Schools have only been in session for a few weeks. Already parents are troubled by reading problems their children are bringing home from school. It’s painful to hear of an otherwise happy child who succumbs to anxiety and distress over school due to reading.
Reading should be a joyful experience. But for many children—reading is a nightmare.
Response to Intervention (RTI)—the supposed miracle assessment and intervention program–got its start as part of the IDEA reauthorization in 2004, and was universally administered to all children, in many school districts, under No Child Left Behind.
RTI was developed to find reading problems early and to prevent children from being placed in special education.
In November, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education published a study showing that students who received RTI for reading did worse than those who did not participate in the program.
Also troubling, is that RTI was placed into schools without enough evidence to indicate it would be a successful program. It was not as “scientifically proven” as we were led to believe.
The program came about around the same time as Reading First—a federal program columnist Anne C. Lewis called the “U.S. Department of Education’s ‘little Enron’ scandal.” Reading First was swept under the rug and forgotten. I wrote about Reading First in Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.
In “Response to Intervention: Ready or Not? Or, From Wait-to-Fail to Watch Them-Fail,” RTI was described as not ready for prime time.
Response to Intervention (RTI) models of diagnosis and intervention are being implemented rapidly throughout the schools. The purposes of invoking an RTI model for disabilities in the schools clearly are laudable, yet close examination reveals an unappreciated paucity of empirical support for RTI and an overly optimistic view of its practical, problematic issues. Models are being put into practice without adequate research and logistical support and neglect the potential negative long-term impact on students with disabilities.
Although the notion of RTI as a process of service delivery may have potential to be helpful to both regular education and special education, the extant evidence does not support the seemingly unbridled enthusiasm for its current readiness status from its proponents who appear to have been overly optimistic and often incomplete in their presentations of the RTI model, with regard to its research support, ease of implementation, breadth of applications in the schools, clarity of what constitutes responsiveness, and the ability of the RTI model to benefit children with learning disabilities (LD).
To be fair, there are some parents and teachers who like RTI. Others believe, and there has been evidence, that schools don’t always fully implement RTI. They don’t have the resources or the manpower to carry out the program like they should.
But many parents and teachers resent RTI. They believe it keeps children from getting the special education services they need and should get under IDEA.
RTI should not be confused with special education. Since RTI, there have been fewer resource classes and support for students with learning disabilities—particularly for children with dyslexia.
It has been two years since the results of the 2015 study were published. Students continue to be evaluated with RTI, and placed into Tiers for remediation, even though it has been identified as a failed program. Millions have been spent. Students deserve something different when it comes to reading.
- Return to resource classes and other in-class support systems.
- Provide adequate assessment and assistance with programs known to work.
- Ensure that teachers get strong backgrounds in reading including dyslexia, and support to implement good reading programs.
- Provide parents with a voice at school board meetings and within their local schools in meetings with teachers and administrators.
At this point, we should provide parents with programs that address the reading remediation needs of their children. RTI does not seem to be that program.
Recently, distinguished Vanderbilt professors Douglas and Lynn S. Fuchs, co-authors of RTI, defended the program with the following claims:
- Schools didn’t implement the program rigorously enough.
- RTI needs a simpler structure.
- We shouldn’t conclude that RTI is a failure.
If the Fuchs want to see RTI continue as a program, they should go back to the drawing board. In the meantime, it’s troubling to see schools hang on to a program shown not to work.
Lewis, Anne C. 2006. “Dramatis Personae.” Phi Delta Kappan. 88(4): 259-60.