So just what is this RTI thing anyway?

RTI stands for Response to Intervention. It's a relatively new model for early identification of students with special needs and for providing ongoing services to students based on significant data collection.

RTI stands for Response to Intervention. It's a relatively new model for early identification of students with special needs and for providing ongoing services to students based on significant data collection. This is one area where educational technology is both useful and utterly necessary, providing the tools for widespread screening, data collection, and individualized assistance based on specific student needs.

RTI stands in contrast to traditional models of special education that largely look at students' classroom performance and identify kids who seem to have difficulties learning. RTI, on the other hand, begins with simple measures to evaluate all students and then allows followup screening to drill down through kids who need remediation, require some services and modifications, and finally to students at the far end of the spectrum with significant learning disabilities.

Because the initial screenings are so simple (a 5-minute test of math automaticity, for example), the can reach far more students than traditional special education screening and help suggest areas of improvement or remediation even for kids without actual special education needs.

Better yet, a variety of computer software can track a student's progress and provide significant feedback both in real time and in aggregate to improve instruction. Similarly, the software can often handle most remediation needs for students, allowing teachers to move on with curriculum or provide more individualized instruction to kids with greater needs.

Literally hundreds of programs, both web-based and local, exist to implement RTI, many across all grades in a district. The state of Washington completed a large review of the programs for mathematics and the results of their 2007 survey can be found here.

Just in our high school, as we've begun to investigate moving from a traditional special education model to RTI, we conducted a first-step survey of all of our freshman math classes (the 5-minute test noted above). We were alarmed by the number of kids who were identified by this simple test as performing under grade level. More detailed evaluations will follow, but it's clear that many students with remediation needs, if not full-blown learning disabilities are not being served by the current system.

Talk back below if you have experience with RTI.

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