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Volume 23, Number 1
January/February 2007

Response to Intervention

A new approach to reading instruction aims to catch struggling readers early


A National Center for Learning Disabilities staff member conducts an early Recognition & Response screening.

It's two weeks before Halloween in Carolyn Callender's first-grade class. After sitting in a circle and reciting the October poem from Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice in their scariest voices, 15 youngsters split up into four groups to practice literacy skills. Working from teacher guides and scribbled notes, an intern, a student teacher, and an assistant teacher help Callender put the groups through their paces. Each adult staffs a work station, equipped with an assortment of props-computers, white boards, letter tiles, grids, and markers. Each group of students moves from station to station to count sounds, combine them to make and write words, spell out sight words, illustrate main ideas, and read silently from leveled readers.

Callender already knows ten of her students are having trouble. The good news is that it's October, not June. But she knows the clock is ticking: When it comes to creating strong readers, first grade is a pivotal year.

Four years ago, Callender's school, the Haggerty School in Cambridge, Mass., began a new approach to reading instruction when it received a federal Reading First grant. The approach, called Response to Intervention or RtI, is at once simple and complex.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

M.R. Coleman, V. Buysse, and J. Neitzel. “Recognition and Response: An Early Intervening System for Young Children At-Risk for Learning Disabilities.” Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, FPG Child Development Institute, 2006.

D. Fuchs, D. Mock, P.L. Morgan, and C.L. Young. “Responsiveness-to-Intervention: Definitions, Evidence, and Implications for the Learning Disabilities Construct.” Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, no. 3 (2003): 157–171.

G.R. Lyon et al. “Rethinking Learning Disabilities,” in Rethinking Special Education for a New Century. Washington DC: Progressive Policy Institute and Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 2001.

L.C. Moats. “Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do.” Washington DC: American Federation of Teachers, 1999. Available online at

S.E. Shaywitz et al. ”Persistence of Dyslexia: The Connecticut Longitudinal Study at Adolescence,” Pediatrics 104, no. 6 (1999): 1351–1359.