RTI and TIER 3 – Yesterday’s Special Education?

In the popular press stories review the successes of response to intervention in helping “struggling children” in American schools.  A close look at such reports indicates not much is said about Tier 3. 

Tier 3 brings in “specialists” but who they are, exactly, is not typically stated.  The children in Tier 3 are not in special education but might be.  It appears they are given interventions by special education and related services personnel (speech therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, recreation therapists) who cross the line into general education in this special way.

Solving the problems of Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction duplicates partly Title 1 programs, and this territory is familiar to teachers.  But this curious hybrid creature called Tier 3 gets little attention.

Girl Scouts Marching on Main Street.

At the same time there is no mention of how Tier 3 assessments and decisions will reduce the number of non-disabled minority children who often are placed in special education.

Old habits die hard.  Will non-disabled minority children be segregated in Tier 3 without FAPE protection?

RTI is exciting these days, but it masks the continuing problem of troublesome at-risk children being moved out of the classroom down the slippery slop toward special education placement.  Pressure comes from regular classroom teachers who, while sincere, do not want “hard-to-teach” children to deal with.  Their bias favors compliant female students who are able to stay on grade level.  Minority boys are more likely to arrive at Tier 3 for the special procedures.

Without an exact accounting of Tier 3, RTI is a  two-legged stool.

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