The Status of State-level Response to Intervention Policies and Procedures in the West Region States and Five Other States

Primary Researchers: Jenifer J. Harr-Robins, Larisa Shambaugh, Thomas B. Parrish

Publication Date: August 2009

Response to intervention (RTI) can be both a system for providing early intervention to struggling students and a special education diagnostic tool for evaluating and identifying students with specific learning disabilities.

Currently all 50 states are implementing some form of RTI policy, but there has been relatively little research on their approaches, policies, and procedures. This study, prepared by REL West at WestEd and the American Institutes for Research, provides descriptive information on state-level RTI policies and procedures in nine states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington.

Research Questions

The study addressed the following research questions:

  • How is RTI defined in the nine study states, and how are RTI efforts supported at the state level?
  • What considerations do state respondents report about developing state RTI policies and procedures, and how have their states addressed them?


This descriptive study used information collected through telephone interviews with a key administrator overseeing RTI in each state, including directors and associate directors of special education as well as administrators leading the state's RTI efforts; and reviews of state technical assistance documents and materials relating to RTI collected from state agency websites and respondents.

Documentation for the study included state legislation, nonregulatory guidance, training presentations, technical assistance materials, and evaluations. All data were collected between June and August 2008.

Key Findings

  • Respondents from all nine states described RTI in broad terms. In addition to being a special education diagnostic tool for evaluating and identifying students with specific learning disabilities, RTI was viewed as an overarching conceptual framework guiding each state's overall school improvement process for all students.
  • While two of the nine states mandated the use of RTI in identifying students with specific learning disabilities for special education services, the other seven states were more permissive in orientation.
  • Respondents from all nine states cited the importance of establishing buy-in and ownership of RTI by general education. To encourage this ownership, respondents from seven states indicated that the general education division had either taken charge of RTI at the state level or held joint responsibility with the special education division.
  • Additional considerations for state-level approaches to RTI reported by state respondents focused on evaluating implementation and outcomes (all nine states) and ensuring fidelity of implementation (six of the nine states). Other issues, each cited by four of the nine states, included the limited research and implementing RTI in specific circumstances, coordination of fiscal resources, the rollout of a state-level framework, and student diversity.
  • Published: August 2009
  • Research Type: Issues & Answers
  • Methodologies: Descriptive
  • Contact info:
    Kenwyn Derby 415.615.3279

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