Back to Basics: What is IDEA and RTI?

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Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd EditionA question in the Wrightslaw inbox that caught us by surprise. We sometimes forget the basics.

Can you tell me what these mean? IDEA and RTI

Based on your question, I suspect you are quite new to this field.

Start with the Basics

IDEA. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

If you have a child with special needs, per IDEA, the school district is supposed to evaluate your child.

RTI. Response to Intervention

If your child is suspected of having a learning disability (LD), the school district may use the discrepancy between the child’s IQ and educational performance as one basis to determine the child is eligible and qualifies for an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

But the school may also use a process known as Response to Intervention (RTI) to see if that LD child is eligible for an IEP.

The definition of LD is in IDEA at 20 U.S.C 1401(30) and the law about RTI is in 20 U.S.C 1414(b)(6).

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 55 and page 97.

Now, Do This…

Go to the website at and search for each of these terms in our google search box on every page.

You will be flooded with hundreds of files.

For more definitions, use the Wrightslaw Glossaries.

Glossary of Special Education and Legal Terms

Glossary of Assessment Terms

Glossary of Tests and Assessments


Scroll down the left hand margin on

You will see headings such as Law Library which has a link to IDEA 2004.

Scroll down to Topics. Again, you’ll find IDEA 2004 and RTI.

Remember, the only stupid question is one that is never asked. Thanks for asking.

  1. The school can’t just stop your IEP and put your child in RTI, if this is what you’re asking. I think Wrightslaw just answered a question about this. They said…

    “The school cannot unilaterally discontinue your son’s special ed services unless you go along.

    Before the school determined that your child WAS eligible for special ed services (get an IEP), they were required to do a comprehensive evaluation and assess all areas of suspected disability.

    Before the school can determine that your son is NOT eligible for special ed services (discontinue the IEP), they are required to do a comprehensive evaluation and assess all areas of suspected disability.

    Please read this article about ‘Terminating Eligibility’ now!”

    You should also read what they wrote about RTI –

    “RTI is not special education, so it is not equivalent to nor a substitute for special education.”

  2. My 6yr son has an IEP since last year. Now the school wants to meet for an RTI. Is this correct or should we be meeting to update the IEP? – Roy

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