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May 26, 2009


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We are certainly not there yet. I think that the way a school/group of teachers and administrators use the system has a major impact on all of the factors mentioned.


You asked, "What is more difficult to determine through research is whether RTI procedures identify students who are truly learning disabled." The premise of your question falsely suggests that, in part, RTI is or should be a diagnostic process. I would argue that for the practicing school psychologist it is an eligibility process. This means you should ask, "Can RTI procedures appropriately help determine whether students are eligible for special education as LD according to state and federal criteria."

School psychologists don’t diagnose LD. Let’s stop suggesting that they do. School psychologists, as part of a multidisciplinary team, determine eligibility for special education according to criteria only remotely associated with the diagnosis of LD. After 25 years of practice, I can’t tell you whether a student is “truly learning disabled,” but I can tell with a reasonable degree of confidence whether a student is eligible for special education as LD. And, I can also tell you that I am more confident about my eligibility decisions using an RTI approach than I ever was using the Severe Discrepancy approach.

Joe Kovaleski


Excellent points. I agree and regret if I suggested that school psychologists diagnose SLD. You're correct that that it is a team decision regarding eligibility, and not diagnosis per se. I am very comfortable with your clarification. Thanks.

Joe Kovaleski

Joe Kovaleski

Mike, You're right. How RTI is interpreted has everything to do with treatment fidelity, which is why so many of us emphasize the need for building a school-based system that is capable of delivering that level of integrity.

Joe Kovaleski

sheryl nagel

I think that as we look at RTI and this three tier model, it is another assessment tool and help that we can give to our strugglers. I feel that any additional help that we could give to these children is beneficial if the right teachers and personnel are giving it their all.

Sandra Brown

I am encouraged by the RTI model use as a tool to help determine eligibilty for learning disability. Unfortunately I have witness occssions where the evaluation process has been misused to ensure that students are eligible for special services. The RTI model may provide more accurate data that can be used to assess students performance, so that interventions are put into place before a referral for special education evaluations.


We actually started discussing and implementing an RTI model for our school and district 3 years ago. However, last year we go a new administrator, and we are not as informed of these processes or as involved. We are using this model to some extent, but it is unclear as to exactly how we have implemented.

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