What Is Response to Intervention?

How RTI Can Help Your Struggling Child

Schoolboy struggling in educational exam
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Response to Intervention is the practice of identifying the needs of struggling students and providing the focused instruction they need. It's the most up-to-date early intervention program used in the United States. RTI provides for various levels of assistance, ranging from classroom supports to enrollment in a special education program. Introduced in the reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Act in 2004, Response to Intervention is a three-tiered process that provides academic support to needy students before referring for special education evaluation.

How Is RTI Implemented?

Students are first informally evaluated or referred by teachers or parents for the need for additional, small group, scientifically-based instruction. After a few weeks of careful data-keeping, needs are reevaluated and more intensive instruction provided. Year after year, thousands of children with learning problems are referred for assessment in schools across the country to diagnose learning disabilities and determine special education eligibility. A large number of those students tested will not meet their state's criteria for eligibility for special education. Response to Intervention benefits children who have undiagnosed learning disabilities but have not met special education eligibility in previous testing.

The Three Tiers of RTI

The Response to Intervention is comprised of three tiers, or steps. The first step is the regular classroom setting. Most students in this group will need additional help from time to time, and the teacher provides that guidance.

Tier Two of RTI targets students who do not show progress with regular instructional intervention. In tier two, students receive more individualized instruction and intervention. They may work in smaller groups to allow one-on-one and small group instruction. During this process, teachers carefully evaluate the students' response to these interventions.

Tier Three is commonly known as special education. Students receive individualized instruction for as long as is necessary for them to acquire the skills they need to succeed in school.

Benefits of RTI

Response to Intervention is an alternative method, other than IQ tests, for identifying learning disabilities. For children who are struggling, RTI provides for a plan of calibrated interventions, rather than simply an assessment. The period of progress monitoring that follows the RTI model allows for help for struggling students that puts them on a trajectory to getting the services that they need. Ultimately, if students do not respond to the intervention, then they may have a learning disability. RTI was designed in part because too many students were being diagnosed with a learning disability without being given an opportunity to correct the issue through individualized instruction. By following the RTI steps, we ensure that all steps have been taken to correct the problem before identifying any student as having a learning disability.

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