Response to intervention (RTI) is used as a prerequisite to referring children for special education eligibility for learning disabilities (LD). RTI provides schools with a framework for helping students with learning challenges. In the United States, while the number of students receiving services through RTI has remained consistent, the overall number of students receiving some educational intervention through an alternate path has increased. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence that the RTI model had upon eligibility numbers in a large special education co-operative spanning 21 rural school districts in southern Illinois that represented 15,128 students. Each of the school districts maintained its own policies and procedures governing RTI implementation, special education referral, and special education eligibility. The study revealed that while the number of students with LD dropped significantly over the past decade, the numbers of children eligible for other disability categories increased in a similar proportion. This changing trend may be the result of several factors including changes in school district policy, parent advocates pressing for quicker paths to treatment, treatment providers shifting categories for a wide variety of reasons, or some yet unknown factor. These possible explanations suggest that family issues, time, finances, and procedural dynamics may play a role in the changing categorizations and should be better understood. Future studies should focus on the inclusion of more culturally and economically diverse students, within and outside the Unites States. Last, school district policies and RTI implementation procedures should be investigated to better uncover any potential relationship to this shifting data trend.
Raben, K., Brogan, J. R., Dunham, M., & Bloomdahl, S. (2019) Response to Intervention (RTI) and Changes in Special Education Categorization. Exceptionality Education International, 29, 59-71. Retrieved from https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/eei/vol29/iss2/4