If RtI Isn’t Working for Your Child: Knowing Your Legal Rights

Response to Intervention (RtI) is a 3-tiered process of research-based instruction, which is part of federal law (IDEA 2004). Before RtI, in order to get considered for special education services (an “IEP”) the main thing your struggling learner needed was a psycho-educational evaluation (conducted by a private or public school psychologist). The evaluation needed to show that he or she had unexpectedly low achievement in reading or math (known as the “discrepancy formula“). RtI is a multi-step process of increasingly intensive and individualized instruction above and beyond what usually happens in the classroom. It will hopefully be more effective for struggling learners than special ed instruction, but the fear is that RtI (which is very complicated and labor-intensive) will be nothing more than an ineffective roadblock to an IEP.  Now that RtI will be growing exponentially (due to support from economic stimulus money), there are a new series of steps between your 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 specific learning disability (SLD), he/she will probably be starting RtI (like all students) before obtaining a psycho-educational evaluation. 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 an 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 he or she may have a learning 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. Note: If the RtI process were allowed to extend the time frame for determining eligibility for an IEP past 60 days, but the 60 day time frame applied to everyone else, the school district would be discriminating against children with learning disabilities.

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.

© Copyright 2009 Florida School Partners, P.L.

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3 Replies to “If RtI Isn’t Working for Your Child: Knowing Your Legal Rights”

  1. California Father

    Thank you for this sound advice. As an RSP teacher and father of an autistic child I am concerned that RTI will be used as a roadblock to more appropriate services. As a reader of one of my posts on the subject also noted, many RTI programs do not have high fidelity (i.e.,will not hold up in due process.) Parents should be very wary as they wade into the murky waters of RTI.

  2. Michele Williams, M.S.

    Just read this post. My children had finished with school just before this nonsense with RtI began. I do less advocacy now than then, but as I suspected, virtually every entry into special education is now 6 months or longer simply because schools are apparently trying to place students who need help into any program that’s free as long as parents don’t complain or don’t know better.
    I had one client recently who’d had her child in the RtI process because the principal said, “She’s doing better. Why rock the boat?” With Gift Grades to make it look like she’s doing better, Mom had been mollifed. Then the FCAT scores showed REGRESSION!

    Sigh. First they took away a reasonable way to handle discipline, then they threw RtI at us…what’s next?

  3. FramingJune

    It’s been 63 days my child was in school since I requested in writing an ESE evaluation for my child. I emailed our contact at the county who told me today that “It’s part of the RTI process now!”.

    They seem to think that they can just use the RTI to delay the evaluation, and it’s worked for them so far. I guess we’re going to have to go to the next level and request due process.

    This is so frustrating!


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