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Senate Bill Would Increase Federal Support for RTI

A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday would put more federal money into literacy programs, including response to intervention—the early identification of students' learning problems and the use of focused lessons, or interventions, to address those problems before they become nearly impossible to reverse.

Many school districts swear by RTI as a way of keeping students out of special education, in particular from being diagnosed with specific learning disabilities. The rate of students being identified as having a learning disability has been dropping for more than five years.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, would provide $2.35 billion for literacy programs, including RTI (which is called "multitier system of support" in the proposed legislation), to be spent on children from birth through high school. (Get the highlights of the bill in this one-page summary.) That would mean literacy funding in Washington state, for example, could increase from $6 million last school year to an estimated $34 million.

"Literacy education is the foundation for all education," Sen. Murray said. "Children in every state deserve to have access to high quality literacy education that will give them the reading and writing skills they need to succeed in school, in their future careers, and in life."

The LEARN Act, or Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation, was welcomed by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and a similar bill has been introduced in the House by Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth.

"The inclusion of [multitier system of support] in the LEARN Act is an important step forward to providing critical interventions for struggling learners," said James Wendorf, executive director of the NCLD. "LEARN will help states and schools build greater capacity to help students at academic risk through immediate data-driven interventions designed to respond to their individual learning needs."

Other backers are the six education groups that helped craft the bill: the Alliance for Excellent Education, the International Reading Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Middle School Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities said they expect the LEARN Act to be addressed when the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee works on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The federal government already supports RTI, and not just with words, but with dollars, including funding for the National Center on Response to Intervention.

For more about the bill overall, read about LEARN at Education Week's Politics K-12 blog.

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