Traditional discrepancy Model
Students often experience learning challenges that deter their academic progress. For example, a learning disability causes students to underachieve because their brains fail to understand or cope with particular forms of information. Moreover, underachievement is often associated with the brain’s ability to process various types of information, lack of instruction, guidelines, and behavioral motivation (O’Donnell & Miller, 2011) (Traditional discrepancy model).
Schools in different states can use their criteria to determine a student’s eligibility for special education services. Traditional discrepancy and RTI are methods used to determine academic progress inconsistencies and eligibility for special education services.
The discrepancy model identifies learning disabilities using a combination of academic and cognitive tests. Consequently, it identifies a mismatch between a student’s intellectual ability and academic progress by capturing and comparing the scores on various tests (Armendariz & Jung, 2016). Hence, the existence of a significant discrepancy between different sets of scores shows that the underlying condition is impending a student’s ability to learn. For instance, measuring a fifth grader’s IQ seeks to determine whether they are reading at a fifth-grade level (Traditional discrepancy model).
However, if the IQ tests show the student is reading at the second-grade level, the student requires special services because of the severe discrepancy between ability and achievement. The model has its shortcomings as it uses numbers to determine a learning disability which limits its scope of measurement. Consequently, it is not easy to accurately measure discrepancy in young students, grade three and below (Armendariz & Jung, 2016). This category of students has different exposure levels to education, and their development progresses at different rates.
Therefore, academic and cognitive evaluations are not applicable during early ages. The approach is critical in helping LD students, but it is not accurate with early intervention. The cutoff value of the model does not also consider error measurements, typical in all standard examinations. The determination is more of a probability test. A school that strictly follows this model can wrongly categorize some students needing special education services and fail to identify others needing service (Traditional discrepancy model) .
Response to intervention approach (RTI)
The RTI is a new measure that seeks to fit in the gaps of the traditional discrepancy model. The RTI does not require academic and cognitive assessments but rather documentation of students’ inability to respond to specific interventions provided in the classroom (Al Otaiba et al., 2015). The interventions need to be implemented consistently over a reasonable period and be based on scientifically proven principles to succeed.
A student is considered eligible for special education services if they demonstrate significant underachievement despite the provided interventions. The interventions are mainstream and not unique education services simulations. They are a set of teaching procedures teachers can use to help students succeed in class and identify those struggling with a particular skill or lesson(Traditional discrepancy model).
RTI has its limitations as there are no clear guidelines to determine appropriate interventions. The process is more subjective, and some teachers cannot adapt interventions to help LD students (Armendariz & Jung, 2016). If the interventions do not incorporate cognitive abilities, some students will always struggle to keep up with others(Traditional discrepancy model).
The RTI is more effective as; it is applicable at all ages, requires schools and teachers to be proactive in implementing mainstream interventions, education disruption is insignificant, and students do not need a “fail” period before identifying inability. However, there is not an entirely accurate and reliable approach to assessing and identifying a learning disability.
Regardless of the chosen approach, the teachers should identify the pitfalls in both and incorporate their professional judgment to determine eligibility for special education services. The school and teachers should consider using both methods in parallel to meet every student’s needs (Traditional discrepancy model).
Al Otaiba, S., Wanzek, J., & Yovanoff, P. (2015). Response to intervention. European scientific journal, 2015(Suppl 0), 260.
Armendariz, G., & Jung, A. (2016). Response to intervention vs. severe discrepancy model: Identification of students with specific learning disabilities. Journal of Special Education Apprenticeship, 5(1), n1.
O’Donnell, P. S., & Miller, D. N. (2011). Identifying Students With Specific Learning Disabilities: School Psychologists’ Acceptability of the Discrepancy Model Versus Response to Intervention. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 22(2), 83–94. https://doi.org/10.1177/1044207310395724