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The Legal Side of RTI and Students With Learning Disabilities

In a new three-part discussion about response to intervention, Lehigh University Professor Perry A. Zirkel discusses the legal implications of this approach to addressing and ferreting out learning disabilities.

The discussion is an interesting one (that you might find a tad technical), especially considering that RTI has been adopted widely across the country following the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

RTI involves an increasingly intense set of techniques to address students' areas of weakness. Students' progress is heavily monitored. Parents are involved. At least that's the ideal.

While RTI has been credited with decreasing the number of students diagnosed with learning disabilities, there are also concerns that the use of RTI in some places has led to a delay in the evaluation of students whose disabilities are beyond the scope of what the approach is meant to address. My colleague Lesli A. Maxwell and I explored this issue to an extent in this piece about determining whether English-language learners have disabilities.

As the RTI Action Network points out, however, "an RTI process cannot be used to deny or delay a formal evaluation for special education."

Zirkel looks closely at RTI laws by state in the second part of the series. And in the third section he provides a checklist for parents, or school districts, to use to evaluate compliance with how students with learning disabilities are identified.

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