Response to Intervention: Ready or Not? Or, From Wait-to-Fail to Watch-Them-Fail

By Reynolds C.R., Shaywitz S.E. 
School Psychology Quarterly. 2009 Jun 1;24(2):130. PubMed PMID: 20169006; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2823081.


Response to Intervention (RTI) models of diagnosis and intervention are being implemented rapidly throughout the schools. The purposes of invoking an RTI model for disabilities in the schools clearly are laudable, yet close examination reveals an unappreciated paucity of empirical support for RTI and an overly optimistic view of its practical, problematic issues. Models are being put into practice without adequate research and logistical support, and they neglect the potential negative long-term impact on students with disabilities. Many implementation problems exist: (a) the vagaries of critical details of the model in practice; (b) the lack of consideration of bright struggling readers; (c) the relativeness, contextual, situation-dependent  nature of who is identified; (d) the worrisome shortcomings of the RTI process as a means of diagnosis or determination of a disability; and (e) the apparent lack of student-based data to guide an effective choice of approaches and components of intervention. Practiced as a model of prevention, the authors agree with the concept of RTI. As the authors witness its application to disability determination sans the benefit of a reliable and valid empirical basis, the potential benefits to some children with disabilities remain an unproven hypothesis while the potential detriment to some children with disabilities remains a very real possibility.

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