Interventions without Labels?

The 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

Providing 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                                                   

Converging 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.

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