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The Department of Education on RTI


The great thing about a blog is that it allows writers a chance to share information that can’t make it into the print edition of the newspaper. So, this is a perfect way to start On Special Education: with an interview on response to intervention with Department of Education official Louis Danielson.

Tight scheduling kept me from speaking to Danielson, the director of the research to practice division in the office of special education, before my articles (here and here) went to press, but I was able to spend a half hour talking with him about RTI, an educational framework that is gaining widespread attention.

Federal assistance on RTI
: “One of our clear, key investments is the RTI center,” said Danielson, referring to the National Center on Response to Intervention, a $14.2 million, five-year project. The new center will take over some of the functions of the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring and the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities, both of which are wrapping up their grants this year. Some of the regional technical assistance centers are also helping states with RTI, though that’s not their sole focus, he said.

How to “scale it up”: Michael Gerber, an education professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, takes a dim view of how successfully RTI can be expanded nationwide. Too many other education initiatives have fallen into disuse because people don’t take into account the differences in the thousands of schools and teachers who must implement a plan, he says.

Danielson said that he understands that concern, pointing out that it’s an issue with any educational innovation. However, the department has had a great deal of success with “positive behavior supports,” which is a way of using RTI to affect student behavior. He pointed to Virginia as a state where RTI is being introduced gradually, in a carefully controlled manner.
“They’re going to start with a small number of school districts and not to force it down people’s throats. The risk of doing it that way is that they’ll do it badly and say it doesn’t work,” Danielson said. “It is hard work to do, we’ve got to be deliberate about it and we’ve got to be smart about it.”

RTI and due process: Some parent groups are concerned that response to intervention might delay the identification of a child as learning disabled. Special education shouldn’t be seen as a negative, said Naomi P. Zigmond, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. It should be seen as a way for students to get the targeted help that they need to succeed.

But students usually aren’t identified with learning disabilities quickly now, Danielson said. He referred to one district that was studied after it implemented RTI. It didn’t change its percentage of children who were identified as having learning disabilities—it held steady at about 5 or 6 percent, he said—but now 1st and 2nd graders were identified, which he sees as a good thing. “While there could be a fear that [RTI] could drag things out; in this district it didn’t happen,” Danielson said.

Expect to hear much more about RTI, the officials suggested. It’s too early to make definitive pronouncements, but the early information is exciting. "If well implemented, we can get really good results for kids,” Danielson said.


Please send me more articles on RTI and intevention models. I am a doctorate student doing research on RTI and its relationship to readind.

I hope to hear from you.

Thank you.

I found this information to be very interesting. I am a teacher in Woodstock, Ga and I am hearing about the concerns of RTI at my school. I think we will begin training classes soon to find out more about it.

Please send more articles on RTI. I am trying to get our district to move in that direction.

I'm interested to learn more about RtI at the secondary level. Please share! :)

I just attended a conference on RtI with Dr. George Batche from Florida as the speaker. I now have a much better understanding of the "HOWS" of RtI as well as the "why's". He has written a book that can be found on the NASDSE website.

I am a special education teacher and have been trained using RTI for two years now. I don't see how people can say it will hold back identifying "special education" students, if anything it will hopefully help with interventions early enough so that the OVER identifying will stop! Regular Ed. teacher's need the training in order for it to work and that's where I see the problem in Texas where I teach.

My school is taking a long time to get RTI off the ground. We started in Aug.2007 and as of Feb 2008, have only worked on one student. Does it always take so long to get the initiative off the ground?

First Grade ESOL Inclusion-Georgia in a Title 1 school of predominantly ELLs

I am very concerned about what Tier 1 is doing to classroom instruction. There is as much benchmark testing as anything. Tier 2, undertaken to "justify why Level 1 ELLs did not pass the CRCT" does not make sense, and requires (due to scheduling) that such a child miss ESOL instruction, and that the very non-cost-effective use of very small group or one-on-one requires the service of an additional person. Would it not make more sense to just allow us to pull out low English proficiency level ELLs and provide them intensive English in groups that are large enough to meet quota maximums? I see RTI as very strange when implemented with Level 1 & 2 ELLs.

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