• RtI and SLD: Special Education and Alphabet Soup in our Schools

    Wisconsin’s rule for identifying students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) has changed. As of December 1, 2013, all initial SLD evaluations of public school students will use information from interventions to make decisions about eligibility for special education.

    If you have a child in school, you have heard of “Camps”, What I Need (WIN) time or Viking Hour. Each of these is the time set aside each day to provide interventions to those at, above or below grade level in reading or math.    Students are identified for intervention time using at least three sources of data. This may include state mandated assessments, district screening assessments, classroom based assessments and observations from classroom teachers.

    Students identified below grade level are assigned interventions that work to decrease gaps in learning from where they are to where they need to be. For those above grade level, opportunities for extensions of learning may be provided. Educating those students that are gifted is not a part of the new rules for identifying students with specific learning disabilities. The average student is provided a variety of opportunity for additional practice of skills.

    Mount Horeb Schools uses a three tier model for RtI. Tier One, often called Universal, provides instruction and differentiation of instruction that should meet the needs of 80-85 percent of our students. 

    Tier Two, provides Targeted Interventions that should meet the needs of five to 15 percent of our students. A student may need to have additional instruction that exceeds what can be provided within the usual instructional time provided for reading, math and/or written language. Interventions used may include, but not limited to, such tools as I-Ready, Read 180, Leveled Literacy Intervention or Success Maker. There must be additional, supplemental instruction provided.   Data needs to be tracked at regular intervals to determine if the student is closing the gap between where they began and grade level peers. 

    Tier Three, provides Intensive Interventions that must be research or evidence based practices that provide supplemental instruction that may meet the needs of the remaining one to five percent of students with instructional delays. Intensive interventions include the above interventions provided in smaller groups or additional minutes of instruction. Or it may include a new research or evidence based intervention that targets a discrete skill or small set of skills. Observations of the interventions to ensure it is provided as research indicates is necessary to make gains are completed regularly. Weekly progress monitoring in the form of probes are completed. These are brief assessments that look for gains in things like calculation or reading fluency and take less than a couple of minutes.

    As the name implies, Response to Intervention is about looking at where students are performing on a specific skill and providing supplemental instruction and monitor if it is working or not. If it is not working, we want to be able to change the instruction to better meet student needs. When a student struggles, we want to intervene earlier and in a systematic manner. By doing this we can help students be more successful in school.  Only when we have tried at least two interventions that have not been effective in closing gaps should we consider whether it is a specific learning disability. 

    Specific learning disabilities include medical diagnosis such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and non-verbal learning disabilities. These are medical diagnosis, not educational terms. To qualify for special education, even with such a medical diagnosis, you must meet educational criteria set by the United Stated Department of Education. Not all children with a diagnosis meet educational criteria.  Educational criteria includes more than test scores. It is about how a student, when given intensive interventions responds. It is about fidelity of instruction and response over time. 

    RtI applies to more than academic areas, but also to behavior. For the purpose of this article, we are informing the members of our community and parents of students in the Mount Horeb Area School District that RtI will be used to determine eligibility in special education as a student with a specific learning disability.

    For more information, contact your child’s building Principal or the district’s Director of Student Services, Theresa G. Daane at (608)437-2400 extension 1216.