Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Foundations and Research on Identifying Model Responsiveness-to-Intervention Sites

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Foundations and Research on Identifying Model Responsiveness-to-Intervention Sites

Article excerpt

Abstract. As regulations are rewritten regarding school-based learning disabilities identification practices, the components of those practices are likely to change. For example, cognitive assessment and aptitude-achievement discrepancy might be less important. A student's responsiveness-to-intervention (RTI) is emerging as an important construct for assessing underachievement. This article provides a framework for understanding how RTI fits as one LD determination component, describes research on RTI, and outlines the NRCLD's research efforts to examine current RTI implementation in schools and model site selection.


Although the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has brought the issue of learning disabilities (LD) identification procedures and criteria to the forefront in recent years, calls for reform are not new and are based on decades of various related research agendas. One effort to integrate the research over that period was the USDE's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) LD Summit conference in 2001 (Bradley, Danielson, & Hallahan, 2002), during which nine commissioned papers were presented regarding LD identification issues. A second effort was the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education final report, "A New Era: Revitalizing Special Education for Children and Their Families" (2002). A third activity was OSEP's establishment of the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD). These activities have focused increased scrutiny on the value of identifying students with LD and the components, procedures, and criteria of LD identification.

Among the alternative LD identification models, responsiveness-to-intervention (RTI), which can be viewed as representing the model called for in the President's Commission report, has attracted much attention among policy makers, school staffs, and researchers. One of OSEP's goals for funding the NRCLD was to synthesize existing research and conduct additional research on alternative LD determination models. With the increasing interest in RTI, OSEP directed NRCLD staff to conduct a set of research activities around it. More specifically, the NRCLD was asked to address four questions:

1. How is RTI implemented locally?

2. How is RTI used in the process of LD identification?

3. How effective is RTI in the prevention of reading problems?

4. Does RTI enhance LD identification?

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, we provide a conceptual background for RTI. In addressing that goal we will describe the theoretical framework of RTI, the research about RTI as a prevention model and as a component in LD determination decisions, as well as existing applications of RTI. Our second purpose is to describe how NRCLD staff and the staffs from the six national regional resource centers are researching the four questions posed above. An outcome of those activities is to select exemplary RTI sites that might assist in national technical assistance and scaling-up activities. The research methodology uses a mixed design of descriptive information from detailed case studies and empirical data from school and student records. We view this article as an important opportunity to inform the field about RTI and engage readers in shaping its relevant policies, procedures, practices, and criteria.


Figure 1 provides an organizational framework for the three parts of our literature review. Various writers have described RTI's application for prevention of reading problems and as a component for LD determination (Fuchs, Mock, Morgan, & Young, 2003). Our literature review begins with examining the theory for both applications, followed by a discussion of the empirical basis for RTI as a prevention framework and as an LD component. Last, we describe the research of its application in school district settings. …

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