are labeled as learning disabled when, in fact, they have a skill deficit. These skill deficits weren’t related to the students’ intelligence but rather to the fact that the student had not been adequately taught the skill. Anecdotally, I’ve seen these skill deficits occur due to a myriad of factors (e.g. lots of absences, exclusion due to behavioral concerns, mobility between schools with different curricula, and yes, even poor instruction). RTI helps prevent unnecessarily labeling a child as learning disabled. I agree that there is MUCH variability in RTI implementation, which leads to confusion and lack of fidelity of implementation. My solution would be to address that aspect of RTI, rather than discrediting it. Students also slipped through the cracks with the discrepancy model–administering intelligence tests individually can be a slow process that often involves individuals outside the school building to conduct the testing. RTI gives more flexibility for educators in the school building to drive identification and intervention. There is plenty of data to support the use of RTI. Saying that you couldn’t decipher what was on the RTI Action Network website isn’t an excuse to dismiss it.

    1. nancyebailey    

      Chris, Recent research disputes the over identification notion. That said, the important thing is that any child with a disability gets assistance so they are not lost in a large class size where they don’t get the attention they need. Also, good general education teachers, with decent class sizes, are more than capable of identifying children who need additional help. Parents are usually the first to notify the school about their child’s needs too.

  22. Ronee Groff    

    This is system failure pure and simple!!! This is financially driven pure and simple!! This is betrayal of children and families who are already in a regression of education expectation and promises by people who espouse professionalism and yet speak not for the child or that child’s future but for their expectation of a grant, paycheck, or position. Someone resurrect Jonathan Kozol and a clear understanding of children and how their minds grow. Remember: The Yoke of Special Education How To Break It, The Illusion of Inclusion, The Hillary Letter, “If They Learn Differently Teach Them How They Learn”, The REI:Patent Medicine for Behavioral Disorders,The Truth About The Information Highway,The Classroom Arsenal, CBE, AI, “Current Efforts Serve Capital,Not the Individual”, National Center for Eduation and the Economy????

    Articles, books, sayings going back to the 1980’s from the Military Industrial Complex, varying experts to be mentioned such as David and Douglas Noble, Shoshana Zuboff, Kauffman and Hallahan, Tucker,Gartner and Lipsky, Zirkel, on and on. This restructuring and redefining what education is and how it should work has been in place back to the forties and the parents and children are lab rats for a future more about technology and how we will serve it then about people and purpose.

    We are the undoers of our own doing and we are only waste deep into it. It has already had a forty year active jump and we are constantly behind. Pay for Success legislation in Utah funded by Goldman Sachs denied special education to over 99 percent of the students of the students that were in the early childhood Pay for Success Program. Goldman Sachs has received a first payment of over $250,000 based on over 99 percent of students Not being identified for special education. Based on these results, Goldman Sachs may receive an over 100 percent return on its investment as it will receive yearly payments based on students continuing to NOT be identified for special education (multiple yearly payments for one student). If special education is reduced to less than 1 percent of students, for all practical purposes it will cease to exist.

    Think you need REI, Inclusion, etc., to dump masses of children out of their futures and move to a world that has forgotten its humanity, its dignity, its promise to itself for the value and concerns needed to live up to such Federal Mandates as P.L.94:142, IDEA, ADA, Civil Rights, etc.? We are going BACK TO THE FUTURE and trashing the history for sake of a very uncertain and tragic future for millions of human beings. We are already seeing revolution at its root and hate and frustration at its core. Eisenhower and Carter have cautioned us to the truth (both military men). Pearson has grown rich off of defenseless children with this initiative “Everything can be measured and everything meaured can be controlled.” God help our children from our own lethargy and the despots who would buy their brains or trash them to the recycle bin depending on their use and not their purpose!!!! My heart and soul are heavy at the thought while I am still allowed to have them. Be afraid, be very afraid or…………..

  23. Regina Renfro    

    Thank you for this article. It has been most interesting and has ignited questions within the realm that I am working. I am an educator who works daily with parens, teachers, and students in the RTI process. We have seen challenges in this process and we have seen successes. There are pieces that the general public will never see from the outside. The information pinpoints areas that are concerning, but I don’t think that each point was fully addressed in depth. If you identify these challenges, and other educators are observing these challenges, what are our next steps? What can we do to impress best practices amongst our collegues in order to fulfull our professional destinies that ignited passion within our being when we were not challenged by overbearing parents, longer hours, and lack of training/resources? Yes. I agree. This system is not perfect, but the school where I am working continues to review student progress and interventions. As a nation that has identified flaws, where can we build instead of placing blame? What is working? Every child does not require special education services. In contrast, as medical advances continue to support fertility, new diagnoses, and new medicines, we are also going to see this impact the ability of a child. Depending on your population’s needs and the class size, and the educational background of parents and environment, we are looking at endless challenges. Nevertheless, what can we encourage our teachers in this process to do in the face of evaluation of expectations that are ever increasing? There are so many facets that effect the process. While many of us cannot change the laws and processes singlehandedly, I appreciate your frank evaluation of RTI. We can remember our purpose in implementing interventions and seeking supports for students who need them.

  24. Ronee Groff    

    As an Advocate for the Learning Disabled for forty years and one of the “overbearing” parents you refer to, I want to thank you for your reply. You are a reasoned person and professional and I respect that. However, at a time when the words “-just following orders” applies to what is happening in the reshaping of our national and global education system I would caution that we must be careful to Do No Harm for the generations of varied learners we are concerned to teach and mentor. If I believed that what is being done in unravelling and reshaping our system was in the best interest of all children I would have more agreement with you. I work in an inner city school district and what I see is a whole sale abandonment of children for the measuring and sorting of the ‘best and brightest’ ‘value added’ ‘gifted’ learners from the rest through the testing
    and ignoring of our Federal Mandates that were put in place to protect the education needs of differing learners, the others.

    Parent’s and others fought for those laws as one of the last of the Civil Rights
    provided for a most forgotten or ignored population of citizens and what we are seeing today is a reversal of law and in fact a trampling of law in response to capital/capitol/corporate needs over
    individual rights of the special needs learners (PPP+P=Private,Public,Partnership =Profit). Inclusion before readiness is a push through and push out back to the future deliberately designed and brilliantly incorporated plan for some over the futures of others. It is a workforce plan of exclusion for the masses with no backup plan for purpose or survival (other then the For Profit Prison for some and the stipend of $10.000. per citizen to survive on after the adjustment for life needs is put in place for others… the raw answer to ‘fixing’ poverty). All of this is being executed as you and I ‘discuss’ purpose and procedures and are behind the eight ball of mega years of planning by those that would now implement and incorporate the eventual Education/Industrial Complex. This works in cooperation with the Military/Industrial Complex and the articles of Douglas and David Noble prroves out the ‘plan’ as written years ago for what we are seeing today (The Classroom Arsenal is one to read).

    I am not trying to beat anyone up but if the Truth looks like, smells like, and acts like Truth then the history as found in archives will bear it out and it is all there to be found. We are fortunate to live in a country that has offered to each person an opportunity to strive to their best whether we think it is worthy of some over others. We need to protect that and not put on our blinders of denial and reason that ‘ jut following orders’ is enough for the protection of those who are the least among us for a corporate workforce for the puppet masters. Everyones child is their blessing.

  25. Roy Turrentine    

    This article is as pertainent today as it was when you wrote it. Tennessee Commissioner Candace McQueen just wrote a memo to teachers congratulating us on making RTI a success. She bases this on the recent scores on the state test, making such an assertion questionable at best.

    RTI is a program that is, in Tennessee, the largest unfunded mandate ever. And it came from a political party which used to rail against unfunded mandates. It has increased teacher workload enormously, and, nonwithstanding commissioner McQueen’s claims, the jury is out on whether it is succeeding. I can guarentee the political people involved with its implementation will be working overtime to make the stats work for them.

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