Stuck in RTI Purgatory

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The school would NOT do a multi-factored evaluation for my son who has dyslexia.

During the time he was stuck in the RTI cycle, we questioned the accuracy of the data that showed he had some growth in retaining sight words and increasing fluency. We battled through the 1st grade year.  Once again stuck in the RTI process during second grade, he showed a 72% decline in abilities – yet the school still refused to evaluate.

He is trapped in RTI, with no legality on our side. Is there anything I can do?

If I understand your situation correctly, your son has dyslexia which is a specific learning disability. The school is using some form of RTI, and refuses to do an evaluation to determine if your child has a disability and needs special education services.

Your son has regressed since being in RTI, team members do not agree about whether he has a disability and needs special education services. You are looking for guidance about what to do “when there is no legality on your side” and your child is stuck in RTI.

Your assumption that “there is no legality on your side” is not correct.

The law is not intended to allow schools to avoid evaluating kids who are suspected of having a disability, or keeping a child in RTI over a long period of time. YOU need to learn what the law, regulations and US Dept of Education really say about RTI. Do not  rely on legal advice from school staff, who are not knowledgeable about the law and regulations.

You need to become an expert on what the law requires re: RTI. We can help you – we have a section with articles and publications about RTI on the Wrightslaw site:

You need to read this articles more than once. Use a highlighter, make margin notes.

After you understand what RTI is supposed to do, you need to educate the school people so they understand that the school IS required to evaluate your son for special ed eligibility – this is not optional.

Educating school people can be tricky. You don’t want them to view you as a “know it all.” They may not know that the school is still required to evaluate kids to determine if they are eligible for special ed.

Make copies of these articles and others you find as you are educating yourself, and provide copies to team members. Two articles below were written by school psychologists. Be sure to provide the school psychologist with copies.

A Parent Guide to RTI by Susan Bruce, Regional Education Coordinator for PRO*Parents of South Carolina, Inc. The Guide explains the RTI process and what IDEA requires, parent concerns and important questions about RTI, and what RTI means for our kids.

RTI: A Primer for Parents published by the National Association of School Psychologists which states:  “The law gives districts the option of using RTI procedures as part of the evaluation procedures for special education eligibility. Comprehensive assessment is still required under the reauthorized law, however.”

Response to Intervention: Guidelines for Parents and Practitioners by James Hale, Ph.D, Professor, School Psychology Program,

If the child does not respond to Tier I and Tier 2 interventions, does the child have a disability that requires intensive Tier 3 special education instruction? In most cases, the answer is “yes.” Many conclude that following Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions, the child should be classified with a SLD, and should receive Tier 3 special education services.

Before a child can be found eligible for special education under IDEA, the school must conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation using multiple data sources. (20 USC 1414(a-c)) After this evaluation, the school team will decide if the child meets the criteria for a SLD, the child’s educational needs and whether the child is eligible for special education services.

** OSEP Memorandum – The USDOE’s Office of Special Education Programs sent a memo to all State Directors of Special Education in January 2011, clarifying that RTI cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation for eligibility under IDEA

Remember this: Since your child has a disability, and should be found eligible for special education services, you will have to negotiate with school personnel for a long time. Unless you are prepared to take your child out of public school and educate him yourself forever, you must learn how to deal with school people.

If you can swing it, you need to attend a Wrightslaw program about Special Ed Law and Advocacy. The schedule is here:

If no programs are close enough, you can order the books and Special Ed law and Advocacy training program download:

These resources will get you started. I will follow-up in the next post with additional resources.

Good luck to you!
Pam Wright

Read More

Stuck in RTI Purgatory – Part 2

The RTI Hurdle

Wrightslaw video: RTI / Response to Intervention

  1. FYI/Update – This was my post/question from many years ago. We never did make any progress with the district, even after coming in with an outside advocate, and an outside private diagnosis of dyslexia and dysgraphia. We hired a special education attorney. We pulled our child from the district (using unilateral placement – do not skip this step, or you cannot attempt any legal recourse) and enrolled him into a private school for children with dyslexia where he flourished and attended for six years. The original district FINALLY agreed to a multi-factored evaluation, months after he was already pulled from their district and attending his new school. Long story short – the school has an attorney on retainer, I do not. We reached a “settlement” and moved out of that district.

    • If you search a complaint database looking for violations against a district, ones which are “settled” will not appear, as there is no final judgement or ruling of wrong doing. It’s literally as if it never happened.

      Our ultimate goal was to set precedent and introduce case law that could help other parents who found themselves in a similar position, but as I said, school districts have attorneys on retainer and everyday folks don’t have deep enough pockets.

      • Some parents try to get records on how much districts are spending on school attorneys for special ed cases.

  2. Melissa, yes they will have to test for a Specific Learning Disability. Who made the determination of Autism? Was it a medical diagnosis or determined by the school? Evaluations from the doctor which comes with recommendations, should be provided to the school to assist them with understanding the total child. The team should gather data relating to specifics to understand the services that is needed for the students to be successful in their academics.

  3. Melissa, If you suspect that your child has a learning disability along with Autism—you can request additional testing. You should request specific testing that you want done: cognitive, processing, and academic. And really the criteria is not failing grades or discrepancy—it is if the child needs the services and you, the parent are part of the team to make that decision. Is there a specific learning disability that you think they are both struggling with?

  4. Does criteria for determining specific learning disorders only apply for initial IEP eligibility? I have 2 with IEP’s classified as Autism but we believe that they have learning disabilities also. We requested evaluations for this but the school said they didn’t see any concerns. We are wondering if they were required to evaluate for this despite already having IEP’s.

  5. I just wanted to say, thank you, for all that you and your website do for us the advocates. Your website has literally changed my life. My daughter was labeled ID and I had a hard time dealing with it,so a friend recommended the Wrightslaw website. I have learned that there is nothing wrong with my child, she just has a body part that works differently. We need to change the attitudes of people, and their perceptions regarding our children with needs. With your help, and website we will make a difference. Also, EVERYONE needs special ed. law 2nd ed. and F.E.T.A. ! Thanks again and keep up the great work. Sincerely David in so.AZ

  6. My daughter 8 yr old was tutored in Wilson over the summer, now in a Resource Room at a lower level with other children that have different learning disabilities in wilson. She is still not getting the right services. I requested neruo psychy eval. Know that i have 20 days…so if that don’t do as requested, do I just pay for it or go to due process next? help……

  7. I have a granddaughter who is chron 13 and has dd delays w/PDD NOS. As you know, in VA, the CSB does not get paid for “case mgmt” unless the child is labeled MR and there is NO CASE MGTMT! She is very capable of learning and is not “thriving” where she is placed. Art projects abound; but they look like mostly the “aide’s” as often it is too sophisticated! Her mother is one of the first wave of 94-142…and she does not understand anything. School thinks this is great…”we have no problem with XX”.
    What can we do; She is capable of a lot more than what she is doing as well as the low scores that one psychologist tested and found. Often, these children cannot be “tested”.
    I asked the Parent Resource Director why are we sending children to special schools at $60,009; why can’t the public school teach them?

  8. If your chid has dyslexia be sure to check out what program is being used in the special ed. program. If it is not an Orton-Gingham program being stuck in an IEP may be far worst then being stuck in RTI. It is my experience that, at least here in Montana, Special Ed. Departments/Teachers are not doing the right thing for dyslexic children. They want to put kids in Spec. ed. to get the federal money when a 504 plan would be appropriate.

  9. Those are some great resources, I would also recommend you check your state rules and regs for guidance. Some states such as Illinois, require an RtI process be used for evaluation of students suspected of SLD. In Illinois there are guidance documents that directly relate to that as a result. If you have made a written request for an evaluation of your child and the district denied your request in writing your next course of action would be a state complaint or due process to dispute the school’s decision. A student diagnosed with a disability generally hits the child find requirement for the school, so it is in their best interest to evaluate, especially if you voiced concerns and the student is in tier and not making adequate progress. The key questions to ask are what is appropriate progress and how long can interventions be tried.

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