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How a Special Education Lawyer Views The Relationship Between RTI and the IDEA

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2015

As a Special Education lawyer, I find that many parents and school personnel are confused regarding using RTI (Response To Intervention) techniques. RTI can be used as one component to determine whether or not a child is eligible for special education services. It is important to have an understanding of this because sometimes, local education associations attempt to use data collected in the RTI process to outright deny services. In this post I speak about the RTI process and answer some general questions that all parents should be aware of.

Response to Intervention (RTI)

RTI is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs. The RTI process is supposed to begin with researched-based instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom. The IDEA was amended in 2004. Congress expressed concerns with the way some specific learning disabilities (SLD), which used IQ tests, distinguished between children who truly had a SLD, from those whose learning difficulties could be resolved with more general education interventions.

Can a local education association require that all children suspected of having a SLD first be assessed using an RTI process before an eligibility determination may be made?

Yes, provided that your local education association is using RTI for all its students. If so, it may require the team established or the purpose of determining the eligibility of students suspected of having a SLD to review data from an RTI process in making an eligibility determination. Models based on RTI typically evaluate the child’s response to instruction prior to the beginning of the evaluation time period. Generally, an evaluation does not take as long because of the amount of information already collected on the child’s achievement, including observation data.

May an eligibility determination be made using only information that was collected through an RTI process?

No. Section 300.304 (b) states that in conducting an evaluation, the school district must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child. This would include information provided by the parent that may help in determining eligibility. The school district may not use just one measure or assessment as the only criteria for determining whether a child has a disability and what the appropriate educational program for the child is.The Department of Education has stated that “an RTI process does not replace the need for a comprehensive evaluation. A public agency must use a variety of data gathering tools and strategies even if an RTI process is used. The results of an RTI process may be one component of the information reviewed as part of the evaluation procedures required under 34 CFR §§300.304 and 300.305. As required in 34 CFR §300.304(b), consistent with section 614(b)(2) of the Act, an evaluation must include a variety of assessment tools and strategies and cannot rely on any single procedure as the sole criterion for determining eligibility for special education and related services.” However, if the school district agrees with the parent that the child may be a child who is eligible for special education services, the district must evaluate the child.

It is important to note: The use of RTI strategies cannot be used to delay or deny a full and individual evaluation.

The above is just a brief overview of the law. It is confusing and unfortunately, either deliberately or unintentionally, school districts fail to understand and follow it correctly. If you suspect you or your child is not being provided the services required under the law, you’re best bet is to consult with an education law attorney.Richard Asselta is a special education lawyer and the founder of Asselta Law, PA, located in Florida. Asselta Law concentrates on Education and School Law, as well as Appeals. Mr. Asselta was the attorney for a large public school district. He draws upon the knowledge gained from the other side of the table to work with teachers and students on legal issues in all education settings. Asselta Law represents clients throughout the state of Florida and the United States. Contact us today for a free consultation with a knowledgeable special education lawyer. Credit cards accepted. Affordable payment plans available.