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November 03, 2008


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What I'm seeing is that we use an "RTI process" for trying to remediate students in tiers 1 and 2, but tier 3 usually means special education referral, and we still end up using the discrepancy model as a final determinant.

However, a couple of times our school psychologist has asked me for testing data to contribute to diagnosing an additional learning disability category which wasn't caught the in initial testing.

Karen, are you seeing schools trying to do both? Should the discrepancy model always be the final check on the presence of a learning disability - even after RTI is used?


I'm not part of the Student Support Team process - I only "get" a student if they're about to be made eligible and going to be on my caseload, so I would write that eligibility using all the RTI and then testing data.

So, I don't understand the "non-discrepancy" model at all. Aren't kids who would traditionally be eligible through the discrepancy model still going to be eligible? And if they are, isn't the discrepancy model still an effective way of describing their eligibility? Isn't RTI supposed to be about allowing additional ways of defining a student's LD so that kids with processing deficits but depressed IQ (probably depressed over time through lack of achievement) can still be found eligible? Is the discrepancy model EVER going to be appropriate for any student again?

Diane Notti

The discrepancy model had more stringent criteria in determining whether a child had a specific learning disability or not. A 50% discrepancy between ability and achievement was required for a student's classification of "Learning Disabled." Additionally a student of average to above average intelligence often times had to wait longer periods of time prior to meeting this criteria. This inability to identify and provide intensive interventions at an earlier age was problematic.


I see a consensus around the idea of a comprehensive evaluation for Tier 3, which includes the data from RTI as part of the process. Some schools feel the need for more objective data to support their decisions at that level for identification, but, most educators I talk with recognize the need for additional information to support planning for interventions at Tier 3. The assumption being that the child has already had appropriate instruction as well as more intense interventions, often using specialized programs, so the data needs to have more breadth and depth than typical RTI testing provides. At the 3rd tier, the comprehensive assessment must provide additional information to guide intervention planning in the last tier of the RTI model in place.

Much of the confusion and controversy, in my opinion, is related to the field’s difficulty in moving from the construct of discrepancy as being distinct from the use of a discrepancy formula, which research has not supported. The idea of discrepancy is core to the construct of learning disability, but, a comprehensive assessment may not look like the traditional psycho-educational battery that has been used in the past. If we redefine a comprehensive assessment to mean gathering the data we need to make an informed decision about reasons for the child’s lack of progress, we may move forward more easily. The use of a fairly rigid, discrepancy-formula based assessment to determine eligibility has been problematic, so RTI can help provide the data to monitor progress, but, also plan the comprehensive assessment to obtain the data needed to identify or rule out the presence of a learning disability and plan individualized interventions.

What do you think?



I agree with your comment. I would like to see a comprehensive standardized assessment that can be a tool to support what the next step should be to help that student when developing an IEP for that student at the Tier 3 level.


This is changing the direction a little bit, but I am dealing with identifying students with math disabilities. What are some of you using for "researched" interventions for math? Some of the resources we use at our school are: Math Flash, Accelerated math, Apangea, Saxon Math program, Rocket Math (math facts) Star math (testing), AIMSweb math probes (testing).



Math is not my expertise, but, I will respond, and then ask others to respond to your question as well.

I think the Resources you have are quite good, and should be used to provide data about math performance.

For identification of a math disability, I also think that some more standardized assessment of math skills using norm samples would be helpful. In addition, it would seem to me that you would need to do some cognitive testing to identify patterns that would be associated with math disability and scores assessing language processing to see if the achievement scores are stronger than the math scores.

You would then have cognitive predictors, math achievement scores and non-math achievement scores that would be used for identification and intervention planning.

Any other comments/suggestions?


Sarah Thiemann

I use Touch Math


We are only beginning the RTI process so comprehensive evaluations are still very much a part of the identification and referral process. I think we need to evaluate in the areas in which we need information. Some objective testing, particularly psychological gives us additional information about how a child learns and that can help us to better design instruction. As for the math, check the research done by Lynn and Doug Fuchs at Vanderbilt. They are trying to research how to apply RTI to math. You have mentioned good materials. On Cloud Nine, by Lindamood-Bell is also research-based and a good resource.


I agree with you in that it is the field's issue with removal of the IQ/Ach model. In our RTI we do use the four tier. In the 3T we are having "diagnostic assessments" which look into the processes and deeper understanding of the issue. I do not use an IQ test here because I believe that does not give me the information the team needs. My team also agrees. From the diagnostic testing we then plan 3T interventions with progress monitoring.

The inherent problems with the IQ test and young children go beyond this discussion. I believe that the diagnostic testing in the 3T is very important to interventions. The amount of children receiving this diagnostic testing is very limit so the time spent is spent well.

We have not moved to the math component yet so I am excited to read your info in that area. Much of our time as been spent with reading issues. To me, as a school psych, it has taken much much time to educate people what the IQ/Acv model really was and what harm it was doing to our kids. Once they understood the old model it was much easier for them to see and understand the great benefit of RTI for children.


Tim R.

I'll add ALEKS to the T1 & T2 math interventions. How about reading? What are you using for the gen. ed teachers in their classrooms?

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