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Everything Counts

Is It Time To Drop RtI?

The Fictional Interviewer (FI) visited with XPsych (XP) on Monday, October 8th, 2012.

FI: We haven't heard from you for a while. Where have you been?

XP: I've been right here all along.

FI: Alright then, what do you want to discuss today?

XP: I think it's time to drop RtI.

FI: That's what I would have guessed. Pretty predictable. Why are you always wanting to "drop this" and "drop that?"

XP: As an existentialist, I always have to address that most basic of all questions, "should it even exist?" As a utilitarian, I have to ask, "does it work?" As a humanist, I have to ask, "does it harm humans?" As a lifelong professional educator, I strive for exceptional services for students.

FI: Is this another one of those "throwing out the baby with the bath water" kind of things?

XP: No, it's another one of those "let's quit doing something that everyone knows isn't helping students" kind of things.

FI: Before we go any further, could you explain RtI for those who may not know what it is?

XP: Response to Intervention, commonly known as "RtI," was formally legislated into IDEA by the behaviorists in 2004. It was an effort to save behaviorism, which was basically dead at that point, and to make a lot of money for the behaviorists. The rebellion successfully overthrew the traditional discrepancy-based, processing deficit model, finding it ineffective in assessing and treating students with learning disabilities, if not through research, then through legislation. The RtI solution was to provide [behaviorally-based] interventions for students struggling with academics. The RtI model attempted to incorporate consultation, universal screening, and progress monitoring -- practices which should have already been part of any successful service delivery model. The RtI model looked great on paper but was nearly impossible to implement for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was the mandate for career professionals to throw out all of their core beliefs, philosophies, and practices for what looks to be still another fad. Ultimately, RtI still misdiagnosed learning disabilities under the pretense of providing "three tiers" of data-based instruction and research-based interventions. In spite of RtI's objections to the traditional model's shortcomings in the diagnosis of LD, the RtI model utilized an even less valid method: "the student hasn't responded positively to three tiers of my powerful research-based interventions so there must be something wrong with his or her brain!"

FI: You speak of RtI as if it's past history.

XP: To me, RtI is already dead. It had it's chance and failed.

FI: But RtI is just getting started. It's only been officially going since 2004. That's only eight years.

XP: After eight years, most districts haven't even been able to establish the basics of RtI; many or most of those that have started are failing miserably. Most districts who are trying RtI are awash in chaos and confusion. It is important to mention that the behavioral revolution has been going since the early nineties, at least in California, when the behaviorists legislated the Hughes Bill in 1995.

FI: The Hughes Bill?

XP: The Hughes Bill legislated positive behavior interventions in California schools. The intent of the bill was to mandate positive interventions for students with serious behavior problems -- that is to say, the emphasis was on "positive" and on "serious." The legislation was deemed necessary because the [mis]use of aversive conditioning by behaviorists reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least two students in or around the bay area. However, over time, the intent of the bill has been somehow lost... somehow many either believe or have invented the thought that behaviorism itself has been legislated -- that we must practice behaviorism in the schools not just for the students with the most serious problems -- but for all students. The reader here must understand behaviorism itself has not been mandated. The mandate is, if you are going to choose to use behavioral techniques they must be positive (that is to say, not aversive) -- behaviorism needed to stop killing students, thus, the legislation was passed.

FI: Some districts and schools are making the behaviorally-based RtI work exceptionally well.

XP: That's true, some are. Maybe what, about one to two percent of schools nationwide? Let's give RtI another twenty or thirty years and maybe, by the year 2052, this model will start working better? How many students (and parents and educators) will have to suffer for this big plan to eventually unfold?

FI: RtI provides interventions for students. Are you saying interventions don't help students?

XP: Some interventions work well. For example, a reading teacher teaching a student to read works well. I think most people would agree with that, but a lot of current research-based interventions don't help students.

FI: Please give us an example of an intervention that doesn't help students.

XP: I could probably take a few hours here, but here are just a few. One of the most commonly provided interventions is tutoring. The student falls behind so s/he is given tutoring. The student hates math so what are we going to do to help the student? We're going to give him or her more math! So now, the student doesn't just hate math, they really hate math. Another popular intervention is to provide afterschool programs. We take a student who already hates school and make them stay in school for another three to four hours for more school. So now, they don't just hate school, they really hate school. The same concept holds true for more homework...

FI: But these students have fallen behind and require more schooling, more homework, more education...

XP: Maybe instead of more school, they could receive a higher quality of education when they are in school. Instead of being placed in endless "interventions" designed solely to increase reading or math scores so the school can get out of NCLB's probationary status, the school could, you know, just teach the child to read?

FI: What does the RtI Action Network recommend for interventions?

XP: For K-5 they recommend targeted group interventions (tutoring, small groups); intense, individual instruction (teach the student to read); tiered instruction and intervention in an RtI model (there's a surprise, the RtI Network recommends RtI); and tiered instruction (one of the basic premises of all education: if the student doesn't get it at first, keep trying!).

FI: As you mentioned, RtI has tiers. And not just one tier, not just two tiers, but three tiers! Think about that! Three tiers! THREE TIERS!!!

XP: We've always had three levels in education: prevention, intervention, and postvention. RtI just renamed these steps and then task-analyzed them into some sort of rocket science with so many formulas and procedures a work force of 400 is required to merely begin addressing and implementing them; a consultant or some type of RtI expert typically needs to be hired to come into the district to start training everyone on this, um, new approach.

FI: There are several school districts nationwide that have made RtI highly effective.

XP: Yes, but there are hundreds of thousands of districts that after eight years or so, continue to struggle to implement even the most basic concepts and practices of RtI.

FI: That's probably true. Why is that?

XP: Primarily because the RtI model somehow expects everyone in the district to give up everything they've been doing for their whole careers, and adopt some new philosophy that they know deep down inside is just another fad.

FI: Districts typically assess the needs of their students. Through comprehensive program evaluation and development activities, they have determined RtI is the way to help their students. Then all staff are provided extensive training to make the new program work well.

XP: No, that's not usually the case. Usually someone in the district office says, "Yep, the law says we have to do RtI so we'll do RtI." Everyone on staff is directed to "do RtI." And then when anyone asks, the answer is, "Yep, we do RtI in our district." If districts performed true needs-analysis and comprehensive program evaluation they would most likely find that only slight changes need to occur and the behaviorists shouldn't be allowed to throw out the baby.

FI: But change is necessary. You're the one who's always been calling for revolutionary change in the schools. And now you're, what, backing down? You don't want change any more? You think the old way worked?

XP: The old way didn't work, that's true. But this new way doesn't, um, work either, sorry to say. And I'm still calling for revolutionary change, just not this RtI change the behaviorists came up with -- I wish they would have thought any of this through before they legislated their philosophy.

FI: What doesn't work about RtI?

XP: What does work about RtI?

FI: RtI uses constant progress monitoring. A staff member, often the school psychologist, goes into the classroom and actually observes the student two or three times a week. Then the results of the data are used to help the teacher provide better instruction and provide behavioral interventions.

XP: Yeah, well I'm not gonna do that.

FI: But actually observing the behavior! That's brilliant! You've got to admit it!

XP: Let's do the math here. The psychologist is typically responsible for anywhere from 1000 to 4000 students. Let's say there are fifty students with behavior problems. That's supposed to be what, 150 observations per week? I'm supposed to go into the class and observe? Are you kidding me? That's a lot of freakin' M&Ms! That leaves me no time to do my job.

FI: I don't get it. I thought school psychologists were leaders in this RtI movement.

XP: No, behaviorists, many of whom are school psychologists, came up with all this... let's call them the, uh, leaders -- I'm placing the blame on them. They're the ones who want to stand up in front of the school staff and beg them to start doing things their way... they're the ones who want to take their clipboard and M&Ms into the classroom... they're the ones who want to dole

out the happy faces and sad faces, they're the ones who feel comfortable going into the class and telling teachers how to teach.

FI: But high-quality teaching is an important concept of RtI, isn't it?

XP: If I'm a teacher and some shrink marches into my room and starts trying to tell me how to teach, that shrink will be lucky to get out of my room alive.

FI: Many school psychologists, in efforts to help students improve their academics and schools improve their test scores, are even teaching reading, writing, and math.

XP: Well I'm not gonna do that either. I'm a professional school psychologist, not a reading teacher. I have full professional trust that the reading teacher will be able to effectively teach reading -- if s/he was just allowed to.

FI: Help me understand. It seems to me that the new breed of school psychologists are teaching reading and passing out M&Ms, you know, reinforcing students' positive behaviors and helping schools improve their test scores...

XP: Unfortunately you are correct. Many new school psychologists, just like new administrators and so many others, are buying their degrees on the internet or graduating from diploma mills. They learn to follow students around and pass out M&Ms, say "nice job!," and give out happy faces. Many new school psychologists are former teachers... they, in their new role, just continue to teach reading or math while getting a little bump in pay... they defend this practice by stating they are promoting academic achievement, which always has been one of the primary roles of school psychologists... they have taken the "psychologist" out of "school psychologist." This new breed of school psychologist basically signals the end of the profession in my opinion -- they're not doing anything different than what any other staff member could do. Teachers can pass out M&Ms... reading teachers can teach reading.

FI: How can you argue against research-based interventions? Isn't it great that RtI uses actual research in their model? Come on, you're a scientist... you have to at least accept this aspect of RtI.

XP: It is true that research and data are important as we practice the arts and sciences of our profession, but so far they've come up with what, twelve research-based interventions? It's pathetic. There are a million ways to help students and I'm talking about the whole child -- not just reading, writing, and math scores. What about the whole child -- you know, the humanism.

FI: Okay, let's go to What Works Clearinghouse. We'll click on the link for student behavior. Ahah! Sixty-eight results... there are 68 research-based interventions that work with children with behavior difficulties.

XP: I'll accept your challenge. Let's just take a quick look at these magical 68 interventions. On page one we see a study to enhance special education for students with ADHD using a daily report card. Aaaaargh! What else? How to teach reading... use of play... better schools, less crime... the incredible years. I can't go on. The interested reader can check out these valuable research-based interventions on their own time. Good luck with that.

FI: I don't know about your humanism... is that something like communism? I do know that all schools care about in this day and age are their reading, writing, and math test scores.

XP: I know.

FI: The RtI movement has big plans for expansion. RtI will continue to grow. You know, there's a lot of money to be made. What about RtI's efforts to move into higher education? What about RtI's efforts to become the sole philosophy in the K-12 school through PBIS?

XP: I'm glad I'll be able to retire one of these days to get away from this constant barrage. Let's go back to the RtI Action Network for a second. In this blog entry, entitled, "The Next Frontier: Rolling Out RtI Curriculum in Higher Education," here's what others had to say:

"Given the extraordinary uncertainty and lack of trustworthy empiric data about the role of RTI in the identification and remediation of LDs, the field is left with the question: 'Is RTI the answer to the search for the most effective strategy for the early identification and accurate diagnosis of a reading disability and for providing effective reading instruction and timely intervention services? Or is RTI more of Trojan horse, outwardly appealing but filled with risky, unproven, and in the end, potentially harmful practices, or is it somewhere in between?' (Shaywitz, 2008, p. xiii). The current rush to RTI sans an evidence base may mean that a 'wait to fail model' (the catchy characterization of the severe discrepancy model) is now being replaced by a 'watch them fail' model known as RTI. We believe the best interests of potential LD students will be served when identification and intervention are guided by the evidence and not an anecdote, and that all children, including bright students, receive equal opportunity for identification, remediation, and accommodation."

Posted By: [email protected] on July 12, 2009 1:51 PM

"Such rhetoric reminds me of the days of early behaviorism when the purpose was to spread the 'idea' and required everyone to be 'on-board', no other ideas was as valid, etc. etc. Similar trends were found in mastery assessments and other paradigms in education, which is traditionally vulnerable to fadisms. Hopefully, with enough experience and knowledge, the field and its practitioners will find a more balanced perspective."

Posted By: Response to Fanatic Ideology on July 11, 2009 4:24 PM

FI: Talk more about RtI's role in the identification of learning disabilities.

XP: Believe it or not, there's a lot about RtI I actually could have liked. I mean, who would ever be against providing interventions for students? I'm all for interventions that work. And of course science, research, and data can have benefits when used appropriately. And there are some effective behavioral strategies just as there are so many effective strategies from every school of thought. There's a lot to like on the surface with RtI. I have to tell you that initially I was onboard with the RtI movement, but then, as the details emerged, especially as it relates to the identification of LD -- and the fact that RtI is impossible to implement -- I had to step away. I had to speak out. In sum, the RtI movement had an important choice to make: a) it could address issues through the use of behavioral interventions and leave it at that, or b) it could call students disabled if the student did not respond positively to their M&Ms. Unfortunately, the RtI movement chose b.

FI: I still don't get how anyone in their right mind wouldn't love this new RtI fad, baby! Tell us again, what exactly don't you love about RtI?

XP: To summarize, it'll never work -- it looks great on paper but for a million reasons, it'll just never work.

"Education works when a student and educator work cooperatively toward a goal."

Donald J. Asbridge, Ed.S., 1995

FI: Explain more about the identification of LD, or in your words, RtI's misidentification of LD.

XP: For the past forty or so years, ever since special education and learning disabilities were invented thorugh PL 94-142, there has been a cognitive definition of LD. There was an assessment process IEP teams used to determine if a student was learning disabled. The cognitivists were making a lot of money. The behaviorists for the most part proved the discrepancy model was a flawed model. Then, the behaviorists came up with their own model to identify LD. That model (RtI), as we have been discussing, identifies a student with LD if s/he hasn't responded positively to not just one, not just two, but three tiers of interventions. In sum, the behaviorists use less valid measures than the cognitivists... the behaviorists use benchmarks, grades, and observations (what they call "multiple measures") to ascertain that something must be wrong with the child's brain! Ultimately these divergent views (cognitivists vs. behaviorists) persist from the ongoing wars between the various schools of thought in psychology. The interested reader might take a moment to review the cognitivists' and the behaviorists' views related to the identification of LD:

Cognitivists' White Paper (Learning Disabilities Association of America):

Behaviorists' Response to LDA (The Consortium for Evidence-Based Early Intervention Practices):

NASP Position Paper on Right Without Labels:

FI: What school of thought are you from?

XP: That's kind of a difficult question to briefly answer -- the short answer is RWOL. In the context of this discussion, I'm primarily a reciprocal determinist. I feel we must account for the whole child in our service delivery. We need to account for cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral aspects as they occur within a given environment. Behaviorists seemingly only want to account for behavior within the environment; cognitivists seem to only want to account for cognitions. I think everything counts. As a social scientist, I am skeptical and always remember to forward the null hypothesis and as a scientific-practitioner, I utilize the scientific method, even though the social sciences are pretty soft sometimes. I am skeptical that a student has something wrong with their brain (i.e., they have a learning disability) just because they didn't complete their homework; I am skeptical that a student has something wrong with their brain just because the scatter on their IQ test revealed a relative weakness in, let's say, Digit Span. The obvious null hypothesis that I hardly ever hear social scientists forward is, "what if there is no such thing as a learning disability?" It doesn't really matter what process, procedure, or program you use to measure it if it is an invalid construct to begin with.

"Strange game Professor Faulken, the only way to win is not to play at all."

War Games, 1983

FI: But RtI schools hold three meetings to address concerns. At those meetings the principal directs teachers and others to provide interventions. Under RtI, they don't just throw students into special education like they used to, at least not until they've had three meetings.

XP: Yeah, that's the way it works alright. Everyone seems to have his or her own ideas about how the "three-meeting rule" should work. Most districts have a meeting and tell the teacher to "try this or that" (small group instruction, twenty minutes per day) and we'll have another meeting in two months and see how Jimmy has done. If he hasn't responded to the intervention, he'll move to tier 2 and we'll recommend another intervention (sit in front of the room) to be monitored and if he doesn't respond then, there might be something wrong with his brain... maybe we'll need to consider special education (tier 3) then. The teacher reports back in two months and says, "Yep, I tried that intervention and I monitored his progress -- you can see his benchmark score is still low -- obviously Jimmy still can't read and not only that, but he got another referral... I think he needs special education."

FI: You cannot forget about universal screening! RtI screens all students to ascertain their reading fluency levels and assigns the appropriate intervention. Correct me if I'm wrong but don't you have a universal screener and progress monitor you offer on your webpage?

XP: Yes I offer both. The intent of both is to show how easy this all could be -- it isn't rocket science, we don't have to change everything we're doing! The progress monitor would take a teacher a few moments a day to appropriately address, track, and intervene to solve a targeted behavior or concern. My universal screener addresses the whole child -- not just reading, writing, and math performance like almost every other screener and mine is actually research-based. Instead of a universal screener, most schools merely develop a "hot list," identifying and targeting students who are academically "at risk." Many schools only provide a one-minute GWB scandal-ridden DIBELS probe to monitor progress ("Yep, the student's still low -- more interventions -- time to move to tier 2").

FI: You seem to forget RtI is required by law.

XP: RtI is allowed by law but it is not required by law. There are many special education service delivery models, RtI is just one of them.

FI: If not RtI, then what would you recommend?


FI: What's ARWOL?

XP: That's Asbridge's version of Rights Without Labels.

FI: I can't wait to hear about this...

XP: Let's talk more about RtI.

FI: What's there to talk about? Apparently you stubbornly don't like RtI even though it's the current educational fad. Even though it doesn't work, that's the current model used by thousands, probably most districts in the country, to identify students with learning disabilities. It's a model developed by behaviorists so they can diagnose an invented cognitive disorder through a classroom observation, M&Ms, and not just one, not two, but three tiers of interventions. Don't you know behaviorism was dead until RtI was invented and the behaviorists legislated their philosophy, insuring job security for them? A lot of behaviorists are making a lot of money off RtI -- if you don't believe me, search the job duties/descriptions for psychologists on EdJoin... most of the jobs require some sort of a behavioral emphasis or certification so that the district can implement their new RtI model. Most jobs require some degree of behavioral knowledge, experience, or training to provide some sort of behavioral approach in the district. Although there are a few districts in the nation that are making RtI work, most continue to struggle with the implementation of this impossible model -- that's why so many behaviorists are needed.

XP: You're right, there's probably not much more more to talk about.

FI: As we begin to wrap this up, what is this ARWOL? Is that even legal?

XP: Yes it's legal. Here's the law (with my comments included in italics):


A state must adopt, consistent with 34 CFR 300.309, criteria for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10). In addition, the criteria adopted by the State:

• Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10). I'm not a lawyer, but here's what this means to me: You don't have to use the discrepancy model, but you can if you want.

• Must permit the use of a process based on the child's response to scientific, research based intervention; and... I'm not a lawyer but here's what this means to me: You can use RtI if you want, but you don't have to.

• Must permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined by 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10). I'm not a lawyer, but here's what this means to me: Other options, and there are many, including noncategorical approaches, can be used.

FI: Okay, so you can play your little games with labels. I think you're over-reacting. Who cares if we have to call a student disabled in order for the kid to receive extra help with reading? You know the bottom line is we have to indicate a condition in order to receive special education funding.

XP: Well I care, but more importantly, the student cares. The student and his/her parents will go through the rest of their lives thinking there is something wrong with the child's brain.

FI: I just don't care.

XP: I know.

FI: Well, certainly, with all due respect... you must be the only person in the world who holds these views.

XP: Actually, I think you would be surprised. I would encourage you to do your homework. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has a position paper on RWOL. Kevin P. Dwyer, describes this issue as a national crisis and calls for RWOL. Even APA Humanists (read Miss Diagnosis) are calling for new ways to assess and treat real-life difficulties, rather than pretending there is some sort of a medical condition or disability. There exists much research describing the harmful effects of receiving a misdiagnosis. There are many websites (many located in the sidebar and in the links section of that speak out on this issue... just follow the links. There is a groundswell of rebellion if you just look for it. It's me and, well, millions of others. I encourage you not to write all this off as tin hat.

FI: Look, I'm a shrink. When someone doesn't agree with me I just call them crazy. That's what I do.

XP: I know, and the masses are getting tired of it. I know I am too.

FI: So let me try to understand how you conceptualize this, what do you call it, ARWOL?

XP: If a student is struggling with reading, then lets give them help with reading. It's that simple.

FI: But what about those students with learning disabilities?

XP: There is no such thing as a learning disability.

FI: Yes there is. Here's the definition:

"Specific Learning Disability (SLD) is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage."

XP: You're right. That's the government's definition, invented for funding purposes, just like so many other labels.

FI: But it talks about processing deficits. Come on, you're a psychologist... a processing deficit has to be found in order for a learning disability to be identified.

XP: Not under the new RtI system. As it relates to the definition, everyone has processing deficits, you know, everyone possesses individual strengths and weaknesses that show up on tests. Psychologists call it scatter. That means everyone could be identified as having a learning disability using the traditional discrepancy, processing-deficit model if you just gave enough tests. No one is a perfect information processor. The behaviorists have identified how flawed that model is -- that's one of the primary reasons the move toward RtI was made. The old way of identifying LD just didn't work. Haven't you been listening?

FI: So basically you're agreeing with the move to RtI? You admit the old way didn't work?

XP: No.

FI: I'm still confused. Either you're for RtI or you're for the traditional model. Which is it?

XP: People always assume that. I agree the old way didn't work, but the new way isn't working either. Here's a multiple-choice question I posed to my graduate level class. What's your answer?

1. If Program A doesn't work and Program B doesn't work, then we should:

a. Use Program A

b. Use Program B

c, Use a Program that works

FI: So you're saying the old way didn't work and the new way doesn't work?

XP: That's right... "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

FI: Hand-in-hand with NCLB, RtI has thrown out the normal curve.

XP: You're saying that's a good thing?

FI: So really what you're saying is to drop learning disabilities, right? You want to disinvent learning disabilities?

XP: Right.

FI: What would a special education classroom for students look like to you?

XP: Well, first of all, I don't know why a class is even needed, but if you feel like you must have a class, then take the 28 lowest performing students in the school and provide them academic help. No need for a bunch of tests... no need for invented disabilities... no need to call the students a bunch of bad names. Just take the names from the school's hot list. This would provide a lot of extra time for the school psychologist to help students with real-life problems.

FI: Wow.

XP: Alright, I know this is difficult for you. I understand if you don't listen to me, but will you listen to Kevin P. Dwyer, NASP Past President?

"Rights Without Labels:" Words or Actions?...

by Kevin P. Dwyer, NCSP, Past NASP President and recipient of the NASP Lifetime Achievement Award, in the November, 2006 NASP Communiqué (page 36): "Rights Without Labels cannot be just a position paper. It must be a living, working, ethical document shaping the practice of school psychology... Together, nationally, and in each state and community, we need permanent structures to evaluate ourselves and our work to ensure improved outcomes for all... We have a national crisis... Who among us will move to instituting 'Rights Without Labels'?" 

FI: If districts didn't identify LD, would jobs be lost?

XP: No.

FI: I don't believe you. I think jobs would be lost. Who would be there to invent disabilities?

XP: You know, RtI only addresses learning disabilities. RtI doesn't apply to the rest of the IDEA categories.

FI: What?

XP: Let me explain. If a student is struggling with reading, then s/he is put through the predictable sequence of interventions, almost always culminating in the LD diagnosis. But let's say a student with a vision impairment enrolls in the school. The district doesn't say, "gosh, this student isn't reading, let's enroll him/her in our two-hour afterschool intervention program," they say, "gosh, we suspect a vision impairment, let's refer for comprehensive IEP team assessment to determine if s/he might be eligible for, and require, special education due to a vision impairment."

FI: Okay, I'm starting to get it. RtI only applies to learning disabilities, which don't even really exist.

XP: That's right.

FI: Why are schools changing everything they do when all we are really talking about is LD?

XP: That's a great question.

FI: And more schooling isn't always better. Like you say, sometimes, "Less is more."

XP: There is something to be said for a quality education.

FI: And calling students horrible names like disabled, disturbed, impaired, retarded, disordered, etc. really isn't polite, especially if the student doesn't even have a disability.

XP: So true.

FI: And an approach like ARWOL is completely legal?

XP: Yes, in fact, I think a lot of districts have defaulted to this approach. They realized the old model wasn't working so they went with the new RtI and now, after eight years, they've realized RtI is impossible to implement so now they just keep providing intervention after intervention, hoping something will help -- you know, the shotgun approach. Many kids stay in school until 6 p.m. every evening receiving interventions. At the very least, the school keeps trying to get their test scores up.

FI: So are you proposing that nothing be done to help students?

XP: No, I'm proposing that everything be done to help students.

FI: Please explain.

XP: Keep providing quality interventions for students. That's why we all got into education, to help students. And keep testing students as appropriate... tests can provide valuable information to provide great recommendations for students. Just quit calling them "learning disabled." There are a million other ways to help students too.

FI: Gee whiz. You're saying a lot of what's happened in special education ever since it was invented with PL 94-142 is, well, not working? Invalid even?

XP: Yes, that's what I'm saying, at least with the identification of learning disabilities.

FI: You keep saying the same thing over and over.

XP: You keep asking the same question over and over.

FI: Be truthful here. this is really about you not liking behaviorists, right? Come on, admit it.

XP: Some of my best friends are behaviorists... they're just trying to help.

FI: One final thing just to be clear. You do admit we, the schools, the community, society in general, have to take immediate control of childrens' behavior from day one. We need sad faces, quiet tables, detentions, referrals, suspensions, and expulsions... the only way for these children to learn is through swift and immediate consequences -- you know, punishment. We need the paddle. Many of these students will need community service, probation, jail, and eventually incarceration if they don't comply with my behavioral expectations. Already we see almost twenty percent of children diagnosed with some educational or mental health condition and what percent of the population needs to be in the pen to support the economy?

XP: Gee, I'm not sure you've been listening.

FI: Well, I admit you got me thinking but I still haven't made up my mind.

XP: Thinking is good. Keep thinking...

FI: Hah! You almost got me... as a behaviorist I don't think humans think! Good one, though. We want to thank you for your time.

​XP: You're welcome.

UPDATE (Wednesday, November 11th, 2015): Education Week finally stepped up to the plate! Who will be next?t

UPDATE from Miss D (Thursday, July 25th, 2019): Nothing has really changed since this article was written. Some districts use RtI, some use the discrepancy model. Some are going with approaches measuring PSW (Patterns of Strengths and Weaknesses - or intraindividual difference). Some are trying a combination of PBIS/MTSS/SEL/RtI (the shotgun approach). Special interest groups have passed legislation mandating assessments for dyslexia (whatever that is). Others have hired MFTs and MSWs to use a DSM/psychiatric approach. There are some districts out there who have hired their best friend crack neuropsychs to give a test and infer the child can't pay attention due to some abnormality in their cerebral cortex or something. Everyone is spending all day long trying to find reliable and valid ways to measure this invented legal construct called SLD. It's more than just a philosophical difference... it's a national catastrophe disabling a significant percent of our population.


Time to Drop RtI © 2012-19. Donald J. Asbridge, Ed.S. Bakersfield, California USA Some rights reserved.