A couple of decades ago children with learning disabilities were rarely identified. As the years passed by, the number of children with learning disabilities has been increasing rapidly. At the moment almost half of the children with disabilities comprise of children with learning disabilities (Douglas & Lynn, 2006, p. 93).

That is why the United States came up with the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) which has been used for over thirty years to identify children with learning disabilities. According to this act, identification of children with learning disabilities was conducted by the use of IQ test.

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However, the gradual increase in the number of individuals with learning disabilities led to the disapproval of this method. It was necessary to modify this law and in the year 2004 President George Bush signed into law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, an improvement of the Individuals with Educational Disabilities Act (Douglas & Lynn, 2006, p. 93). The main aim of this paper is to analyze this law and its application in response to interaction.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act

This new act has got almost the same elements as the previous law apart from one thing; the use of response to intervention (RTI) in identifying students with learning disorder instead of IQ test. With this new method early identification of children with educational failure is achieved unlike in the previous method. According to Lynn (2007) RTI offers practical solutions to problems which IQ tests failed to address since it helps struggling students to recover faster (p.13).

This is because RTI distinguishes those students who perform poorly because of disabilities from those students who perform poorly as a result of inadequate action. As a result of this separation and early identification school performances tend to improve and the number of children with learning disabilities is minimized making this programme to be a successful tool in the process of learning disability identification.

Response to Intervention (RTI)

Response to intervention is the method that is used by the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act to detect students with learning disabilities. This method uses a variety of steps to identify the children with learning disabilities and has procedures which are necessary to help them academically.

To identify children with learning disabilities, a subgroup of underperforming students is first identified. This is done in the first month of a new academic year by using the test scores of the previous year or by giving a test to all the students and use this results. From these results one can select underperforming students by either selecting the students who score below the 25% mark or those who score below the average mark. This procedure should be done in all grades.

Once this group has been identified then their responsiveness to education is monitored over a period of time. In order to find out whether there is progress in these students, periodical high stake tests are conducted. The students who score above a certain percentile mark (20% for example) exhibit sign of improvement while those who score below the expected mark should be subjected to a more vigorous training either inside or outside the classroom.

The progress of these students can be assessed as done earlier during the first tier. According to Douglas and Lynn (2006) it is advisable to conduct the comparison of underperforming students at local and national levels. Weekly progress of these students should also be conducted (p.94).

Intervention in RTI

Intervention in RTI is achieved by several methods. The first form of interaction aims at detecting early problem of reading. This ensures that no child is lagging behind as others progress.

As a result RTI is an essential aspect of the reading first policy in the current school curriculum in the United States. RTI has got different levels making it to be multitired. As a student moves from one level to another the training becomes more intense. This ensures that necessary intervention and attention is given to the students in a bid to help them improve academically.

Another intervention conducted in RTI is problem solving. Practitioners prefer the use of standard protocols in problem solving. RTI has got up to four different levels of problem solving (Ikeda and Gustafson, 2002). In level one the teacher works hand in hand with the parents of the student to solve his/her academic problems. In the second level the teacher works together with his colleagues in the school to identify the problem of the student and select which measures to implement.

Failure of this leads to level three which involves professionals from Heartland staff who use behavioral strategies to solve the problems of the student. If this fails then level four commences and it entails special education assistance. All through this process the student responsiveness to the programme is the driving force that determines which method should be applied.

Standard treatment protocol is also used in problem solving. However, unlike in problem solving where each student was subjected to a different method in standard treatment control all the students are subjected to similar methods for a specific period of time and then evaluated.

Those who respond positively to the treatment are returned back to class while those who respond negatively move to the second tier to where more intense training is administered. Those who respond well to the second tier training are returned back to class. Those who respond poorly are suspected to have disabilities and further investigations commence.

Reasons for RTI preference over IQ

The incorporation of identification of students with learning disabilities started in the 1970 and IQ tests were used for the purpose of identification. During that time only 2% of the students were identified with learning disabilities. The number however increased to around 6% in 1999-2000 (Douglas & Lynn, 2006, p. 96). Conducting this programme is quite expensive (about three times the cost of education a normal child). Therefore as a result the government ended up spending a lot of money running the programme.

The increase in number of students with learning disabilities over time also made the IQ method not to be seen as productive. The IQ method has been criticized since there is no standard procedure to compute it, its size and which tests are to be used to determine the IQ of an individual.

Due to these inconsistencies the IQ failed to distinguish correctly students with learning disabilities from low academic achievers. That is why the government developed the new Act which uses RTI in identifying learning disabilities. RTI has managed to find solutions to the problems which came up as a result of using IQ.


Since the 1970`s the US government has been using IQ as a means of identifying students with learning disabilities. However, this programme has proved not to be effective since the number of students with disabilities increased with time. That is why the government introduced RTI to solve the shortcomings of the IQ method.


Douglas, F., & Lynn, F. (2006). Introduction to Response to Intervention: What, why, and how valid is it? Reading Research Quartely, 93-99. Retrieved on 15 Feb. 2011 from

Ikeda, M., & Gustafson, J.K. (2002). Heartland AEA 11’s problem solving process:
Impact on issues related to special education (Research Rep. No. 2002–01). Johnston, IA: Heartland Area Education Agency 11.

Lynn, F. (2007). Special education faculty pioneer Responsiveness to Intervention.
Retrieved on 15 Feb. 2011 from