An educational program known as Response to Intervention, which screens students to determine whether they need additional instruction, is gaining momentum in school districts throughout the country. The state of New York began requiring school districts to use the program last year. This is how the program works.
In New York, the Response to Intervention (RtI) program is designed to measure students’ progress and provide them with assistance, particularly in the areas of math and reading. The program is used to address achievement gaps for all students, including students with disabilities.
In the RtI process, students receive additional instruction tailored to their individual needs through a system with multiple tiers of intensity. Students’ progress is monitored to determine whether additional intervention is needed to help them learn.
The process begins with screening, which is a brief assessment that is conducted for all students, to determine whether they possess appropriate skills for their grade level. This part of the process takes place between one and three times per year. Based on the results of this screening, the school may decide that additional instruction is needed for a particular student, in which case the student’s parents are notified.
In the general education classroom, teachers use research-based teaching methods that are varied according to individual students’ learning styles. For students who have been identified as needing additional support, the teacher will provide targeted instruction in the specific areas where the individual student needs help. There are three tiers of support within most RtI models, and this additional targeted focus within the general education classroom is the first tier.
The second tier of additional instruction may be provided in a separate classroom where students can be taught in small groups and have additional opportunities to practice the skills they are learning. This instruction is sometimes provided by a math or reading specialist. In the third intervention tier, students may receive more frequent and longer small group instruction, which may employ teaching materials specifically tailored to the skills the student is experiencing difficulty with.
The level of intervention that a student needs is determined by a team made up of the student’s teachers, parents, and school staff such as a math or reading specialist or a school psychologist. Student progress is monitored as frequently as once per week, and parents are provided with frequent updates.
If a student does not respond as expected to additional instruction, further evaluation is needed. When the school believes that a child may have a disability, it will seek the student’s parent’s consent to conduct an evaluation to determine whether special education services are needed. A parent may also request special education services if he or she believes the student has a disability.
New York education officials have said that many schools already had a similar process in place, but a systematic approach can help more students. The program is also meant to provide appropriate instruction for individual students. In the past, teachers may have confused a learning gap with a disability, when what is actually needed is more intensive, targeted instruction.
For more information about legal services for individuals with special needs, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.