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"An 'Every-Ed' Initiative"

The RTI Action Network held a gathering Monday for congressional aides in order to tout the virtues of response to intervention.

The RTI Action Network wants to see the Elementary and Secondary Education Act allow coordination of funds between Title I (federal funding to educate low-income students) Title II (funding for teacher and principal training) and literacy grant programs. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly when ESEA may be reauthorized by Congress, but the organization clearly wants to keep RTI (or more generically, "multi-tiered systems of support") on the front burner.

The presentation was a standard discussion of response to intervention, with examples given from school leaders from Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Jonathan Ross, a former special education teacher and the principal of Lionville Middle School in Exton, Pa., said he was cool to RTI when it was first presented to him. Now he calls himself a "full-fledged convert" for the way response to intervention allows teachers to dig into a student's specific problems, rather than lumping struggling learners together in a "remedial" group that never catches up to its peers.

Stevan J. Kukic, one of the presenters and a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, is the one who said not to think of RTI as a "general education initiative." That phrasing is generally used so people understand that response to intervention involves more than just "traditional" special education students.

"It's not an general education initative and it's not a special ed initiative," he said, quoting another RTI proponent, Judy Elliott, the chief academic officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "It's an 'every ed' initiative."

The speakers at the presentation noted that challenges remain: how should RTI be implemented for subjects other than early literacy? And how can it be adapted for use with older students? But the RTI Action Network says that there's momentum building behind response to intervention; what's needed is federal support for it to take root at all levels.

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