Many district leaders are challenged with developing whole-school, data-driven, prevention-based frameworks for improving learning outcomes for every student. Under the new provisions of ESSA, district leaders are also mandated to build curriculum capacity using a layered continuum of evidence-based practices and systems, to improve outcomes for students in Tiers 2-3 and special education.
Most educators are at least superficially familiar with the term "Response-to-Intervention," or "RTI." Since the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), which prohibits states from requiring school districts to use IQ-achievement discrepancy criteria in the identification of students with specific learning disabilities and encourages the use of Response-to-Intervention, a scientific, research-based approach (Mandlawitz, 2007), "doing RTI" has become a veritable catchphrase in schools and classrooms throughout the country.
Special education used to be a place—sometimes a separate school, more often a classroom down the hall where students labeled as such disappeared for hours at a time, out of sight and out of mind for the typical classroom teacher. That's still sometimes the case, but increasingly, special education is front and center in the regular education classroom, and the population of students with individualized education plans has shifted away from those considered learning disabled.
In more districts than ever, Response-to-Intervention programs are gaining ground, nipping learning problems in the bud and keeping more students out of special education classes when they truly need intervention, which, of course, is the goal.