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Responding to RTI


At a recent conference, Happychik discovered that the hot new acronym in eduspeak is RTI, standing for Response to Intervention. She does some investigating on the Internet, and isn't very impressed:

I don't want to judge this RTI stuff without truly knowing what I'm talking about, but I hope it's not coming to a school near me. I'd like to think we already have it--perhaps under different terms. Although I welcome new strategies to perfect my craft, I don't need than more than I have now.

All I know is that this Ed Week story has gotten a crazy number of eyeballs this year.


Like Happychik,I would like to believe that RTI is something that we already have. Both my experience and the responses I have read from teachers convince me that we don't. To my mind, RTI introduces a slope of intervention up to the point at which a student is considered to qualify for special services as required by IDEIA. It allows (I believe) the use of a percentage of federal funding to be used to provide those increasingly intensive interventions.

Special education teachers suspect that it will introduce a delay in the identification of students and a delay in their access to services (or when they become "special ed students"). To me the responses on both sides (regular and special education) point to turf issues that in effect provide a huge chasm for students to fall into. Happy points to bilingual students in her class who are "no longer considered ELL." With a label, without a label, at what point do we get around to figuring out how to match teaching and education to the needs of the individual kids?

We are far beyond the time when we can afford to slap a label on a kids head and send him to the room down the hall. Kids are far more complex than that. The reality is that the room down the hall has always been a catchall, usually broadly graded, matching kids whose disabilities are more dissimilar to one another than to the other "regular ed" kids in the room that they came from. Special education teachers MAY have special knowledge about how to accommodate the needs of all, but less time to do so, greater needs to meet, and way less concern for and training in content.

Special education teachers and regular education teachers need one another--desperately! It's time that they stop fighting over who kids belong to and start working together. RTI certainly provides the opportunity.

It has been my experience that the use of an RtI model delays/denies services to students who, by law, qualify to receive them. Also in my experience, students with hidden disabilities, such as learning disabilities and/or emotional disturbances, are particularly vulnerable under this model.
Language is a symbol system and, although imperfect, is what we humans use to communicate with each other. In my opinion, using the rationale that we should not label for fear of creating territoriality is a weak argument. It is not about us against them. It is about providing data-driven, research-based interventions matched to student strengths and needs. Language is a tool we use to provide these services. Disabilities are real--people with disabilities are real people; teachers of students with disabilities are real teachers; teachers of students without disabilities are real teachers; parents of students with disabilities are real parents; parents of students without disabilities are real parents. Not identifying students with disabilities by creating barriers to services is in my mind not a solution, but an obstruction to civil rights that sets education back to pre-special education days. Therefore, I do not support RtI.

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Recent Comments

  • Kim, Teacher: It has been my experience that the use of an read more
  • Margo/Mom: Like Happychik,I would like to believe that RTI is something read more




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