Getting the RTI and IEP Processes Working Takes an Informed, Empowered and Proactive Parent
If your child is in a public or charter school, your child might be in the Response to Intervention or RTI Process and they might qualified for an Individualized Education Plan or IEP that provides both accommodations and special education services.
This article has several purposes including:
- Helping you to understand what RTI is, what it is not, and how you can help your child to either succeed or to get an IEP in a timely and effective manner. How to avoid the RTI Trap – where students too often get stuck in the early phases of RTI for a long period of time
- How to get the right plan for your child and maximize the chances of achieving the goals that are set.
- In an article in our next newsletter we will discuss 504 Plans that provide accommodations for conditions like ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity
We commend the schools that do these processes well. We know that far too many schools do these processes in a way that is not in the best interest of the child and therefore it requires informed, empowered and proactive parents to make the difference.
- Tier 1 – every student starts in this Tier. This is where the regular teacher tries different approaches and tracks the data. If the student is not moving towards grade level, the student should be moved to Tier 2 within 4 to 6 weeks.
- Tier 2 – another teacher often comes into the room to try new interventions and track results. There is no clear definition of how long this process should take.
- Tier 3 – is often a pullout program where a teacher takes a few student out of the room for more intensive intervention.
5 risks with the RTI process are:
- Students are often stuck in Tier 1 for months and sometimes years.
- Schools often do not share the data with parents on a regular basis and parents often feel they are in the dark.
- Parents often request an evaluation for special education services and are told that the schools will wait until the RTI Process is completed.
- Schools often do not have a defined process for how the RTI Process should work, so different schools may approach it differently.
- There are no specifications for parents to hold schools to – so one needs to rely on your ability to be a constructive and effective advocate for your child.
The Individualized Education Plan Process is slightly better documented, but with the reliance on the RTI Process and a consistently inconsistent process. Parents have the following challenges:
- You must aggressively and effectively move your child through the RTI Process – if they get back to grade level, great; if not, you need to move towards a Special Education evaluation.
- Schools are required to read reports from outside psychologists or other professionals, but they are not required to follow their recommendations.
- The process is very difficult for only one parent to navigate; it is much easier when both parents are involved and it often helps to have an effective advocate.
- When you bring a special education lawyer, the other side will inevitably bring their lawyer – this can work in districts like Palm Beach, where the District’s legal staff has consistently worked with others, but it may not work elsewhere.
- Schools too often rely on reading fluency or grades to determine a child’s skill level, especially with the new Common Core or Florida State Standards. Reading comprehension is often the key area where a child is struggling and neither fluency (i.e. how well a child reads out loud) or grades are a good surrogate for a solid reading comprehension evaluation.
- When you get Special Education services, an Individualized Education Plan is written, but the goals are often weak at best. Too often there is not a good reading comprehension assessment, a reading comprehension goal to get your child back to grade level, or a solid plan to make it happen.
- Parents do their very best, but are often frustrated with the outcome.
How can you be a Make The Difference Parent who does the very best for your child?
We have 7 recommendations:
- Insist upon regular updates as your child goes through the RTI Process – every 30 days might be right.
- Ask the person at the school who is in charge of the process how they make decisions on when to move a child to the next level – schools often require 6 to 8 data points, and this should take 6 to 8 weeks.
- Make sure your child is moving through the process if she/he is not moving towards grade level. Sometimes schools will say your child is making some progress, so they will not move your child to the next tier – the litmus test is whether your child is moving towards grade level — and minimal gains will often leave your child far short of the process.
- If you suspect your child is entering Tier 2 and it looks like your child will need Special Education services, request a Special Education Evaluation in writing. Federal law requires evaluations be completed within 60 calendar days and starting July 1, Florida has the same law – but summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays do not count.
- In your letter, do the following:
- Say that you want your child evaluated for special education services and that you want your child assessed for _____. We often recommend a Learning Disabilit, and ADHD, where appropriate
- Attach a letter from the Federal Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) that clearly states that RTI cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation
- Tell the school you are giving them your informed consent to evaluate your child – since that triggers the 60 days.
- If you have a recent evaluation for your child – include it, and it is even better if you include a recent evaluation of your child’s reading comprehension..
A sample letter and the letter from OSEP are available at our RTI Trap webpage
6. Always have two people there on your side. For single parents, bring a friend or advocate. For married parents, make sure both parents come and do not hesitate to postpone the meeting if one parent cannot make it. If you choose to bring an advocate, bring an effective and collaborative advocate.
7- If you are not satisfied with the process, do not hesitate to walk the issue up the chain of command. The principals is the key person at the school. If you are still not satisfied, we have found that the District Special Education Department can often be an ally in moving the process along the right path.