State Laws and Guidelines for RTI: Additional Implementation Features

By Zirkel, Perry A. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, May 2011 | Go to article overview
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State Laws and Guidelines for RTI: Additional Implementation Features

Zirkel, Perry A., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Response to intervention (RTI) remains a major issue in both the professional literature and school practice. A series of previous "snapshot" studies tracedthe development of RTI in state laws concerning identification of students with specific learning disability (SLD). In the last article in this series, Zirkel and Thomas (2010) reported that as of May 2010, 14 states partially or completely required RTI for SLD identification and that most states provided guidelines for implementing RTI. Since then, Wisconsin finalized its regulations, joining the states requiring RTI (Zirkel, 2011).

Leading this legal evolution of RTI for SLD identification, which crystallized in the official federal recognition and delegation to the states in the 2006 regulations of the IDEA, the professional literature has extended to various implementation issues, including promoting the use of RTI for (a) the behavioral side (e.g., Fairbanks, Sugai, Guardino, & Lathrop, 2007), such as positive behavior support (PBS; e.g., IhIo & Nantais, 2010) or an integrated approach (e.g., Mclntosh, Bohanen, & Goodman, 2010); and (b) IDEA disability classifications beyond SLD, such as emotional disturbance (ED; e.g., Gheney, Flower & Templeton, 2008) or more generally, such as a noncategorical approach (e.g., Smith, Peters, Sandres, & Witz, 2010).

Moreover, the initial case law, although limited to hearing and review officer rather than court decisions, has reflected confusion in interpreting the definitional boundaries and implementation requirements for RTI (Zirkel, in press). For example, in a Delaware case, the hearing officer panel rejected the charter school's RTI defense to the parents' "child find" claim, but (a) the focus of the claim was not SLD but ED and/ or other health impairment (OHI), as exemplified by the diagnoses in the independent educational evaluation of ADHD, ODD, and mood disorder; and (b) the panel's decision was predicated on its erroneous conclusion that, under Delaware's law, "RTI requires a written plan for a child with meetings to discuss the interventions and the child's progress" (Delaware College Preparatory Academy, 2009, p. 676).

Finally, the few special education journal articles purportedly addressing the RTI case law added to the confusion by relying instead on court decisions concerning child find claims based on much more general and older prereferral services and strategies (Walker & Daves, 2010; Yell & Walker, 2010). The confusion concerning the extent of state law provisions for such related but separate general education interventions (GEI), also referred to globally as "prereferral intervention processes," is attributable to not only the variations in their specific appellations, such as "student assistance teams" and "teacher intervention teams," but also the lack of direct examination of the state statutes and regulations rather than reliance on surveys of state education agency personnel (Buck, Polloway, Smith-Thomas & Cook, 2003). Recognizing the sometimes blurry line between the state law provisions for general education interventions and those for RTI, Zirkel and Thomas (2010) recommended further analysis of such implementation issues in state laws and, with due differentiation, state guidelines.

As the next step in this series of snapshots, this study systematically canvasses state laws and guidelines as of February 15, 2011 to address the following implementation questions:

1. Which states provide for general education interventions with or without connection to RTI?

2. Which states extend RTI to include the behavioral, not just the academic, dimension?

3. Which states specify an individual written plan as part of RTI implementation?

4. Which states expressly include RTI for disability classifications beyond SLD?


The search strategy was different for state laws and guidelines, with only the policies that state boards of education had adopted included on the state-law side of the dividing line.

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State Laws and Guidelines for RTI: Additional Implementation Features


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