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What is RSP in Education?

Resource Specialist Programs play a crucial role in supporting students with mild to moderate learning disabilities.
Tricia Christensen
Updated Jul 09, 2024
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A resource specialist program (RSP) is a form of special education that is available to students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities and who are having trouble in one or more areas of classroom learning. RSP might be called directed studies in some schools, particularly in middle schools and high schools. In an RSP class, the focus is on helping each student succeed academically and socially. The class size is usually small, which allows the tutors to give each student the individual attention they need through a variety of teaching methods that meet the needs of all types of learners.

So if you have a child with learning challenges, an RSP could help. To augment this program, consider hiring online help who can assist with advanced-level English. It might be a once-a-day class that middle school and high school students take to help address ongoing learning challenges. In many jurisdictions, public schools are required to have RSP services available to students who require them. There are instances where live tutoring is possible, but you may have to check with the educational institution before you sign up. Take into consideration not just your kid's academic needs but also their social needs.

Led by a Qualified Teacher

A teacher who is credentialed in Special Education heads an RSP. This specialized credential helps the teacher address a variety of learning disabilities. Special Ed teachers also are skilled in assessment for learning disabilities, which might constitute a portion of their work, as well as assessment of students in meeting predefined goals.

The RSP teacher might employ assistants called resource specialists who work in the RSP classroom or work with individual students or groups as needed. Sometimes, an RSP’s nominal head is a school district Special Ed teacher who administrates RSPs at the individual schools. An RSP works great in conjunction with subjects like Arithmetic Reasoning and Math Knowledge or ASVAB because it starts off from basic learning and eventually branches out to more complex Math. To get a good score in ASVAB, an RSP will take into consideration the challenges and strengths of a student so it can be used to achieve learning that lasts.

Mainstreaming is a Goal

One goal in Special Education is to help students learn in regular classroom settings, which is called mainstreaming. An RSP might be set up so that teachers or resource specialists work with students in their mainstreamed classrooms. Especially if many students in a particular classroom require assistance, the RSP might focus on the teacher or resource specialist going to a class and assisting at certain designated points during the day, such as the times devoted to acquiring language or math skills.


Pull-Out Time an Option

The needs of each student are often designated by Individual Education Plans (IEPs). In some cases students might benefit from “pull-out” time. In these cases, students visit an RSP classroom for part of the day, possibly every day or several times a week, to work on basic skills. This means that the RSP teacher must attempt to schedule pull-out times around multiple teachers' schedules, and the students often must try to catch up on things that were missed in class.

Pull-out work can be challenging for students because they might be grouped by needs rather than by age or classroom. Some students, especially older kids, might resent pull-out time because they might have to make up material that they miss in class and might receive lower grades in subjects in which they normally do well. RSP pull-outs usually trump students’ concerns, however, because students who have IEPs need extra time to master basic skills that will facilitate more advanced learning.

Continuing Assessment

An RSP can change yearly to adapt to the changing needs of students who require assistance. One important aspect of any RSP is continued assessment of a student’s ability to meet IEP goals. When IEP meetings are convened each year, benchmark goals are set. The RSP teacher must be able to target his or her teaching methods toward helping each student achieve individual goals. When goals are not achieved, more testing might be required to better define the specifics of a student’s learning challenges.

Cooperation is Essential

The RSP works best when teachers in mainstream classrooms cooperate and implement the strategies suggested by RSP teachers that are designed to help each student perform his or her best. Not all teachers are equally cooperative, although many try hard to be so. When RSP instruction takes place without the input of the student’s primary teacher, however, the resulting benefits are diminished.

For this reason, RSPs that incorporate additional help in the student’s main classroom might be more successful in helping the student with minor learning disabilities. On the other hand, students who are far behind in basic skills such as reading or mathematics might benefit more from pull-out instruction.

Additional Needs

In some cases, students cannot function well in a regular classroom and might need more than an RSP program. Not all students benefit from being instructed in mainstream settings. The next level up are Special Education classes, which students attend solely instead of in addition to RSP program pull-outs. If you're a parent, you can work with specialists like online grade school math tutors to augment whatever learning your kid receives at school.

Each school or school district might organize Special Ed and RSP classes differently. Sometimes, RSP and Special Ed classes are administered by the same department within a school district. In other cases, the two are completely separate departments. When the departments are separate, communication between the departments is essential because some students make a transition from Special Ed classes into mainstreamed classes with RSP assistance.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon996954 — On Oct 29, 2016

I'm assuming they misdiagnosed me with a learning disability because I was a really smart kid, especially in reading and writing. I just didn't give a crap about school had crappy parents who weren't concerned about my life, so I did what I wanted and my grades suffered. So the easiest thing for them to do was to put me into RSP, and guess what that did? It made me lazier. The teachers at times would straight up just give us the answers for tests in the RSP room.

One year I didn't want to be in RSP and totally flourished because I actually took school seriously. I think it's wrong how easily they can just throw someone into RSP and diagnose them with a learning disability. It's really unprofessional and can take a toll on the person's self esteem. RSP makes a person lazy. RSP is pretty much a free ticket to turn in your work when ever the you want without any deadlines, not to mention the teachers that just give you all the answers. Rsp is useless and a humiliating label to put on someone.

By anon987912 — On Feb 06, 2015

I was in RSP in elementary school and for a year in junior high and it did help me quite a lot. I have never been able to learn some things the way that others can and RSP helped me focus and develop well enough mentally that I was able to find my own way in certain subjects. In high school I was able to take honors and AP classes without any problem. If I had had different parents I might have just been put on ritalin to solve the problem. With good teachers, it is a great program.

By anon354438 — On Nov 08, 2013

I think RSP is a great program that support students and cover all their needs. There are many countries in the world that don't have this program, student struggle and those schools cannot pay any RSP teacher to support. These students get very frustrated because they are always behind. Many kids in America don't appreciate these programs and despise all the resources they have, which is so sad because millions of kids will love to have this support.

By anon349736 — On Sep 28, 2013

I was also in RSP from third grade and then I got out in seventh grade, but somehow I got put back in the program in ninth grade, and finally got out in 11th grade. It was a terrible program and it only held me back.

Yes, I was slower than everyone else at learning how to read, but because of the program I wasn't ever taught anything about grammar. I will not let my children go into this program. Now after a lot of struggle I am finally passing college English classes with A grades, and I am hoping to get accepted into a university this spring or next fall. I did all of this without the help of any RSP program.

By anon346215 — On Aug 26, 2013

Can anyone direct me to any websites that offer methods and techniques that work well with high school SLD students? I recently started a job as an RSP aide, but I am looking for more resources to improve my skills in helping students while I am in their general education classrooms. I want to be the best assistant that I can to help students reach their goals. Any advice how on what works well, or what does not work well?

By anon329762 — On Apr 11, 2013

I was a former RSP student now graduating from college, and looking back, I can say that program did not help me in one least in the English program.

The program academically held me back to the point where I was unable to to leave the program while in high school because I was ill-prepared for the English classes.

In the classes that were not part of the RSP program I had to prove time and time again I was smart enough to keep up with the workload. On this part I received high marks in those classes with no help from RSP! None. I had to do this all on my own. RSP was not here to help me.

The only time they helped me with my homework was when I asked them to look over my papers, which did not do any good and tat was all. The teachers allowed many of th students to use the answers in the books to help them with their homework.

While in my RSP English class, I surpassed all the other students academically by deciding myself to read books that were beyond my own reading level. This allowed me to actually become a better student. Once out of high school, my former RSP teacher was shocked at how well I was doing without the program. She expected me to drop out to school or be struggling.

The only advice I can really, truly offer to any parent or student who is in an RSP program: if able, get out of the program; Challenge oneself in the subject you need RSP for. I read what interested me and at high reading levels. This program does not follow the student to college and in the outside world.

My final thoughts: While RSP has it's good and bad qualities, it will hurt most students in the long run. Please encourage your student to work without the program's help and get out of it.

By BlindersOff — On Oct 07, 2011

Grades a student gets while getting RSP services can be very misleading!

By BlindersOff — On Oct 07, 2011

Don't let grades a student gets while receiving Special Education services inflate your hopes up too high. Trust me, unless you want to bury your head in a hole.

By anon220481 — On Oct 07, 2011

Don't be fooled.

By anon220480 — On Oct 07, 2011

As a former RSP of many years, be careful what you call "smarter". I don't mean to dismay you, but don't be disillusioned or disillusion yourself, either. Interesting that her "A" was in Guided Studies, as I am sure that is an RSP class.

What do the students do in "Guided Studies"? My guess is at least part of what they do is get help with their homework, so it gets done and doesn't lower their grades in other classes. They may also help them with long term assignments and studying for tests.

What percentage of her academic day does she receive RSP support? Her IEP will tell you this. Is she a high school or middle school student? Are all of her classes taught at the same level of difficulty as her general education peers, or are they modified classes for students with difficulties? "Grades" do not get high scores annual state testing, or SAT exams, although I will admit I've always seen students scores go up "some" on annual state tests as a result of RSP, but it is rare that the scores are in the "Proficient" range across the board, which drives every principal nuts, because special education student scores on state testing tend to lower the schools overall rating on state exams. Grades are not the be-all, end all.

As a middle school RSP of ten years in two different school districts, I have seen RSP case carriers not teach students new skills, but, basically, change students' schedules around so their classes are not as challenging, and coddle students as opposed to empower them to work with their disabilities and make the best of what God gave them.

Parents are so thrilled -- and misled -- that their child is improving they tend to put their child's RSP on a pedestal because they have helped their child move from the hot water of terrible grades to at least average grades. The problem is, many of these students struggle to pass the high school exit exam for a real high school diploma as opposed to a Certificate of Completion of High School. The high school exit exam is one that the majority of high school students pass in their freshman or sophomore year. Even worse, special education students, often don't really have lot of the skills needed to work hard and make the most of their own capacities.

If a student has a real disability, that disability needs to be addressed in special education, not just worked around. There is tons of research on the plasticity of the human brain and how weaker portions of the brain can be developed. This needs to be included in working with students with disabilities. It's brain fitness for making the most of one's capacities.

Jack LaLanne said "Dying is easy. Living is hard." I say this because students also need to understand a full life requires effort and rigor. We rise as hard as we are willing to push through our challenges. In addition to dealing with the body and its effect on performance (meaning the brain, nervous system, vestibular system, etc.), special education students need to be educated about their strengths and their inherent challenges (we all have them). They need to learn the tools for being successful in spite of their challenges. They need to learn how to work their limitations and stretch them, and how to make the most of their time here on earth.

In my mind, most of the special education services for mild to moderate students could be much more empowering and it takes the parent(s), schools, and the students all doing their third of the work. No one should be making up for someone else's slack. Special education is most effective when the disability itself is addressed (as opposed to being worked around), the student "learns" skills for accommodating their own challenges, and the school, parent and student are each pulling their third of the weight.

By anon219952 — On Oct 04, 2011

In junior high school and elementary I was in and out of RSP, but now seven years later i am attending UC Davis, so rsp does help .

By anon135964 — On Dec 21, 2010

My daughter is in RSP and is having a wonderful experience!

Last year without RSP her grades were: Math: 61%/D-; Science: 66%/D; Drama: 75%/C; Social Studies: 66%/D; Spanish: 64%/D; English 70%/C-; GPA: 1.33; Average: 67/D+

This year with RSP: English: 83%/B; Science: 80%/B-; Spanish: 67%/D+; Math: 73%/C; Social Studies: 76%/C; RSP (Guided Studies): 94%/A; GPA: 2.50; Average: 79%/C+

Change: GPA: +1.00; Average: +12 percent.

Thank you RSP for making my daughter smarter! She got her first A in her life this year!

By anon131675 — On Dec 03, 2010

thanks for this. god bless you! It is very helpful to us.

By anon107276 — On Aug 29, 2010

Thanks! This really helped me a lot!

By anon61219 — On Jan 19, 2010

Thanks for the clear explanation! It's very helpful. Jesus loves you and thanks for your work! -- david

By brooke10th — On Nov 05, 2007

Do you have any charts on RSP Programs? Like the Ratio of students there are in this program in comparison to mainstream students. I am doing a position paper on the topic and any info shall help.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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