Response-to-intervention officially became part of special education law and policy when incorporated within the 2004 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Most narrowly construed, RTI is a means of diagnosing students with learning disabilities, designed to replace the flawed discrepancy model. More broadly, it is a pedagogical approach, which basically posits that different, increasingly intensive tiers of instruction should be offered to struggling students before they are found eligible for special education. This paper explores some of the potential benefits and costs of the RTI model, with a specific focus on the racial impacts of RTI. As we explain, RTI has the potential to reduce the current overrepresentation of minorities in certain disability categories. But it also has the potential to increase the overrepresentation of minorities among students who are suspended and expelled. The paper explores this trade-off and others and considers different ways to resolve them.

Angela A. Ciolfi & James E. Ryan, Race and Response-to-Intervention in Special Education, 54 Howard Law Journal, 303–341 (2011).