Bob Sullo

Consultant K - 12

Sandwich, MA


  • Posted 8 Years ago
  • 1.7k

"RTI for Tots:" Blaming the Victim?

Education Week just published an article today that I found frightening: “Response to Intervention for Tots.”  It’s not simply the content that’s scary – more about that in a moment. It’s the fact that the following highly respected organizations are collaborating on a joint position statement: The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Early Childhood, and the National Head Start Association. These three prestigious organizations are contemplating bring response to intervention to preschoolers!

“Response to Intervention.” Talk about “blaming the victim.” If a child doesn’t neatly fit into the cookie-cutter mold, he/she is provided with an “intervention” so the child can perform at the “expected” level – where he/she “should” be.

Hey, here’s a thought. Maybe kids develop at different rates and have different predilections/interests. Maybe there’s something flawed about the whole notion that kids “should” be at a particular place simply because of their grade/age. Maybe the kids don’t need an “intervention.”

Maybe the system needs an intervention and would be more successful if they implemented differentiated instruction and respected children as individuals rather than “expecting” everyone to perform specific tasks at specific times.

 Does anyone else find this trend unsettling???


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10 Jun 10, 08:36 AM

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Bryan. I agree with everything you say. In my teaching, I emphasize a "both/and" orientation rather than the divisive "either/or." As long as instruction takes into account individual differences in development and respects the whole child, we're on solid ground. My concern is that if frequently slips into something less noble.


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09 Jun 10, 03:52 PM

I think this could be unsettling, but I don't think we can subscribe to a "develop at different rates" philosophy without recognizing the importance of early intervention.  I think I understand the premise of your comments, and I don't completely disagree with them.  I do, however, think RTI can be highly useful with children - even young children, if we respect the individuality of learners and differentiate accordingly.  Doctors and early educators have been identifying signs of potential concerns for years.  If we are aware of these signs and act on them accordingly, early intervention may help us avoid much of the later intervention we find in our schools. 

Extreme RTI thinking without context isn't smart, but neither is discounting its merit in the hands of smart professionals.  It doesn't need to be an either/or.  We can work with children in developmentally appropriate and even constructivist ways while watching for possible warning signs and responding accordingly with research-based supports.


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