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Response to Intervention and Specific Learning Disability Identification: Evidence From Tennessee.

Response to intervention (RTI) is a method for providing academic support to students and for identifying specific learning disabilities (SLDs). Using interrupted time series and hazard models, we examined if statewide RTI adoption was associated with changes in rates of SLD and first-time SLD identification in elementary schools, and if these associations varied across student groups. Response to intervention was associated with an initial decline in the percentage of students with SLD in the state that continued over time, with larger decreases for students who were Black or economically disadvantaged. Response to intervention was associated with a 61% average decrease in the odds of first-time SLD identification by third grade (about a 0.006 change in the predicted probability), with greater declines for students who were Black or economically disadvantaged. We discuss these results in the context of disproportionality in special education and the need for research examining whether declines in SLD were due to improved academic outcomes, as opposed to delays in identification.

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