I never expected to write about RTI

Corporation principals were asked to forward an article for teacher review. The online version of that article, “The WHY behind RTI” from the October issue of Educational Leadership can be reviewed at http://tinyurl.com/3ykxr7v.

Mr. [Asst Prin], 

I just read the article you recommended and wish to take you up on your invitation to ask questions.


My question is motivated by my parental more than educational experiences, but those parental experiences with this particular educational system have been a huge part of the foundation of my personal teaching strategies. 

May I share a few experiences as preparation for my question?  

Our first issue with what I perceive as a flaw in the system came at 2nd grade, when we were notified that our older son might need some special help. The explanation was that he was not properly answering simple questions. Two specific examples: 

One question; “Where do we get tomatoes?” His answer was “the store”, which was incorrect, according to the answer book. The assumption was that he was thinking at a lower level when actually, he was demonstrating deeper thinking. When we asked, he answered; “I know tomatoes grow on a vine, but WE get OUR tomatoes at the store.”


Another example asked for identification of a picture of a Volkswagon. The expected answer was “car”. He wrote “beatle bug” because that was how the public referred to that particular Volkswagon. 

The parents were successful in correcting the faulty assumptions of that intervention. 

Fast forward to Middle School where our sons were when HCCSC abruptly discontinued “Project Challenge”, which was an amazingly successful response to those “special needs” children at the upper end of the academic abilities spectrum. Two boys were allowed to take 8th grade Algebra as 7th graders, receiving the highest two grades in the class. When approached with the question what would happen math-wise to those two students in 8th grade ….the teacher’s solution was to repeat the class and the principal banged his fist on the table (yes, literally) as he emphatically scolded us with, “I get so tired of parents pushing their children”. 

Eventually, we helped facilitate a solution that included transportation for those boys to the high school for the next progression.


There should have been a teacher-initiated intervention, but again, the parents were the instigators. What if we had not been trained educators willing to ask questions that most parents will not? 

On to High school Spanish II class and our child needs another intervention. After his  extensive complaining about the learning activities, we approached the teacher who’s response to our questioning whether she realized he had a problem was, “Oh yes. He’s bored.”  Wouldn’t RTI also mandate that if learning games are NOT effective with a highly advanced special needs child, that perhaps something else was needed? Only after persistence was he transferred to a Spanish IV class where he thrived….and subsequently was able to use THAT knowledge in college study abroad programs. 

When we asked about the high school’s not having enough advanced math opportunities was our son enabled to take some advanced classes at Huntington College….but we had to ask.  

At one point, as a group of parents were making a presentation to the school board, an HNHS professional responded with, “We’re not here to teach the elite. We’re here to teach the masses.” That is an exact quote. Really? REALLY?


The good news about our younger son was that, after graduating as HNHS Valedictorian with a pre-weighted perfect gpa, he was able to thrive at a top tier undergraduate school (Duke), graduating in the top 1% there, and moving directly into a PhD program at an Ivy-league school….. When asked about how that was possible with a public school education, our response has often been, “The system worked for us, but we had to work the system.”  

This article and all the HET and other training models want us to identify and intervene for struggling students at the lower end of the spectrum.  

My question, why do we not put the same emphasis on intervening for the thriving students? We have special classrooms, teachers, assistants and a seemingly endless supply of manpower and resources for the “special” and “struggling” students. What do we offer for the other extreme. AP Classes help the slightly advanced. What about the truly Gifted and Talented? 

Thanks for taking the time to read my longer than expected question.


John Gardner


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