The Impact of RTI on Timely Identification of Students With Specific Learning Disabilities


  • Tina Marlene Hudson East Tennessee State University
  • Robert G. McKenzie University of Kentucky



Response to Intervention (RTI), specific learning disability, identification, evaluation, variability, district directors of special education


Response to Intervention (RTI) has become the gateway to identification for many students with specific learning disabilities. Those include students in the 17 states that require RTI as the source of eligibility data as well as many students in the 33 states that allow districts to choose RTI among other options (e.g., discrepancy). There is concern that the use of RTI may infringe on due-process protections and child-find responsibilities. Specifically, the number of days students must remain in RTI may delay their referral for comprehensive evaluation and, hence, potential eligibility for special education. In the present study, the authors surveyed District Directors of Special Education in selected states to determine whether guidelines or policies were present to govern referrals for a comprehensive evaluation and how long a student may remain in RTI tiers before referral or eligibility determination. The extent to which districts permit individual schools to enact their own policies was also investigated. Results indicate that (a) RTI is often used to identify specific learning disabilities without clear guidelines, (b) many aspects of RTI are implemented without being communicated within state and district administrative levels, and (c) RTI is the required specific learning disability assessment determinant in a significant percentage of districts in states that allow that choice. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Author Biographies

Tina Marlene Hudson, East Tennessee State University

Tina M. Hudson, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at East Tennessee State University in the Department of Educational Foundations and Special Education.

Robert G. McKenzie, University of Kentucky

Robert G. McKenzie, Ph.D., is a Professor of Special Education at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Early Childhood, Special Education, and Rehabilitation Counseling.