interventions provided under RtI are based directly on students'
learning needs, not on categories and labels. In fact, to begin
receiving interventions under RtI, students do not even have to be
'labeled' at all. For this reason, RtI is generally conceptualized as a
model of prevention & intervention, and not just a model of
remediation for identified students.
Although not rendering labels wholly irrelevant, the labeling of students with
mild learning challenges becomes secondary to providing them with
instruction that is well matched to their learning needs. RtI
eliminates the 'wait to fail' approach characterized by the traditional
model of LD identification, and it permits students to begin
receiving immediate interventions that are directly linked to their
specific, demonstrated needs.
A Shift in Mindset
services without prerequisite labels requires a shift in mindset, considering that for decades, many general ed teachers believed that
referring a student for a special ed evaluation was perhaps the
student's only help for getting the extra help he needed.
For a student suspected of having a learning disability, the RtI framework guides the school team towards answering an important question, before making a referral: "Have we done
everything we can to help this student succeed within general ed?" While the team gathers the data needed to answer this question, the
student doesn't have to 'wait around' to be labeled. Instead, he'll begin receiving
validated interventions from the very first indication that he's having difficulty.
Dr. Thomas Neuville Associate Professor, Millersville University
Prioritizing Instruction over Labeling Using
RtI practices, the school team will document every opportunity they provide for
the student to 'close the gap' before moving to an evaluation for
special education. And the team members' participation in this process
will give them a thorough understanding of which strategies have helped the student
and which haven't. The Challenge that RtI Presents
research supports the benefits of using RtI as a means to increasing
students' learning opportunities and to providing accurate and
appropriate identifications of students with LD. However, despite RtI's potential, learning about RtI often seems to raise more questions than answers.
The real challenge for
school teams is not so much how to 'fit' RtI into a school's
traditional framework, but to revamp existing services to incorporate
RtI's essential features. Meeting this challenge often requires a real shift, not only in a school system's structure, but also in the way the school teams think about meeting students' needs.