RTI: A Process, Not a Program

RTI: A Process, Not a Program

Question: Is there any level of concern regarding the use of RTI in school districts for identifying students with Dyslexia? Some school districts are moving away from using any kind of standardized psycho-educational assessment.

There are many significant issues that are implicit in this question. Good questions often require complex answers.

1. RTI is not a process intended to diagnose children as having or not having dyslexia.

2. RTI is a process with the potential of providing timely intervention to children at risk for reading failure. [Psycho-educational assessments can be very helpful in disclosing patterns of strengths and weakness that can guide a targeted and prescriptive educational response. However, the traditional use of IQ testing, in particular, has been merely to establish a baseline from which to measure failure. A gap between IQ and achievement (failure) is neither necessary nor sufficient to diagnose a learning disability or even to identify a child as eligible for special education and related services. “More times than not, it reflects poor teaching.” (Douglas Fuchs) In fact, the continued use of the Aptitude/Achievement formula has been criticized by scientists, educators, psychologists, NICHD, USDOE, and virtually every entity interested in improving outcomes for children. “Consensus in the filed is that it must go.” (Douglas Carnine) Even the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) recognizes the need for a “shift from traditional psychometric (norm referenced) approaches to a more pragmatic, ‘edumetric’ problem solving model (focused on measuring changes in individual performance over time).” (NASP position paper, June 2006, Problem Solving and RTI: New Roles for School Psychologists)]

3. Children who do not respond to the early stages of this process will be subject to further evaluation to determine if they are eligible for special education and related services. [Identification as being eligible for services should be distinguished from being diagnosed as a child with dyslexia.]

4. RTI is a process not a program. It is like a rocket without a payload. The payload is to be identified and developed by SEAs and LEAs. In order for the process of RTI to work it must transport informed research-based intervention to the child. “Teaching reading is rocket science.” (Louisa C. Moats) A payload with potential can be provided by highly qualified instructors with a depth of knowledge in the structure of the English language and the skill to teach. In the absence of such highly qualified, knowledgeable, experienced, and trained personnel, it is necessary that interventions rely on standard treatment protocols (programs that are research-based and have a clinical track record of success). The structured, sequential, and variably scripted standard treatment protocols are a temporary fix for the temporarylack of highly qualified personnel.

5. “Is there any level of concern regarding the use of RTI. . .? RTI is a promise not a product. For RTI to be successful school districts have to invest resources in intensive and comprehensive staff development and become discerning consumers of what works. The current band wagon, aided by sophisticated internet web sites, is overloaded with charismatic purveyors of snake oil. One way for a LEA to avoid falling victim to the promise of easy answers to hard issues, e.g., “We can train all of your staff in 4 days or your money back.”, is to insist on reviewing the credentials of the individuals involved and assessing the track record of the program being promoted. IDA and its local branches are a good place to look for direction on how to gather and evaluate such information.

6. The attached RTI in a Nutshell is intended to be a plain language and parent friendly first introduction to a concept (RTI) that is currently neither well defined nor clearly understood. The only thing that most stakeholders can agree on at this time is that the RTI process has tremendous potential in the hands of a school district interested in delivering a research-based payload.