Advantages Of RTI (page 2)
The RTI approach has several advantages. First, it can help reduce the time a student must wait before he receives assistance in his areas of weakness. RTI is a proactive approach; students are identified early as needing assistance. Second, the goal is to provide as much assistance to students as possible in their regular education classroom. If the research-based interventions are helpful, special education services may not be needed. Third, how a student responds to the intervention may provide information about her strengths and weaknesses. Understanding what works best can help teachers provide appropriate instruction to students.
A Misconception About RTI
We find that there is one major misconception about RTI—a belief held by some parents and teachers. Some argue that RTI is simply a way for school districts to delay providing special education services.
The goal of RTI is to implement research-based interventions as soon as a problem is identified. Many of these interventions are likely being used with students who have already qualified for special education services. Some believe that schools are holding back on certain interventions and using them only for students receiving special education services; this is untrue. The goal of RTI is to find and implement interventions that work for a student without having to label him as a special education student. If a student does not respond well to the interventions at the two lower tiers and it is believed that he needs the more intensive and more individualized instruction and interventions found in Tier 3, the Student Support Team can find him eligible for special education services. Eligibility is a team decision, and special education laws vary from state to state. To locate the laws for your state, contact your state's department of special education. Contact information can be found in Appendix G.
Parents' Role in RTI
Parents play an active role in the RTI process. They may be asked to implement interventions in the home so that students experience consistency between what goes on at home and what goes on at school. Or parents may be asked to monitor a child to see whether she improves in specific areas. Parents may keep data on their child's progress and report it to the school during the next RTI meeting. Such parental feedback on a child's progress can provide information that is very helpful to her teachers. We'll talk more about parent-teacher collaboration in Chapter Sixteen.
Teachers' Role in RTI
Teachers often have primary responsibility for gathering RTI data. They may work with other teachers or the school psychologist to collect data that will be used to monitor a child's progress. This information is often shared in visual form such as charts that show where the child began (his weaknesses), where he is now (the progress he's made), and where he should be at a specific future point (the target goal). Teachers may use software programs and other resources to help them choose appropriate research-based interventions and monitor a child's progress. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets can also be used to display a child's progress.
Why a Psychological Evaluation is Still Helpful
Parents have the right to request a psychological evaluation for their child at any time during the RTI process. According to some state special education regulations, however, the entire RTI process must be completed before a determination can be made about whether a child is eligible for special education services. As school psychologists, we recognize the importance of evaluation test results and how they can be used to better understand a student's needs.
An evaluation may uncover processing weaknesses that could be having an impact on a student's academic progress. These weaknesses may occur in areas such as working memory, short-term memory, long-term retrieval, auditory processing, attention, language, executive functioning, or visual-motor integration, to name a few. Without this information, educators may implement interventions blindly, without regard for how a student processes information. For example, a particular intervention may rely heavily on a student's memory; if memory is her weak area, that intervention is not likely to have a positive impact.
Consequently, we are in favor of including a psychological assessment as part of the RTI process. The evaluation does not have to be comprehensive at this stage; it can focus solely on how a student processes information. With this information in hand, a teacher can choose interventions that are most likely to be helpful, given a student's processing and academic weaknesses.
We'll discuss psychological assessments in more detail in Part Two of this book.
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