When parents make a referral to have their child evaluated to see if they need special education services, they are sometimes told that the school must first complete a process called RtI. In North Carolina RtI stands for Responsiveness to Instruction. In many other states RTI is short for Response to Intervention. Either way, RtI offers a process for selecting and implementing interventions to help students who are struggling academically or behaviorally. RtI also includes regular monitoring of the student’s progress.
Details may vary from one school system to another, but there are parts of RtI that should be present:
- Decisions are made by a team of people who can offer a variety of knowledge and experience.
- Interventions should have been shown to be effective through scientific research.
- Data is collected about how the student is responding to the interventions.
- The student’s progress is tracked over a period of time.
- There are multiple “tiers” and the interventions become more intensive as the student moves to a higher tier due to inadequate progress.
- At the final tier the data collected, along with other information, can be used to determine that the student qualifies for special education services.
When done well, RtI provides an opportunity for students to get the help that they need without having to declare them students with disabilities. This helps prevent the over-identification of students and keeps more special education resources available to those students who really do have disabilities. One possible down side of RtI is that moving through the tiers of interventions can take several months. When a parent sees their child continue to struggle, that can feel like too much precious time is being lost.
The Exceptional Children Division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has issued guidance to all school systems in the state. Schools have been reminded that North Carolina’s Policies Governing Services for Children with Disabilities* require that when a written referral for special education services has been received, schools have a maximum of 90 days in which to complete needed evaluations, determine eligibility, and put an Individualized Education Program in place for any student who qualifies for special education services.
The 90-day time limit applies even when the student is involved in the RtI process. Period.
If you are worried that RtI will create an uneccessary delay to your child getting the special education services that you feel he needs, make a written request to have him evaluated to see if he is eligible. Interventions are required for some categories of eligibility, but they can be implemented during the time that the evaluation will take place.