Today we hear much about Response to Intervention, an organizational pattern to prevent and assist students with reading problems, including dyslexia. Generally, there are three level of RTI. Students are screened when entering school to determine which students may experience reading difficulty. Tier I students are given researched-based instruction in the regular classroom. Students who do not appear to be responding to Tier I are elevated to Tier II and time and intensity of instruction are increased. Tier III are those students who still are not making adequate progress in Tier II. These levels may take the student through the first three years of school.
In the closing chapter of DYSLEXIA: A TEACHER’S JOURNEY, I mention RTI as an organizational pattern with potential. I let Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a researcher at Yale University and the author of the classic book, OVERCOMING DYSLEXIA, read my book manuscript. Dr. Shaywitz phoned me to say she disagreed with me; that even the most dedicated supporters of RTI initially, were now saying, “RTI was not working.” Our conversation was interrupted and we were never able to complete this conversation. As I consider Dr. Shaywitz one of the great minds today in the field of dyslexia, I started researching what she and her opponents were saying. Actually, I don’t think Dr. Shaywitz and I disagree. We focus on different populations. I readily concede that Dr. Shaywitz has a more expansive outreach with those who have or have not researched RTI and who have tried to implement RTI with fidelity.
While RTI may be an improvement over what has been taking place in some school systems, I am seeing many flaws. If a student has not made adequate yearly progress until the end of grade three, we have lost the most crucial teaching/learning time. If educators are going to use progress or lack of progress as diagnostic criteria for dyslexia, we are making grave mistakes. If a child has not received a psychological evaluation and a comparison made between his potential and achievement level, a very intelligent student may be classified as doing well with average work when capable of far superior work. I am certainly not advocating returning to the discrepancy formula as the single criterion for special education as I experienced. My point: because a student is able to read with adequacy in his classroom does not mean he is not dyslexic and without need of intensive help.
Another concern about RTI—have we trained teachers in multisensory education for, especially, Tier III students or are we using a hodge-podge of approaches without adequate training in delivery?
Let me hear your views on RTI.