RtI is a 3-tiered process of increasingly intensive research- based instruction which is part of federal law (IDEA 2004). At the end of the process (Tier 3), students who are still struggling in reading, math and/or behavior will be eligible for special education services (an “IEP”). The theory of RtI, which is to catch struggling students early and provide high quality research-based instruction, is great. Students will undergo periodic assessments or short tests to determine who is not progressing well and needs to move to the next more intensive Tier of intervention.

The motivation behind this truly revolutionary change (which will impact general education students almost as much as special ed. students)is that too many struggling students are labeled “disabled” when actually they are just not getting the proper intervention. There’s definitely lots of truth to that theory – I’m sure there are many kids who are not learning to read well, for instance, because the curriculum is just not good enough, intense enough or delivered well enough for kids who need that extra push of help. The first Tier offers instruction to all students in the general education classroom – I predict that this instruction won’t differ much from the norm.

In Tier 2 students who have not progressed well in Tier 1 are supposed to receive small group intervention in addition to their regular curriculum. Tier 3 is designed to give even more intensive one-to-one intervention to students who fail to progress well in Tier 2. Throughout RtI, school personnel must assess your child’s progress regularly document on graphs whether the intensive instruction is working (this is called progress monitoring or Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM)). (Tip: Ask who is providing RtI instruction to your child in Tiers 2 and 3 – under the law the person must be “qualified” but may not be someone with a credential in education.) If a student receives extra assistance in reading under Tier 2, for example, it is crucial that the teacher or school psychologist collects information about the child’s reading levels and continuously (if not weekly) charts his/her progress. This data-based documentation will be necessary to help you obtain special education services if and when the time comes. (Tip: Ask for a copy of the progress monitoring data on a regular basis so that you can follow your child’s progress).

Visit The Florida Response to Intervention site or the National RtI Center for lots of good information.