A Model for RTI in Pre-K: Recognition and Response

Support for RTI and the concept of early intervening can be found in the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Furthermore, a research synthesis conducted on 14 studies by the FPG Child Development Institute concluded that there is an emerging body of empirical evidence to support claims of the effectiveness of RTI. The findings suggested that RTI is effective for identifying children at risk for learning disabilities and for providing specialized interventions, either to ameliorate or to prevent the occurrence of learning disabilities.

Some elements of the RTI model, such as the problem-solving process to solve practical dilemmas or an intervention hierarchy or teaching pyramid to address children’s social-emotional development, already exist in the early childhood field.

Approaches to RTI on the pre-K level, such as Recognition & Response, build on this in important ways by:

  • recognizing children with learning difficulties prior to referral rather than focusing exclusively on those with identified disabilities,
  • helping teachers support children’s academic learning as well as their social-emotional development, and
  • incorporating other essential elements from RTI, thereby linking early intervening prior to kindergarten with existing programming for school-age children.

What Is Recognition & Response?

The Recognition and Response Project is developing a multi-tier model for use with 3 to 5 year-olds in pre-kindergarten settings (e.g., child care, Head Start, preschool, public pre-k). Recognition & Response is a translation of the Response to Intervention (RTI) model designed for school-age students. Recognition and Response is designed to help early childhood teachers and parents recognize children who show signs of learning difficulty and respond in ways that help them experience early school success. It consists of four components:

  1. screening, assessment, and progress monitoring (recognition),
  2. research-based curriculum and instruction for all children and validated interventions for individual children who need additional supports (response),
  3. an intervention hierarchy, and
  4. a collaborative problem-solving process that involves teachers, specialists, and parents.

The conceptual framework for the Recognition and Response system was developed by the University of North Carolina's FPG Child Development Institute in collaboration with the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Communication Consortium Media Center, and key state partners in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and New Jersey.

Recognition & Response is an emerging practice in early childhood. As we strive to develop a scientific knowledge base about its effectiveness for young children 3 to 5 years of age, it is critically important to consider other sources of evidence such as the field’s collective wisdom and values as well as research on the effectiveness of RTI — the basis for Recognition & Response.

A number of features of the proposed Recognition & Response system make it developmentally appropriate for use with children as young as 3 or 4 years of age. For example, there is limited reliance on formal diagnosis and labeling. The overarching goal of Recognition & Response is for teachers to use assessment as part of an integrated instructional system to make improvements in the general early childhood program and to plan focused interventions for individual children who require additional supports.

The table below illustrates how the core principles of RTI relate to core early childhood beliefs and practices in conjunction with Recognition & Response. Furthermore, Recognition & Response is consistent with practice guidelines and program standards endorsed by the early childhood field, such as National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Early Childhood Program Standards, Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices, Head Start Program Performance Standards and Head Start Child Outcomes Framework.
It is important that new practices being established for the early childhood field are anchored in existing practices such as RTI, which is supported by an emerging body of empirical evidence and by growing consensus from the education field. At the same time, in developing an early intervening system that is tailored to the unique needs of very young children, the early childhood field can offer important contributions. These include an emphasis on collaborating with parents and specialists, planning smooth transitions to kindergarten, and implementing professional development to support systemic change.

This article was originally published by, copyright © 2007-2008 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Back To Top