Practical Advice for RTI-Based SLD Identification

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    As the Director for School Transformation at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), I am very pleased that the nation is moving toward the systemic use of the Response to Intervention (RTI) process and the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework. As more and more districts are moving in this direction, it is necessary to have easily accessible, practical guidance for how to identify a student as eligible for special education in the Specific Learning Disability (SLD) category using RTI as a base for that decision making.

    The RTI Based SLD Identification Toolkit has been launched on the RTI Action Network website. Take a look!

    How useful and usable is the toolkit?

    What needs to be refined?

    What needs to be added?

    Let’s talk!!

    Some Background:
    Coming to a consensus on the best way to identify students as eligible for special education services in the SLD category under IDEA has been a topic of intense debate for decades. Several well-intentioned approaches to clarifying the process of identification, such as IQ discrepancy, inadequate cognitive skills development and addressing ineffective instruction have been used to get the field closer to an approach that satisfies most stakeholders including research community.

    In the early part of the first decade of the 21st century, researchers determined that IQ/Achievement discrepancy is not a valid measure to be used in LD identification. The changes made in the 2004 IDEA reauthorization reenergized the issue and created new options for how to address LD identification using RTI process and the MTSS framework.

    During the past decade, considerable progress has been made in helping to better articulate the nature of SLD and related disorders. Commendable efforts are underway to clarify and define the nature of SLD in schools, at work and in the community.

    More recent attention has been focused on identifying and serving the needs of all students, including those with SLD, in a rapidly changing landscape of common core state standards and their assessment using a MTSS framework. As a result, the education community needs clarity about best practice with regard to meeting the needs of students with SLD and others who struggle with learning in this era of RTI, MTSS, and Common Core State Standards.

    There is urgent need for clarification about best practice in identifying students as eligible for special education service under IDEA in the SLD category within the RTI process and the MTSS framework and in a new and uncharted climate of common core state standards. Add to that the advent of disruptive innovations such as Charter Schools and virtual learning and the need for clarity is clear.

    As a leading voice in the field of Learning Disabilities and LD federal policy, NCLD is well positioned to engage experts, researchers, parents, policy makers and other stakeholders, leading in-depth discussions that will result in clarity regarding best practice and opportunities for action.

    NCLD brought together experts in October 2013, in order to achieve the following objectives:
    • Articulate and share current practice as a way to define challenges and opportunities
    • Develop criteria for a mutually beneficial alternative for how to identify students for special education in the learning disabilities category with a comprehensive evaluation in an RTI, common core standards, post IQ/Achievement world
    • Outline the opportunities and challenges of establishing a new way to identify learning disabilities with a special focus on RTI/MTSS frameworks and common core state standards
    • Identify key actions NCLD should take on this topic to listen, learn and lead to inform our priority areas:
      • School Transformation
      • Policy and Advocacy Impact
      • Parent Empowerment
      • Young Adult Advocacy
    • Develop a best practice toolkit on LD identification, sans IQ/Achievement discrepancy, in the era of RTI/MTSS and common core state standards.

    We are pleased to present the toolkit for your use.
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