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What You Need to Know about IDEA 2004
Response to Intervention (RTI):

New Ways to Identify Specific Learning Disabilities

Articles & Publications | Websites

Note: We have a YouTube video about RTI. For that and other Wrightslaw YouTube videos, go to the "Wrightslaw YouTube Channel" at: To see the RTI YouTube video, click on the link below and go "Full Screen."

When Congress reauthorized IDEA, they changed the law about identifying children with specific learning disabilities. Schools will “not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability ..." (Section 1414(b)) (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 97)

students and teacher in libraryWhat is Response to Intervention (RTI) ? How will these new practices affect struggling children who have not yet been identified with specific learning disabilities? How will this affect the millions of children who have been identified with specific learning disabilities and who are receiving special education services?

The devil is in the details. The success of Response to Intervention (RTI) will depend on whether it is appropriately implemented by highly-trained professionals - and this is likely to be a problem.

To answer your questions about RTI, we collected articles and free publications from a variety of sources. We found that some experts endorse RTI, while others are less enthusiastic.

We encourage you to study these issues. This page includes articles, free publications, and recommended websites.

Articles & Free Pubs About Response to Intervention (RTI)

A Parent Guide to RTI was created by Susan Bruce, a fierce advocate for students, who has trained over 5000 parents, attorneys and advocates on virtually any topic that has to do with special education and civil rights law. The Guide explains the RTI process and what IDEA requires, parent concerns and important questions about RTI, and what RTI means for our kids. Pdf format

OSEP Memorandum - RTI process cannot be used to delay-deny an evaluation for eligibility under IDEA. Office of Special Education Programs to State Directors of Special Education, 01/21/11.

Response to Intervention: Guidelines for Parents and Practitioners. Hale, James B., Ph.D, Associate Professor, School Psychology Program, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Understanding Response to Intervention.

Response to Intervention (RTI): A Primer for Parents. Klotz, Mary Beth Ph.D, NCSP, Canter, Andrea, PhD, NCSP National Association of School Psychologist.

Response to Intervention: The Role of and Effect on School Psychology. Burns, Matthew K., Coolong-Chaffin, Melissa, University of Minnesota.

Alternative Approaches to the Definition and Identification of Learning Disabilities: Some Questions and Answers. Fletcher, Jack M., W. Alan Coulter, Daniel J. Reschly & Sharon Vaughn. Published in Annals of Dyslexia.
To ensure adequate instruction for students with LD, identification must focus on assessments that are directly related to instruction. Services for struggling students must focus on intervention, not eligibility. Special education needs to focus on results and outcomes, not eligibility and process. Identification models that include RTI will lead to better achievement and behavior outcomes for students with LD and those at risk for LD.

Responsiveness to Intervention: A Blueprint for Practitioners, Policymakers, and Parents in Teaching Exceptional Children. Fuchs, Douglas, Lynn S. Fuchs. (2001)
Describes a "three-tier" system (beginning in general education and ending in special education) that serves the early intervention and disability identification objectives of RBI. The focus is on standard tutoring protocols, not "problem solving model," because available scientific research supports this approach.

The Discrepancy Formula-How the Aptitude-Achievement Formula Keeps Educators from Doing Their Jobs. Horowitz, Sheldon H. (1999) (Adapted from a presentation by Dr. Horowitz at the 49th Annual Conference of The International Dyslexia Association.)
"The standard that opens the gates to remedial and support services in schools, the 'discrepancy formula,' has undermined the ability of teachers to provide timely and effective assistance for students with learning disabilities. It virtually requires that students 'crash and burn' academically before they can gain access to special education services and it reinforces failure, ultimately making remediation much more difficult." (pdf format, p. 72)

NASP Position Statement: Identification of Students with Specific Learning Disabilities.

A Three-Tier Response to Intervention (RTI) Model. LDOnline
Article describes a Three-Tier RTI Model as an alternative to the Discrepancy Model (the "Wait to Fail Model"). This article describes a three-tier reading model that monitors student progress with different levels of intervention intensity.

Rethinking Learning Disabilities. Lyon, G. R., Fletcher, J. M., Shaywitz, S. E., Shaywitz, B. A., Torgesen, J. K., Wood, F. B., et al. (2001). Washington, DC: Thomas Fordham Foundation.
Describes reasons to reject the IQ-achievement discrepancy models. Discrepancy models delay classification until the child is in 3rd or 4th grade when academic achievement problems are more difficult to resolve. The IQ-achievement discrepancy is not related to decisions about intervention methods, goals, or results.

Early Warning System. Lyon, G. Reid Lyon and Jack Fletcher. (2001)
The authors describe three factors that led to a dramatic increase in children identified with LD. (1) Remediation is rarely effective after 2nd grade. (2) Measurement practices work against identifying LD children before 2nd grade. (3) Federal policy and the sociology of public education allow ineffective policies to continue. The authors make a case for implementing effective early intervention programs. Read article.

Understanding Responsiveness to Intervention in Learning Disabilities Determination. Mellard, Daryl and the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities.
Excellent article describes core features of RTI including the use of assessment to match students with appropriate instruction. Other core features are high quality classroom instruction, research based instruction, classroom performance, universal screening of academics and behavior, continuous progress monitoring, research based interventions, progress monitoring during interventions, and fidelity measures (that the intervention was implemented as intended and with consistency). Since several versions of RTI have been implemented, this article describes common attributes including tiers of increasingly intense student interventions; differentiated curriculum; variations in duration, frequency, and time of interventions; placement decisions.

Issue Brief: Multi-Tier System of Supports/Response to Intervention. National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) provides key Policy Recommendations to ensure ESEA allows districts and states to implement Multi-Tier System of Supports.

Responsiveness to Intervention & Learning Disabilities. National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. (2005)
Examines concepts, potential benefits, practical issues, and questions about responsiveness to intervention (RTI) and learning disabilities (LD). Includes questions about implementation, eligibility, parent participation, structure and components, professional roles and competencies, and needed research.

The Demise of IQ Testing for Children with Learning Disabilities. Pasternak, Robert. (2002)
In describing the “fallacies of the IQ-Achievement Discrepancy Model,” the author explains that this is not a valid way to identify individuals with LD. He reports that eliminating IQ tests may shift the emphasis away from eligibility and toward interventions that children need.

On Babies and Bathwater: Addressing the Problems of Identification of Learning Disabilities. Scruggs, Thomas E. and Margo A. Mastropieri. (2002)

This article reviews problems in identifying learning disabilities and proposed alternatives to current procedures. The authors argue that the proposed alternatives do not meet all necessary criteria for identifying LD.

Preventing Early Reading Failure -- and Its Devastating Downward Spiral. Torgesen, Joseph K. Dr. Torgesen is a professor of psychology and education at Florida State University and the director of the Florida Center for Reading Research. He is author of roughly 100 research articles and several books, including A Basic Guide to Understanding, Assessing, and Teaching phonological Awareness.

Response to Intervention. National Research Center on Learning Disabilities.
Describes core characteristics of Response to Intervention models: student-centered assessment and intervention models that identify and address student difficulties and use effective instruction, leading to improved achievement.

Specific Learning Disabilities, Discrepancy and Response to Intervention Models in IDEA 2004.
Wright, Peter W. D. & Pamela Darr Wright. (2005)

What is Responsiveness to Intervention. NRCLD developed this brief to help parents understand responsiveness to intervention, an education model that promotes early identification of students who may be at risk for learning difficulties. (2007)

Waiting Too Late to Test? Washington Post Staff Writer, Michael Alison Chandler, December 31, 2007.

Using Title 1 Funds for RTI Will Be a Challenge. Posted by Travis Hicks, January 14, 2008.

The RTI Hurdle. RTI and an educational evaluation to determine eligibility for special education run concurrently. They are two different trains running on two different tracks at the same time.

Stuck in RTI Purgatory. "The school would not do a multi-factored evaluation for my son who has dyslexia. We are trapped in RTI. Is there anything we can do?" Your assumption that there "is no legality on our side" is incorrect. The law was not intended to allow schools to avoid evaluating kids or keep kids in RTI over a long period of time.

Stuck in RTI Purgatory - Part 2. Review Steps 1, 2, and 3 - What to do when stuck in RTI purgatory.

Is RTI Equivalent to Special Education? "Would a court view RTI as equivalent to Special Education?" RTI is not special education, so it is not equivalent to nor a substitute for special education.

Recommended Websites

The National Center on Response to Intervention. The American Institutes for Research and researchers from Vanderbilt University and the University of Kansas -- through funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) -- have established the National Center on response to intervention. The Center’s mission is to provide technical assistance to states and districts and building the capacity of states to assist districts in implementing proven models for RTI/EIS.

RTI Responder - Free newsletter published monthly from the National Center for RTI Response to Intervention.

DIBELS - The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are standardized, individually administered measures of early literacy development. They are designed to be short fluency measures used to monitor the development of pre-reading and early reading skills.

National Center for Learning Disabilities - provides information to parents, professionals and individuals with learning disabilities, promotes research and programs to foster effective learning, and advocates for policies to protect and strengthen educational rights and opportunities.

Edutopia: Response to Intervention.

Findings of the National Reading Panel - The National Reading Panel published their findings on research based reading in two reports and a video, " Teaching Children to Read." They also identified effective instructional strategies for teaching students with reading difficulties.

Reading Rockets - a national multimedia project offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.

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Revised: 02/15/19
Created: 12/06/05

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