How does RTI differ from previous approaches to providing interventions?

Question: How does RTI differ from previous approaches to providing interventions?

Tessie Rose Bailey: So when the terminology of RTI came out in the new reauthorization of IDEA I think what a lot of schools, districts may have done is just taken what they were originally doing for what we would consider pre-referral or a process of providing interventions prior to students going into special ed and renamed it RTI and when you really look at what RTI is, it’s more of a preventative framework as opposed to a pre-referral and that really is the big difference. In a pre-referral strategy what we see is we wait till a student fails in some way, is recognized as failing, is referred to a team, folks try to come up with an intervention that will, in a sense, remediate that deficit before we make a referral to special ed and in RTI we’re really looking at a preventative framework and we use, what we refer to as screening tools, to predict who may be at risk for failure as opposed to waiting until a kid fails before they are referred and in a preventative model those students who are screened and who might be at risk for poor learning outcomes then receive interventions to prevent them from having struggles in the future, and those students who then don’t respond to highly qualified or highly effective interventions may be referred to special ed. I often get questions about, well, is RTI really just a intervention framework? And when we talk about RTI at the RTI Center we’re looking at it as a school-wide, prevention framework. So core instruction is really part of that prevention and all students should have access to that and those students who are struggling or who may be at risk of struggling are identified through those screening tools that are reliable and valid. In an effective, preventative RTI framework what you would end up seeing is that students who are struggling may start moving through the tiers in an upward fashion, but the majority of those students, if their intervention at secondary and tertiary are effective, would then move to less intensive tiers and this is very different from a pre-referral model in which students tend to take a one-way street up so they are no longer performing at a rate that we would expect them so then we intervene and then they may be referred. But, very few of those in a pre-referral model actually move back down to less-intensive tiers and that to me is what really separate RTI as a prevention framework versus our past, traditional, pre-referral model. One of the things that often makes it clear if people are using a pre-referral versus a prevention framework is that they’ll use things like, “oh, I RTIed this kid,” or “That’s an RTI student,” but if you think about RTI is a prevention framework in which core is part of that prevention framework. Then in a sense, all students are RTI kids and if you are just looking at RTI as an intervention only then it may really be that you’re addressing deficits as opposed to intervening early to prevent those poor learning outcomes. And if you think about special ed a lot of people mistake RTI is preventing special ed and in reality special ed is part of this larger prevention model and so those students who were, I mean really, the purpose of school is to prepare students for post-secondary outcomes. In kindergarten we’re preparing them for elementary, in elementary for middle school and we want to adequately prepare them, not only for state tests, but this bigger success in school and so part of what special ed’s role is is to prevent those students from experiencing struggles that they may have had, had they not had special ed. So I think really that the idea that RTI is not really just another name for a pre-referral model and instead is this larger school-wide prevention model is really the key to making sure that students, all students, are successful.