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Pro/Con RTI for EBD

November 17, 2008

At the TECBD Conference today, I attended a great panel discussion on the merits or consequences of using RTI to identify disability. Truth be told, most of the audience, myself included, were really there to see one panelist – Jim Kauffman.

James Kauffman

Most people in the field of EBD would be able to guess that Dr. Kauffman would take the con side of the argument. After all, this icon of our field has given us such seminal books such as “The Illusion of Full Inclusion” and “The History of EBD”. In addition, he also wrote a paper about president Bush waving to Ray Charles (a blind musician).

Dr. Kauffman postulates that by delaying the identification of EBD or other disorders (by implementing RTI instead of evaluating students), we are doing students a disservice. First, they would not have protection under IDEA. Second, they may not receive treatment from qualified teachers. And third, we would be keeping them from something great. A specialized education is something that people should want to receive – not something to avoid. Jim figures that if we were doing our job right, parents would be banging down doors to get their student INTO special education because this is a service designed to help them.

Achievement Gap

Another related topic was NCLB and the statistically impossible job it is to leave NO child behind and close the achievement gap. If we do everything right in school for all kids, the achievement gap would actually increase. This would happen because the smart students would actually get much smarter and the kids in the middle of the pack would also grow. Therefore, the academically low achievers, while making gains, could never catch up to other students. This by the way is part of the definition of a disability. Special education can help – but it cannot cure students.

I’m looking forward to more great sessions tomorrow!

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