In this budgetary climate your school district has probably been very busy implementing some big changes – and one of the biggest directly affects how all students will be taught reading and math, but particularly impacts if and when the learning disabled get special education services. That change is known as “RtI” (Response to Intervention) and many school districts, including Miami-Dade, are using part of their economic Stimulus money to fund it.

Starting now it will be much harder (in fact, I think nearly impossible in Florida)to get your learning disabled (“LD”) child special education services. That said, special ed services historically haven’t helped LD kids very much. So, let’s hope these changes are all for the good. Children with behavior problems may not receive special ed services as easily as before either.

Basically, 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.” Now that RtI is in effect, there are a new series of steps between your child and special ed services, and those steps make up the RtI process. RtI is a multi-step process of increasingly intensive and individualized instruction above and beyond what usually happens in the classroom. For more about the RtI process read some of my other posts in this blog.

RtI will hopefully be more effective for struggling learners and students with behavior problems than special ed services have been, but the fear is that RtI (which is very complicated and labor-intensive) will be nothing more than an ineffective roadblock to an IEP. The BOTTOM LINE is this: If your child is not progressing well (academically or behaviorally), sign your written consent to a psycho-educational evaluation immediately. That will start the special education ball rolling and put a legal time frame on the RtI process, which could take as much as a year or more if left to it’s own devices.