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August 10, 2009

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Allison Hertog, Esq., M.A.

Absolutely, I believe RtI is a revolutionary change for all students. It will hopefully be more effective for struggling learners than special ed instruction historically has been, but my fear is that RtI (which is very complicated and labor-intensive) will be nothing more than an ineffective roadblock to special education for truly disabled kids.

Now that RtI's influence will be growing (given the economic stimulus money to support it), there are a new series of steps between a child and special ed services, and those steps make up the RtI process.

A New Course of Action:

If you believe your child may have a disability, he/she will probably be starting RtI (like all students). Implementing an RtI system does not change a school district’s legal obligation to identify students with disabilities. By law, you have the right to request a psycho-educational evaluation at any time in the process, whether or not your child has demonstrated a lack of responsiveness to RtI instruction. Your written consent to an evaluation automatically starts the special education process and puts a time frame on the RtI process so that it can’t go on for months or even years.

Bottom Line: If Your Child is Not Progressing Well in School and you think (or you know) he or she may have a disability:

1. Immediately Request and Sign Your Written Consent to a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation performed by a school psychologist. Note: If the school does not allow you to sign your consent, you have the right to file a due process complaint to an administrative law judge.

2. Your Written Consent will trigger the special education (”IEP”) process. The school district will have 60 days to complete the evaluation and complete the RtI process.

3. At the end of the 60 day period, the school must invite you to a meeting when the team will review both the RtI progress monitoring data and the psycho-ed. evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for special education services. If you believe your child has been unfairly denied an IEP, you have the right to file a due process complaint to an administrative law judge.

Patti Ralabate

Even though your comments were not directly related to mine, I think it's important to underscore a couple of your points. Parents and educators should be mindful that the primary purpose of RTI is to provide immediate supports for students who are having difficulty. It's not and should never be used as a roadblock to services that students with disabilities need. When RTI is implemented for the sole purpose of delaying referrals for special education evaluations, it is doomed to fail. It becomes just one more thing to do instead of the transformational initiative it has the potential to be.

christy

Although I do not believe that my district uses RTI solely to delay referrals, I do believe it has become the main focus. Often the interventions are not implemented quickly, and therefore not always successful; as the students who are recommended for RTI have struggled for many years and somehow fall through the cracks. In addition, RTI appears to be used as a means to provide documentation of the districts attempts at remediation, rather than for the sole purpose of providing appropriate supports to struggling students. RTI, if implemented correctly, is time consuming and data intensive which often leads to short cuts. It is unfortunate that we do not have enough time, staff or resources to effectively implement a valuable program for struggling students.

Kasey

My district does use the RTI method across all of the buildings as a means of supporting struggling students. In each building, a team called the Student Success Team (SST) meets once a week to discuss students who are experiencing difficulty. The team is led by the school psychologist and also includes at least one reading teacher, at least one special education teacher, the social worker, assistant principal, guidence councelor, speech pathologist, and at least one general education teacher from the grade level of the student being presented. Before a student can be considered for special education services, the student must first be brought to the SST. The student's teacher speaks for 5 mintues at the beginning of the meeting to specifically explain the difficulties the student is experiencing. The team is then provided 5 minutes to ask questions in order to clarify and pinpoint the difficulties. The team then takes turns, going around the table, providing suggestions for supporting the student. The suggestions are recorded and the teacher then selects 3 interventions that he/she would like to try with the student. The teacher is then responsible for collecting data regarding the progress of the student for the next 6 weeks, with the interventions in place. At the end of the 6 weeks, the team meets again to discuss the student and determine if progress if being made or if the student requires a higher level of support. So far, this approach has proven to be very successful for the majority of students brought before the SST. In most cases, at the end of the 6 weeks teachers report that the student has made significant gains in their areas of difficulty.

After reflecting upon the information provided regarding analyzing and making changes to the general education curriculum to ensure that all students have access to an engaging learning environment, I realized that I was unsure of whether or not this aspect of the RTI approach was taking place in my district. I am a special education teacher and work primarily with students with behavioral needs, so I do not often have the opportunity to participate in discussions concerning the development or implementation of general education curriculum. I can, however, understand how ensuring that curriculum is effectively presented plays a huge role in the success of students. I plan to speak with my general education coworkers to determine if this aspect of the RTI model is taking place within my district and to advoacte for it's implementation during our next SST meeting if it is not.

Katie

My district works similar to Kasey's and the RTI approach has been taking place for years but has just now been called RTI in our district. We are getting formal training to make sure everyone is aware of the goals of RTI this year at our monthly inservices. I believe RTI is used to not only delay the referrals but to make the regular education teacher realize that every modification needs to be used before testing can begin. We have had an influx of testing since Oprah suggested a few years ago that everyone should have an IEP. We are swamped and truly about 1/2 of those tested did not need to be. Our regular education teachers need to realize that they are to teach everyone regardless of a disability. They are so panic stricken now b/c there name is beside those students on the Achievement test that they want them all identified to clear their concious. I really like RTI and am thankful it will be re-explained in detail by an expert so all will have a better understanding in our district.

David

I agree with what Christy has written. I am seeing schools misuse RTI to where is does delay referrals to special education. I also see it as a way of documentation of remediation and one more thing to do in the process. It's frustrating becasue RTI can be an effective process when done right. But the schools I work in just don't seem prepared to implement such a process. The support and time just isn't there. I also see that teachers are too quick to blame the student and to not look at themselves as a factor in that students success.

Patti Ralabate

Thank you for your reflections. Unfortunately, the comments from Christy, Katie and David are common in districts that have shortchanged the transformational opportunities presented by RTI by implementing it poorly without appropriate leadership, support and resources. This happens when districts or schools just re-name their pre-referral process calling it "RTI." Their overall perspective and purpose does not change. This is not just a missed opportunity - it is a detour that heads in the wrong direction. Parents and educators can easily become frustrated because they still don't see the system effectively meeting the needs of many children.
There is hope, though. Some educators, like Kasey, are willing to take on the role of transformational catalyst - advocates who work within the system to change the system - they are the true heroes of today's school redesign efforts!

Katharine

I believe that RTI can be a positive transformation of services for many students if implemented correctly.

I fear, however, that for some administrators it is viewed as a means to save money by reducing the number of special education referrals and decreasing special education staff.

My district has not officially begun the implementation of RTI, but my principal just told me two days ago that the district is committed to eliminating all pull-out special education classes in favor of providing services to exceptional students in the general education setting. I do not know how they can legally do that since, according to special education laws, a student's placement is to be based on individual needs not on what is available.

Lauren

I think RTI has the potential to change a school. As I have read information of RTI, if it used in the manner is is designed it can be beneficial to a school.If one designs RTI based on the three tier model those who need the most interventions will receive it.
I work as a intervention specialist and I see the roles of the general education teacher and special educator as changing. If a school is using the three tier, then the special educator should be working with the students in tier three. My school is beginning to use the RTI and I can see that in the future I will be working with students not only those who are on IEPs but with students in tier three. I think gen ed teachers will be working more with the IEP students.

Michelle

We are still new in the RTI process and have not worked out all the kinks. I don;t think we have a good unified system yet. I do think that we use to help the struggling students and not to prolong it. I both agree and disagree with one of the first comments about asking for a psychoedcational evaluation from the beginning. I guess it depends on how the school runs and how behind your child is. I think that if you can work in small groups and do some intensive interventions to help a student succeed without being diagnosed that is a great success story for RTI. This is what should be happening more.

William A.

In a multiered model, the core curriculum is supposed to be research-based and include differentiated instruction. It should also reach approximately 80-90% of all learners (Hoover & Patton, 2008). For RtI, the core curriculum is the first line of defense and should be designed to reach the percentage just mentioned. Without a strong academic and behavioral core, a school is going to have a large percentage of students referred for interventions overloading the system and the teachers to provide interventions for far too many students. The overload of interventions is going to also overload the special education department with referrals for evaluations. This will lead to a large special education population, with a large percentage of students, who have not had access to an appropriate core program and interventions, qualifying under the label of specific learning disability.

My school district is currently in this situation. We have a very high specific learning disability population and thus a very high special education population. We have a large number of students referred for special education evaluations and prior to that, interventions. Our core curriculum is weak and not research based. Differentiated instruction is rare within classrooms because the core does not provide resources and opportunities for differentiation.

Response to intervention can be an effective method to find solutions for struggling students and keeping the number of special education referrals down. However, without a strong core curriculum and behavior system, response to intervention is too little, too late. It will not be able to work properly when overloaded with so many students that it cannot give the proper attention to any of them. The core is the only way to prevent overload to the intervention team. As Dr. Ralabate explains above, educators need to evaluate school curriculum at all levels and modify when necessary. I know my district needs a major overhaul in order to combat over identification.

References

Hoover, J. J., & Patton, J. R. (2008). The role of special educators in a multitiered instructional system. Intervention in School and Clinic, 43(4), 195–202.

Leila Rodulfa

I agree with you William that in implementing RTI it will only be effective if there are less number of students with disabilities be present in the resource room. It will be more effective especially when the approach is one one basis to provide full attention and with modification of curriculum, behavior system so we can give full attention and will result to successful attainment on the studnet's learning.

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