OLR Research Report

January 17, 2007




By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked several questions about Response to Intervention plans. Questions and answers are listed below.

What is Response to Intervention (RtI)? What is its purpose and history?

Response to Intervention is a method of evaluating how children respond to instruction or evidence-based intervention in order to make decisions about their educational needs and eligibility for special education or other educational services. RtI is used as a universal screening method primarily to identify children with learning disabilities and to refer those who do not respond to intensive intervention in the regular education setting to special education. It can be used instead of, or in conjunction with, “discrepancy model” methods that use severe discrepancies between a child's IQ and his educational achievement to identify learning disabilities.

RtI was developed starting in the late 1970s by numerous researchers seeking a method of identifying learning disabilities that avoids the problems of the discrepancy model. Unlike the discrepancy model, RtI allows for early and intensive interventions in the regular education setting based on a student's learning characteristics before any referral to special education. The benefit of RtI, according to the Council for Exceptional Children, is that children do not have to “wait to fail” before they receive help.

RtI was recognized in the 2004 reauthorization of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as one option that school districts can use to identify students with learning disabilities. The federal law states:

. . .When determining whether a child has a specific learning disability as defined in 602 (29), a local educational agency shall not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning.

In determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, a local educational agency may use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention as part of the evaluation procedures. . .( P.L. 108-446 614(b)(6).

How does Response to Intervention relate to special education?

RtI can be used to identify students with specific learning disabilities that require special education and related services.

Is Response to Intervention recognized in Connecticut as the best practice?

RtI has been used in Connecticut for identifying children with specific learning disabilities for several years, according to Terry DeFrancis, an attorney of the State Department of Education's Bureau of Special Education (SDE). The practice, though not the name, is recognized in the SDE's 1999 guidelines for identifying children with specific learning disabilities. The SDE is currently studying whether to establish RtI as a best practice using an internal working group with input from an advisory group of stakeholders. We attach a September 12, 2006 letter from the Special Education Bureau's interim director, Nancy Cappiello, to Special Education directors that gives background on RtI in Connecticut and summarizes the department's plans to offer professional development in RtI.

If it is appropriate, is Response to Intervention best implemented with adoption of a written plan? If so, should the plan be district-wide or student-based? If a written plan is not used, how would RtI normally be implemented?

RtI is based on universal screening for all students with progressively more intensive interventions for students who do are not doing well. Thus, the process involves various levels of written plans, some of which may be district-wide and some of which may be for individual students. As part of its RtI website (, the SDE's Special Education Resource Center offers suggestions for key features of RtI written plans.

What, if any materials, model plans, or state regulations does the State Department of Education have in place regarding RtI?

In addition to the activities described in the attached letter and the information available on SERC's RtI website, the state is currently working to develop plans and procedures for how to use RtI in special education eligibility decisions, according to Peri Murdica, an SDE consultant.