National Center on Response to Intervention


Response to Intervention (RTI): A Primer for Parents

By Mary Beth Klotz, PhD, NCSP, and Andrea Canter, PhD, NCSP
National Association of School Psychologists

A major concern for parents as well as teachers is how to help children who experience difficulty learning in school. Everyone wants to see their child excel, and it can be very frustrating when a child falls behind in learning to read, do math, or achieve in other subjects. Children who have the most difficulty are often referred for an evaluation to determine if they need and qualify for special education services. The term “learning disability” has been used for many years to explain why some children of normal intelligence nevertheless have much difficulty learning basic skills such as reading.

Some new federal laws have directed schools to focus more on helping all children learn by addressing problems earlier, before the child is so far behind that a referral to special education services is warranted. These laws include the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004. Both laws underscore the importance of providing high quality, scientifically-based instruction and interventions, and hold schools accountable for the progress of all students in terms of meeting grade level standards.

What Are the Essential Components of RTI?

Simply, “Response to Intervention” refers to a process that emphasizes how well students respond to changes in instruction. The essential elements of an RTI approach are: the provision of scientific, research-based instruction and interventions in general education; monitoring and measurement of student progress in response to the instruction and interventions; and use of these measures of student progress to shape instruction and make educational decisions. A number of leading national organizations and coalition groups, including the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities and the 14 organizations forming the 2004 Learning Disabilities (LD) Roundtable coalition, have outlined the core features of an RTI process as follows:

What Are the Key Terms?

Response to Intervention (RTI) is an array of procedures that can be used to determine if and how students respond to specific changes in instruction. RTI provides an improved process and structure for school teams in designing, implementing, and evaluating educational interventions.

Universal Screening is a step taken by school personnel early in the school year to determine which students are “at risk” for not meeting grade level standards. Universal screening can be accomplished by reviewing recent results of state tests, or by administering an academic screening test to all children in a given grade level. Those students whose test scores fall below a certain cut-off are identified as needing more specialized academic interventions.

Student Progress Monitoring is a scientifically based practice that is used to frequently assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring procedures can be used with individual students or an entire class.

Scientific, Research-Based Instruction refers to specific curriculum and educational interventions that have been proven to be effective –that is, the research has been reported in scientific, peer-reviewed journals.

What Role Does RTI Play in Special Education Eligibility?

IDEA 2004 offers greater flexibility to school teams by eliminating the requirement that students must exhibit a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement in order to be found eligible for special education and related services as a student with a learning disability. This increased flexibility has led to a growing interest in using RTI as part of an alternative method to traditional ability/achievement discrepancy comparisons. IDEA 2004 addresses RTI procedures within several contexts.

Effective instruction and progress monitoring. For students to be considered for special education services based on a learning disability they first must have been provided with effective instruction and their progress measured through “data-based documentation of repeated assessments of achievement.” Furthermore, results of the student progress monitoring must be provided to the child’s parents.

Evaluation procedures. The law gives districts the option of using RTI procedures as part of the evaluation procedures for special education eligibility. Comprehensive assessment is still required under the reauthorized law, however. That means that schools still need to carefully examine all relevant aspects of a student’s performance and history before concluding that a disability does or does not exist. As before, schools must rule out learning problems that are primarily the result of factors such as poor vision, hearing, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, lack of appropriate instruction, or limited English proficiency.

Early Intervening Services. IDEA 2004 addresses the use of RTI procedures is by creating the option of using up to 15% of federal special education funds for “early intervening services” for students who have not been identified as needing special education, but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in the general education setting. The types of services that can be included are central to the RTI process, and  include professional development for teachers and school staff to enable them to deliver scientifically based academic and behavioral interventions, as well as educational evaluations, services, supports, and scientifically based literacy instruction.

How Can Parents Be Involved in the RTI Process?

The hallmarks of effective home-school collaboration include open communication and involvement of parents in all stages of the learning process. Being informed about your school’s RTI process is the first step to becoming an active partner. Both the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities advise parents to ask the following questions:

What Are the Potential Benefits of RTI?

Perhaps the most commonly cited benefit of an RTI approach is that it eliminates a “wait to fail” situation because students get help promptly within the general education setting. Secondly, an RTI approach has the potential to reduce the number of students referred for special education services. Since an RTI approach helps distinguish between those students whose achievement problems are due to a learning disability versus those students whose achievement problems are due to other issues such as lack of prior instruction, referrals for special education evaluations are often reduced. Finally, parents and school teams alike find that the student progress monitoring techniques utilized in an RTI approach provide more instructionally relevant information than traditional assessments.

What Are Next Steps in Implementing RTI Approaches?

There are many specific issues that must be addressed in order to effectively implement RTI approaches. Schools must be prepared to offer a variety of proven instructional strategies; staff must be trained to measure student performance using methods that are sensitive to small increments of growth; parents must be kept informed of these new procedures and made partners in the process. Teams must also determine how they will define an “adequate” response to an intervention—how much progress over what period of time will be the benchmark to determine if an intervention is successful? While forthcoming federal regulations will offer guidance, each school district will need to develop its own procedures based on their state regulations, resources and the needs of its student population.



Wrightslaw  : What You Need to Know about IDEA 2004 Response to Intervention (RTI):
                                             New Ways to Identify Specific Learning Disabilities



Implementing RTI

Assessment Practices and Response to Intervention

By John L. Hosp, NCSP

One of the primary job functions of school psychologists, of course, is assessment. As pointed out by Allison and Upah (February 2006 Communiqué), when implementing RTI, many school psychologists may worry about potential changes to their job role and a devaluing of their skills. In practice, most school psychologists have found that RTI actually makes greater use of their skill sets than whatever their role before. Because of its reliance on data to make decisions, RTI can enhance the need for a school psychologist and her/his skills in a school. However, some changes in practice may be necessary and it is important for the school psychologist to be aware of these in order to help others navigate them.

Assessment Versus Evaluation

Often these terms are used interchangeably, but it can be helpful in navigating the implementation of RTI to think of how these terms are differentiated. If you think of assessment as the process of collecting information, it becomes easier to convey to teachers the need for standardization, reliability, validity, and using different assessments for different purposes. This leads to thinking about evaluation as the process of using information to make decisions (i.e., information collected through assessment). We often get caught up in the process of conducting an assessment because we had to or someone told us to do so. If we think about evaluation, it starts a dialogue about why we are conducting assessments. Teachers have a lot of different things to do every day. Having a reason to do something (or to not do it) can be very reinforcing as their time is valuable and at a premium. This can just be the starting point—other team members might begin to consider the purpose of their activities and find time for new by eliminating some of the old.

Making Decisions

Because making decisions is a key part of evaluation, a school psychologist can guide others to look ahead to outcomes (what would you like to see happen?) and to what needs to happen in order to get there. Thus, in addition to the assessment/evaluation skill sets, a school psychologist’s consultation training is also critical. Working with others to develop observable, measurable outcomes as well as planning for the steps of implementation to get there is crucial. Within RTI, it is important to be thinking of the desired outcomes. The rule of thumb is that educational decisions should be about meeting educational goals. One of our primary tasks is to provide high quality instruction to our students (for academic, behavioral, social, vocational, transitional goals, etc.). This means that assessment data should be used to make decisions that lead directly to instruction.

Direct Measures

In order for our assessment data to be used to guide instruction, we have to measure things that are important to developing, evaluating, or modifying instruction. As much as possible, we want measures that directly assess the skills we are interested in (sometimes called “low inference” measures). If we are interested in a student’s ability to read words fluently in connected text, we should select a measure that requires the student to read connected text—not one that has the student skip, put puzzles together, or copy line drawings. We want to use measures that require the least amount of inference as possible. Directly observing a student perform the task of interest is at the lowest level of inference in our assessment.

Educationally Relevant/Not Relevant

Just because a measure is direct, though, does not mean that it is relevant to the decision we are trying to make. Generally there are three questions that must be answered affirmatively when deciding if information is relevant:

1. Does this information align with the purpose for which I am conducting this assessment?

This takes us back to the use of direct measures. Make sure the assessment data have been validated for the purposed for which you need them.

2. Is this information about an alterable variable (or related to something alterable)?

If it is something we can not control, or does not affect our instruction, we should not spend time assessing it. We can control academic and behavioral performance; therefore these skills might be relevant to instructional decision making. Although we do not have control over a student’s visual acuity, there are accommodations we can make that are important (preferential seating, enlarged print). However, most things that we do not control do not help instructional planning (e.g., knowing how many people live in the student’s home).

3.  Does this information link directly to instruction or interventions? Again, it is important to discuss validation of assessment measures.


After we have determined what is relevant or not relevant, we also need to determine whether we can obtain that information or not. Information that is relevant must be known. If we do not already have it available, we need to plan how to collect it (i.e., via assessment). Data that are not educationally relevant do not need to be collected. Including educationally irrelevant information in our decision making can mask otherwise valuable solutions or distract us from solving problems and working toward goals. As new information is gathered, it is sometimes useful to reconsider whether other pieces of information are relevant or not. Occasionally, new information makes us consider other information in a whole new light.

The RIOT/ICEL Matrix

When thinking about assessment and evaluation, it is important to remember (and help others understand) that there are different ways of collecting the information needed to make decisions—tests are not the sole method of assessment. A handy rubric that is often used is RIOT—Review, Interview, Observe, Test. (See Figure 1.)

Using the methodologies of RIOT is usually common sense for most school psychologists. However, in education,  we often focus all of our assessment efforts on the student and his or her characteristics. However, there are many other things that might impact a student’s performance, yet are still alterable by educators. These other sources are sometimes called domains and are represented by the acronym ICEL—Instruction, Curriculum, Environment, Learner (see Figure 1).


Considering the purposes for assessment and evaluation, what information is relevant, what is known or unknown, and planning assessment through the RIOT/ICEL matrix sounds like an awful lot to do. In actuality, the time required will vary from student to student and problem to problem. Saturation is the point at which a person or team feels that there is enough information to make an informed decision. There is no sure-fire way to identify when you have enough, but it is important to make our jobs as efficient as possible. Selecting assessment methods that are the most reliable and provide for the most valid interpretations is important to consider. Also, if there are two ways to get the same information and one takes half the time, but is less reliable, it might make more sense to use the faster procedure if time is at a premium. Using two different methods that take less time than one procedure is an even better use of time. This is another area where the training of a school psychologist becomes valuable to others in schools—helping with time management decisions. It is important to make sure that we balance the effort we put into tasks with the benefits of decision making and the desired outcomes.

A Medical Analogy

While I am usually reluctant to use medical analogies for educational issues, I think this is actually a case where it might be useful. This is how a process of assessment and evaluation in RTI could look—very similar to how doctors diagnose and treat many illnesses:

A few years ago, I saw my doctor for a routine checkup. She started off measuring my vital signs--weight, blood pressure, temperature (akin to screening assessment in RTI). Two of the three (weight, blood pressure) indicated risk factors, predicting future difficulty if not addressed. At this point, she ordered some slightly more complex tests such as a cholesterol test--a diagnostic assessment. At the same time, she recommended that I improve my diet and start to exercise regularly--a Tier I intervention, something generally effective for all people and many problems. Now I had to buy a home blood pressure machine and measure my BP twice a day--progress monitoring or formative evaluation. In addition, I was scheduled for a follow-up test of my cholesterol, etc.--a sort of post-test of my Tier I intervention (summative evaluation). At this time, my physician also outlined potential Tier II and III interventions which were scientifically based on my symptoms. Tier II would be cholesterol-lowering drugs and possibly BP drugs if my elevated BP didn't respond to the change in diet and exercise. Tier III would be the most intensive intervention--we would only move to that if I exhibited a severe need (possibly the analog to a disability). I assumed "severe need" included a heart attack or stroke. There would be additional tests to determine these risks (a comprehensive evaluation?). At every stage, she collected data and used the data to guide decisions about which treatment to use. She selected these treatments because they had been validated to address my specific problems.

The diagnostic tests suggested additional problems which she thought might require extreme (Tier III) interventions--she was going to skip Tier II if the data indicated a severe need. Fortunately, we were monitoring my progress and over time, the additional tests showed that the "severe needs" responded to the Tier I intervention. If we hadn't monitored my progress, I would probably be missing an internal organ right now (which I don't believe happens in education), but more relevantly, resources would have been wasted on an unnecessary intervention—resources that could have been better used elsewhere.

So What Does This All Mean?

Assessment and evaluation in RTI often require that we think differently about what we do as well as how and why we do it. Does it require different skills than those we normally use? Sometimes, but certainly skills that should be well established in any school psychologist’s repertoire. One of the most valuable contributions school psychologists can offer schools is our training using data to make decisions and to judge the adequacy of the data we use. School psychologists are in a prime position to serve as a resource to other educators to navigate changes in what, how, and why we evaluate students.


Response To Intervention


What is RTI?

 RtI stands for Response to Intervention. A Response to Intervention program is one that provides direct, intense intervention to the student prior to assessment for determination of special education eligibility. The idea that underscores RtI is that if a student responds to the intervention, it is likely the student does not have a disability. If the student does not respond, then a team may determine that the student is eligible for special education services. In other words, RtI programs are a better way of determining which students are not performing at grade level due to a lack of instruction and which students require special education services due to a disability.


What does IDEA 2004 (PL-108-447) say about RtI?

 The reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 gives local education agencies the option to provide RtI as a type of Early Intervening Service. RtI offers an alternative to the well-established discrepancy model (difference between the IQ score and an achievement score) which determines eligibility for special education services. An RtI program must be based on solid scientific research.


What are the Three Tiers of educational services?


All of the Tiers precede a determination of eligibility for special education services.


Where does RtI belong in a three-tiered system?

 RtI is a regular education service and belongs in Tier III. Special educators, speech-language pathologists, and reading specialists who implement an RtI program provide both instruction and intervention for students without identified disabilities.


If RtI is a regular education service, how does the program receive funding?

 IDEA 2004 allows up to 15% of the funds for special education to be spent on prevention/intervention activities or Early Intervening Services.


Participation in the Process – teams, responsibilities


Who is responsible for deciding that a student may need support, and initiating the process?

A central principle of a response to intervention (RTI) approach is that it is not one particular person's responsibility – not a general educator, nor a special educator, but every educator's responsibility. This is especially true when it first becomes evident that a student may need support – it may be a parent or a teacher or a specialist or an administrator who first notices the need. It may come from informal observation or results on a class-wide screening measure or examples of student work. Whoever the person is who first notices the need, carries the responsibility of either beginning the process of considering what supports might be needed, or conferring with others to do so. Communication is obviously another important component of this approach, as well as agreed-upon protocols for how to initiate the process. That being said it is most often the child's classroom teacher who initiates the process.

Do I have to do a full plan as soon as I start making changes for a student?

Each district has policies and procedures regarding plans in the area of literacy – when they start, how they're documented, etc. Those procedures should be followed. However, they may not pertain to the early stages when a student has just begun to demonstrate need - documentation is also needed during this phase, but it need not necessarily be extensive or formal. Anecdotal records of changes made, differentiation provided, interventions tried – along with their results – should be maintained. These are useful later on should more extensive interventions and more formal procedures be needed. In areas other than literacy, district policies should be followed if they exist – otherwise, development of interventions and documentation should be patterned on those used for literacy.

The "Expanding Circle of Support" indicates that people are supposed to be available to support the classroom teacher with interventions, documentation, etc. Who are these support people and how do I get one?

Roles of people already in the school tend to change in the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach, giving them more time to provide support to the classroom teacher and, if appropriate, directly to the student(s). People such as speech-language pathologists, psychologists, reading specialists, special educators, counselors, etc., as well as other teachers, Support Team members, administrators, volunteers, paraprofessionals may all provide assistance and support. The teacher should remain the center of the efforts. The role of support people is to help the teacher analyze data, design and/or carry out interventions, maintain documentation, check for progress, etc. Because the aim is to improve instruction and interventions within general education, support is not considered to be "special education" even though it's provided by special education staff.

Schools should have policies and procedures that make it easy for a teacher to request support from the appropriate staff.

What's the role of the Child Study Team in the problem-solving approach?

First, the role of a school's Child Study Team (CST) depends on what type of function it has customarily carried out, and schools vary widely in this regard. In some schools they have long been a genuine opportunity for teachers to come together as colleagues to brainstorm strategies to support student learning – and teams like this have a valuable role to play in the problem-solving approach. In other schools, CSTs have only served to pass through referrals for special education evaluation. And in others, they really don't exist at all.

Who gathers and pulls together all the pre-referral documentation for the team reviewing a special education referral?

When a teacher and other school staff have been providing and documenting interventions and progress monitoring for a student for some time, the process itself calls for a continuous gathering, analyzing and summarizing of data. There should be little additional "gathering" needed for a team to consider a referral and determine whether there is a suspicion of disability. Support systems of schools vary, and so may the mechanism and the personnel responsible for bringing a student's information to a referral meeting.

General Education Roles and Responsibilities

This program is going to require more people to work in the classrooms – are there grants or anything to help pay for that?

Schools using this approach have all found that the roles that various professionals play change from what they have traditionally been. There is more time for specialists of various kinds to work with general education teachers and students in supporting interventions and progress monitoring.

Paraprofessionals across the state have been receiving professional development that enables them to assist with various aspects of this process under the supervision of general and/or special education teachers.

Federal law allows for up to 15% of special education funds to be used in supporting students in general education as part of early intervening services.

During this time of changing roles it is important for staff members to document how they spend their time, so appropriate changes can be made to future job descriptions.

It is important for schools to share their processes and successes with the public and with their school committees, making clear that without sufficient support for classroom teachers, this plan to support student proficiency cannot be fully successful.

Schools may not be ready to do this yet – do you have to have a solid reading program and a lot of professional development available?

Schools need to "do this" – "ready or not." It is obviously more difficult to do if high-quality comprehensive literacy and math curricula are not in place, if teachers are not well-prepared to implement them, or if staff in the school are not working collaboratively and flexibly in providing support in general education classrooms. Teachers and support staff need to request support and assistance where it is lacking. For example, in a school in which the only additional support for students in the area of reading is a Reading Recovery program, staff needing assistance with planning interventions for students not in that program should ask the school or district reading staff to provide it. General education carries the responsibility of providing evidence that a student has had not only appropriate instruction in reading and math, but also interventions and progress monitoring tailored to the student's needs and implemented with fidelity. 

The Evaluation and Disability Team Decisions

Can subtests of psychological or educational tests be administered prior to a referral to gather specific information? For example: if the psychologist wanted to get a handle on a student's memory?

What needs to be remembered, first, is that everything BEFORE referral is to be focused on determining the most effective instructional approaches to help the child learn. The key way of looking at it would be, "what do we need to know in order to shape his instructional experience so he learns most efficiently?"

Would test results tell one how to change his instruction? Any better than trying different instructional interventions would? Through interventions and progress monitoring one can discover a great deal about memory, in an authentic context, that would be sufficient information at least for the time being. If MUCH faster progress is made when relying on memory strategies than multisensory instruction, e.g., you'd know that multisensory instruction by it's self is not enough, and you need to also include memory strategy instruction.

Yes, down the line, IF the current progress being sought isn't sufficient, THEN, IF there's suspicion of a disability, one might want to do some further exploration, through informal or formal means. I think a good question would be, both before referral and when deciding if further "evaluations" are needed, "what do we need to know about his memory skills - how helpful they are to him as he learns new things, compared to other ways of learning ... or do we need to know how his skills compare to a nationally-normed sample of kids his age?"

When are districts required to use the new RTI approach and forms for identifying students with learning disabilities? With the changes in federal law and regulations comes the new requirement that states issue policies on learning disability identification and that districts follow those policies. This period of preparation allows districts to try out the new approaches, 

How do you decide what's good evidence-based instruction?

Start with the documentation provided by school staff of the instruction, interventions and data on the student's progress to date. Ask for information on how the various approaches and strategies were selected, and their relationship to district guidance and scientifically-based practice. This is easier to do if the district has developed easily referenced documentation of curriculum by subject and grade-level expectations.

Staff will have an easier time discussing fidelity and effectiveness of instruction in team meetings if they do so as a regular part of grade-level meetings and professional development work.

When we're looking at "age appropriate peers" are we considering the class, the school, the district, the state?

Local norms are the most appropriate comparison group – at school or, better, district level. If these are not yet available, national norms are available via a variety of web-based tools. At least one of these – AIMSweb – compiles local norms over time as more and more local student information is entered and eventually provides the choice to use them instead of the national norms.

There are a number of national CBM tools available, ie: AIMSweb, DIBELS, PALS and the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring.

And yes, students may be considered "learning disabled" in one community and not in another – just as has been the case for many years. What is more important, using the response to intervention approach contributes to greater quantities of useful information passing between districts to help support the student's continuous learning – in general and/or special education.

Kids with Special Circumstances

 What about when you get a prescription slip from a doctor for testing a child?

As usual, it must be considered by a team … and the team must still answer the questions for suspicion of a disability. If sufficient evidence is not available of the student's rate of learning, gaps in performance and/or intensity of instruction needed for the child to progress, the team should not accept a referral for evaluation.

If certain physicians or other sources are "prescribing" testing or an IEP, district personnel should contact them and offer information and professional development on policies and procedures the district must follow in making these decisions. An invitation to meet with the superintendent, director of curriculum and director of special education on the issue has been found to be effective in changing such inappropriate "prescriptions."

Dealing with Difficult Situations

Isn't it controversial to be documenting "adequate instruction"? 

"Adequate instruction" starts at the district level with policies, procedures and materials for high-quality, comprehensive curriculum, instruction and assessment. It continues at the school level, with discussions of assessment results and planning for helping students improve. Use of an evidence-based problem-solving approach at these levels helps insure that classroom teachers have what they need to support student learning.

So it's not always a question of a colleague's practice, but of what is provided by the system, including effective professional development opportunities.

Discussion of a student's progress – and everything that went into achieving current levels – should not reach team level without teachers knowing what questions the team will be asking. Teachers are more likely to be able to document effective instruction if they've had clear direction and support on doing that, and know what they'll be asked to present as the circle of support expands to include more people – perhaps eventually including an Evaluation Team.

A lot of people aren't going to like this – any suggestions?

Almost all people, as soon as they understand that children needing help with learning get support RIGHT AWAY, respond positively to this approach. They say, quite frequently - "This makes sense." People are quite accustomed to the old "wait to fail" system – which requires watching students slip further and further behind – and are willing to make changes to accommodate to this new approach. So the best advice is to focus on that aspect of the process, and then try to provide the supports the person needs to be able to adapt to it.

Some people don't believe you can make a decision about ability level without a formal test. What can I tell them?

In this process, it is not necessary to obtain a "precise" ability level. By the time a team is discussing whether a student may have a disability, a great deal of functional information has already been gathered. The team knows a lot about how the student learns, and about his/her strengths and needs. It is sufficient for the team to consider this information, and determine if there is any question about the student's ability level that would impact the decision on disability. That is, does anyone suspect, given the student's profile, that s/he may have a particularly high or low ability level? If not, further assessment is not necessary. If there is such a suspicion, the team might decide that more information is needed to answer this question, and a traditional ability measure (or a portion of one) might be used to provide it.

An article by Kovaleski helps explain this and other concepts related to a response to intervention process.

Parent Engagement

When do we need to bring parents into the RTI process?

The sooner the better. The first conversations regarding concerns about student performance should be with the student's family. The Expanding Circle of Support is conceived as having the teacher, the student and the parent always at the center of the efforts. The more the families can be involved in the discussions and the interventions, the better the prospects for steady progress.

When is parent permission required in the RTI process?

As discussed above parent involvement from the beginning is recommended. During the instructional intervention and progress monitoring process parent permission is not required. This is because the assessments are focusing on improving instruction, not on determination of a disability. If the child is referred for special education evaluation parent permission is required as part of the usual procedural safeguards.

Has this changed parents' feelings about getting help for their kids?

Most parents commenting on this approach are quite pleased at the prospect of children getting "help" much sooner than in the current system. Data and graphs are concrete representations that are very helpful for sharing periodic student progress. Schools that have been using the approach for a few years report fewer challenges from families than they expected – as long as help is incorporated into the process families have rarely pushed for "referrals" or "testing."

Going Beyond Literacy and Learning Disabilities

Is there a similar system we can apply to mathematics or behavioral issues?

Yes … the same one! It works the same way for any subject, skill or performance area, at any age (including adults). What is the target performance/behavior? What intervention might be most successful? Who will carry it out? When? Where? How will progress be measured? When? By whom? What do the data tell us? Do we need another intervention to reach the target? 


Will this process change the format of IEPs?

As teams develop IEPS, evidence from a response to intervention process is likely to provide greater clarity, more specific data, and increased focus for developing strengths and needs, writing measurable present levels of educational performance and annual goals, and measuring progress toward goals. 

Secondary Level

How does this apply at secondary level?

As mentioned elsewhere, the process of assessment, intervention and progress monitoring is applicable at any age and in any subject area. Learning issues emerging for the first time for a student at the secondary level are more likely to be related to study skills, focus, motivation, etc., than to a difficulty in reading or math, for example. The intervention process can be used to address such concerns within general education. For students who already have IEPs, the process should be used to ensure focus on the student's specific learning issues, appropriate interventions, frequent assessment, and ongoing modification of instruction and interventions. The evidence gleaned provides a critical foundation for annual IEP and reevaluation meetings. The process is also well suited to providing appropriate interventions for students who are learning beyond the general curriculum, for example students who need additional challenge, higher-level thinking skills, etc.

Young Children

Many students come into primary school from preschool special education, how does this process relate to making the decision on disability at age six?

The response to intervention approach used with young children provides a rich bank of information on a student's performance rate and gaps, and the intensity of supports needed for the student to progress. In addition to ensuring that the student continues to progress in the preschool curriculum, this evidence can help smooth the transition from pre-school to kindergarten, can help the team make the decision later as to whether the student with developmental delay continues to be a student with a disability, and helps with planning whether or not the student continues to require special education services.

Can this be used with 3 – 5 year olds?

As described above, this approach is useful with students of any age. A current research project on indicators of progress for pre-school children being done by the Universities of Minnesota and Oregon, et al, may be of interest.

Changes to IDEA 2004


IDEA Regulations

1. Add procedures for identifying children with specific learning disabilities.

A State must adopt, consistent with 34 CFR 300.309, criteria for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10). In addition, the criteria adopted by the State:

A public agency must use the State criteria adopted pursuant to 34 CFR 300.307(a) in determining whether a child has a specific learning disability.
[34 CFR 300.307] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]

3. Add criteria for determining the existence of a specific learning disability.

The group described in 34 CFR 300.306 may determine that a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10), if:



To ensure that underachievement in a child suspected of having a specific learning disability is not due to lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math, the group must consider, as part of the evaluation described in 34 CFR 300.304 through 300.306:

The public agency must promptly request parental consent to evaluate the child to determine if the child needs special education and related services, and must adhere to the timeframes described in 34 CFR 300.301 and 300.303, unless extended by mutual written agreement of the child’s parents and a group of qualified professionals, as described in 34 CFR 300.306(a)(1):

[34 CFR 300.309] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]

4. Describe the required observation.

The public agency must ensure that the child is observed in the child’s learning environment (including the regular classroom setting) to document the child’s academic performance and behavior in the areas of difficulty.

The group described in 34 CFR 300.306(a)(1), in determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, must decide to:

In the case of a child of less than school age or out of school, a group member must observe the child in an environment appropriate for a child of that age.
[34 CFR 300.310] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]

5. Specify documentation required for the eligibility determination.

For a child suspected of having a specific learning disability, the documentation of the determination of eligibility, as required in 34 CFR 300.306(a)(2), must contain a statement of:


Each group member must certify in writing whether the report reflects the member’s conclusion. If it does not reflect the member’s conclusion, the group member must submit a separate statement presenting the member’s conclusions.
[34 CFR 300.311] [20 U.S.C. 1221e-3; 1401(30); 1414(b)(6)]



"Scientifically based research." Scientifically based research has the meaning given the term in section 9101(37) of the ESEA.
[34 CFR 300.35] [20 U.S.C. 1411(e(2)(C)(xi)] [sec. 9101(37) of the ESEA]

“Scientifically based research” (as defined in the ESEA): (a) Means research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs; and (b) Includes research that (1) Employs systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment; (2) Involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn; (3) Relies on measurements or observational methods that provide reliable and valid data across evaluators and observers, across multiple measurements and observations, and across studies by the same or different investigators; (4) Is evaluated using experimental or quasi-experimental designs in which individuals, entities, programs, or activities are assigned to different conditions and with appropriate controls to evaluate the effects of the condition of interest, with a preference for random-assignment experiments, or other designs to the extent that those designs contain within-condition or across-condition controls; (5) Ensures that experimental studies are presented in sufficient detail and clarity to allow for replication or, at a minimum, offer the opportunity to build systematically on their findings; and (6) Has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective, and scientific review.
[34 CFR 300.35] [20 U.S.C. 1411(e(2)(C)(xi)] [sec. 9101(37) of the ESEA]


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