RTI: What it is, What it Isn't
You may have heard of a new term at your son or daughter's school this year. Yes, yet another set of letters to add to your alphabet soup maze! RtI, or Response to Intervention, refers to a model designed to assure that all students have access to scientifically-based instruction and a system of positive behavior supports within general education.
What RtI Is
According to the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Council of Administrators of Special Education, RtI is the practice of (1) providing high-quality instruction/intervention matched to student needs and (2) using learning rates over time and level of performance to (3) make important educational decisions (NASDSE, 2006). This model is a general education problem-solving practice designed to assess and support students who are having difficulty learning. RtI stems from language found in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and from the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA that focuses on improving academic achievement by using scientifically-based instructional practices.
Unofficially, the theory is that most children are in special education because they have reading problems. Over the years, education and government officials have questioned whether those children have true learning disabilities or have suffered from lack of good instruction in reading. In theory, if reading instruction within general education could be improved, then the number of students identified as needing special education services might be reduced and the available funding might cover a greater degree of the costs for those remaining children who have true disabilities (current federal government funding only covers about 10% of special education costs). Regardless of the unofficial or official rationale for RtI, education and government entities have embraced this concept and hope that when implemented correctly, achievement for all students will be raised.
In order to clarify appropriate implementation, NASDSE identified the following core principles of RtI:
Again, these are principles that are applied PRIOR to referral to special education and to assure that the need for special education services is not a result of inadequate instruction. The figure below shows the three-tiered model that illustrates the multiple levels of support that are provided to all students with increasing intensity: at Tier 1, 80% of students benefit from interventions that are preventative and proactive; at Tier 2, we find another 15% of students who need more intensive supports that consist of targeted group interventions; and Tier 3 is reserved for the approximately 5% of students who need intensive, individualized interventions (NASDSE, 2006).
What RtI Is Not
First, this is a model originally designed for students with learning or behavior problems. It is not a model to prevent students with hearing loss or other sensory impairments or significant disabilities from receiving special education and related services. Response to Intervention is a general education problem solving process to assist students to learn by improving and adjusting the instruction provided. It should not be considered a pre-referral step for special education. However, once all of the core elements of RtI are implemented, any child who is not making adequate progress within the model should be referred to determine whether they are eligible for special education and related services.
What does all of this mean for students who are deaf and hard of hearing? What can you do?
Tier 1: Core Intervention- all students, preventive, pro-active
Tier 2: Targeted Group Interventions
Tier 1 Interventions plus:
Tier 3: Intensive, Individualized Interventions
Tier 1 & 2 Interventions plus:
RtI has many benefits for children with hearing loss. Expectations that all children can learn, the use of high-quality instruction and intervention, close monitoring of your child's learning rate, and use of problem-solving techniques to guide instruction and interventions are important components that must be part of every child's educational program whether receiving special education services or not. For more information on RtI, the NASDSE publication, Response to Intervention: Policy Considerations and Implementation (2005) is recommended.
Easterbrooks, S. and Stephenson, B. (2006). Examination of Twenty Literacy, Reading , and mathematics Practicies Used in Deaf Education. American Annals of the Deaf 151(4),
Luckner, J., Sebald, A., & Young, J., Cooney, Muir, S. (2005). An Examination of Evidence-Based Literacy Research in Deaf Education. American Annals of the Deaf, 150(5), 443-456.
NASDSE (2006). Response to Intervention, A Joint Paper by the National Association of state Directors of Special Education and the Council of Administrators of Special Education.