Monday, March 23, 2009 | 3:37 p.m.
A new practice is being implemented in schools throughout the county that is intended to help teachers identify students who have specific learning disabilities. This practice is called Response to Intervention or RTI.
To parents and teachers who are concerned about a student's academic progress, going through RTI can seem like a long and often frustrating task. However, many school psychologists make a compelling argument for the need to take a closer look at our students before labeling them with a learning disability.
In the past, students with normal intelligence who were not progressing in the regular education classroom were tested by school district psychologists to determine if there was a discrepancy between their ability level and their achievement level. If a discrepancy was identified, the child was labeled with a "learning disability," and an individual education plan was written for the student that usually included placement in a special education classroom for part or most of the school day.
The RTI process focuses on addressing problems earlier in children's education before they are so far behind their peers that a referral to special education is warranted.
Response to Intervention is a process that measures how well students respond to changes in instruction over time. When a teacher or parent suspects that a student is not making adequate academic progress, the student can be referred to an intervention team that consists of teachers, an administrator, a school counselor and a school nurse.
This team will help provide the teacher with an intensive intervention plan that must be implemented for a minimum of eight weeks to determine if the student can make progress with those interventions in place.
If it is determined that the student is making progress, the interventions will continue as long as they are warranted. Students who are still not making progress after the interventions have been put into place are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The intervention may be changed or the case may be brought to a school psychologist, along with all the data and work samples, to determine if further testing is warranted.
The goal of RTI is to better identify students who have true learning disabilities and are in need of special education services. There are so many factors as to why students are not progressing adequately in the regular education classroom. Students could be going through social or emotional problems. They could have attention issues or a motivation problem. This new practice is designed to isolate those other factors rather than jump to the conclusion that a student is learning disabled.
I can understand why a parent who has a child going through this process may feel frustrated at the pace of the student intervention team. But we need to keep in mind that RTI offers a new way to look at a student. Instead of looking for disabilities, it seeks ways to get the student to achieve and be as successful as possible in school.
Cathy Estes is a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Vanderburg Elementary School. She can be reached c/o the Home News, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074 or [email protected].