Create Your Implementation Blueprint
Stage 2: Installation
The installation stage starts when the decision is made to implement a Response-to-Intervention (RTI) approach , and it ends when the innovation process is first used. This stage is often referred to as the “start-up stage,” when you develop your plan. Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, and Wallace (2007) suggested that this stage may take between 2 and 6 months.
According to Fixsen and colleagues (2007), the installation stage has too often been ignored in human services. This comment is consistent with my observation that schools so often spend almost no time planning how they will accomplish a new practice—they just launch into it and hope to figure it out along the way. Although a healthy amount of action rather than analysis paralysis is a good thing, it’s as if schools sometimes fail to see what type of planning is possible.
Consensus building is a critical part of implementation that is frequently overlooked. Don’t skip it. Getting buy-in is a process that can be planned—it doesn’t just happen. It starts with a discussion among the RTI team about who needs to be on board for success. There are key opinion leaders in every school and district. These key opinion leaders typically buy into something more fully if they are involved from the start. Sometimes it’s wise to identify key influencers who may be negative and place them on a carefully selected committee to try to bring them around from the beginning. Other times it’s better to figure out who is the best person to convince the naysayers and plan for that person to address the naysayers’ questions and concerns in private meetings rather than at committee meetings.
What processes will help staff embrace the initiative? There are certain decisions that are district based and others that are building based. For example, typically the district determines that RTI will be implemented and they select common assessment instruments. It isn’t effective to have schools selecting different curriculum-based measurements (CBMs), because building data must be rolled up to the district level to measure the progress of the RTI initiative. Yet, RTI happens at the school building level, and many of the critical decisions about how to implement it are left to the school.
For example, the district requires that the assessments be given, but the schools decide whether they will use an assessment team or classroom teachers to administer the screener. The district requires each building to provide 30 minutes of intervention to all students receiving Tier 2 services, but the building typically determines when intervention groups will occur and who will teach the groups. I recommend that decisions about how are made by grade-level teams to the extent possible to allow teachers to have maximum input into what they want to do. Commitment will be stronger if they design the delivery approach.
Because of the wide variety of staff involved in RTI, team building is a critical ingredient for successful implementation. There are two dimensions of team building to consider. First, there is the necessity to facilitate collaboration among many different staff members who provide reading instruction to students who are struggling. This can include classroom teachers, special education teachers, Title I teachers, speech-language pathologists, English as a second language (ESL) teachers, and so on. The second dimension of team building is among teachers within a grade-level.
Collaboration between general and special education is critical for the successful implementation of RTI. But it’s more than just general and special education—it is also critical that Title I, ESL, and Reading Resource teachers all actively participate in this process. Every staff member who deals with a struggling reader needs to participate in decisions about which instruction the student will receive, whether it’s working, and what else to try if the student’s rate of progress is insufficient. RTI provides a golden opportunity to align staff who traditionally have worked with limited collaboration.
Consideration of special education placement should be a seamless process between general and special education. Documentation of the extra help provided while the student is in general education is critical in determining if it’s time to refer a student for child study. Collaboration up-front between general and special education staff is crucial for designing data collection procedures that will serve all purposes. In most states, data about the types and amount of intervention provided to a student will be considered when a child study team determines whether to test a student for a possible specific learning disability. Important data to consider include the following:
As evident from the table above, much of the data can be captured in an intervention log. It is difficult, or impossible, to recreate the history of interventions after the fact. At the outset it’s impossible to know which students will make insufficient progress. Data must be collected throughout the process on all students so that it will be available for the few students who show an insufficient rate of improvement and are referred for further study.
One positive outcome of RTI is that often the collaboration within a grade-level team improves as a result of the dialogue that transpired in implementing these new practices. This is especially the case when they use the “walk-to-intervention” model to group across the grade level, whereby students might receive intervention instruction from a teacher other than his or her homeroom teacher. Another impetus for improved grade-level collaboration is when the focus of team meetings is on how teachers are grouping their students, what instructional strategies or materials have led to successes with students, or how teachers seek input and advice from their colleagues about individual students who are not improving. It’s significant when teachers refer to students as "our kids" instead of "my kids."
During the installation stage, schools often take time for a self-assessment focused on analyzing the achievement scores of the students served by the school and on how to articulate a motivation for implementation of RTI. In this stage, RTI teams inventory what the school already has in place, as well as what resources will be needed for the implementation. Some common topics to explore include the following:
Staffing—who will provide the intervention instruction?
Assessment tools—do we need to purchase or license any?
Curriculum inventory—what do we have, and what will we need?
Administrative leadership—what steps do the leaders need to take to support this initiative?
Teacher training—what kind of support, coaching, or professional development (PD) will be needed?
Teacher background knowledge—what exists and what will we need to provide?
Budget/funding—how much may be needed, and what are the potential funding sources?
Activities During the Installation Stage
Activity 1: Determine Service Delivery Model and Scheduling
One of the first in a set of decisions involved in planning an RTI implementation involves how to organize what may be called the “service delivery model.” This term is used to encompass decisions about who, where, and when, meaning who will teach the groups, where they will be taught, and when will intervention groups occur? These decisions need to be made before considering the staffing and training needs, which are covered in Activity 2. Discussion about how to organize a delivery model for Tiers 2 and 3 is sometimes a missing part of training about RTI. Many teachers report that often what regional offices of education offer is PD to disseminate information about what RTI is, but those sessions sometimes don’t include practical tips on how to get started. Too often the content remains at the overview level and misses getting down to the nitty-gritty details that have to be addressed to start the installation. As noted by Fixsen and colleagues (2007), “Thus, diffusion and dissemination play an important role in starting the implementation process but should not be confused with implementation itself” (p. 5).
Who Teaches Intervention Groups? Selecting who delivers the intervention instruction depends on the school’s staffing. There are several typical options. Administrators need to determine which staff can assist classroom teachers. Are there curriculum specialists who dedicate their day to working with small groups of students who are struggling with reading or math? In most schools that have Title I funding, the teachers and aides align their groups with the intervention groups.
When there are no instructional aides, Title I teachers, or curriculum specialists to help, then the classroom teacher teaches the intervention groups. When there is additional support staff to help, sometimes all groups are taught by interventionists (reading or math specialists). Many times a combination of support personnel and classroom teachers teach the intervention groups.
Where Do Intervention Groups Meet? There are many location options for intervention instruction. Some schools have multiple groups in the classroom, while in other schools an interventionist may pull her group from the classroom and take them to a quieter room. There is no research that says that one is more effective than another. Many times it depends on the school’s layout. If there is a room where an intervention group can meet, it may be much quieter and the separate space will allow the intervention teacher to have all of his or her materials organized for easy access. If the reading specialist’s room is too far from the classroom, then the advantages of quiet and materials accessibility may be offset by the loss of time in walking students to another location.
When Do Intervention Groups Meet? The “who” and the “where” are easier to determine because they are a function of the school’s staffing and facilities. Typically, the hardest decision of the three (who, where, and when) is to determine when to provide intervention instruction. Teachers already feel that their day is completely scheduled and there is no time to squeeze in one additional thing. Solving the scheduling issue is critical if teachers are to dedicate time to teaching intervention groups. Should the intervention block be taught as one activity during the content area block time? The “gold standard” recommended by experts is that Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention should occur outside of the core content block. The reason for this recommendation is that students who are behind in an area need more time in instruction, not the same amount of time. Additionally intervention typically focuses on only a few skill areas and, therefore, pulling a student for intervention during the regular instruction in that content area means he or she will miss out on other important components. For example, if a student’s reading intervention happens during the 90-minute reading block, he or she may be pulled out during vocabulary and comprehension instruction for intervention in decoding. This gap in instruction may contribute to the student losing ground overall even if he or she is making progress in the skill area targeted by the intervention.
Many schools add 30–45 minute intervention blocks to the daily master schedule. Each grade level has a designated time for intervention groups that is outside their core content instruction, PE, lunch, music or other “specials.” It is recommended that intervention be scheduled at different times for each grade level. For example, kindergarten intervention might be from 9:00 to 9:30, 3rd grade from 9:40 to 10:10, 1st grade from 10:30 to 11:00, and 2nd grade from 11:10 to 11:40. Staggering the times of the grade-level blocks enables support staff to be available to assist each grade level during intervention. Usually, Title I and reading specialists go into all the classrooms to work with one intervention group while the classroom teacher takes another intervention group during the same time slot.
Based on observation of hundreds of schools attempting to implement RTI, schools that add an implementation block to their master schedule make earlier progress in their implementation than those that don’t. There may be a host of reasons for this. When the principal or administrative team adds intervention to the master schedule, there is a level of commitment and a statement of the importance of this instructional time. It also enables the sharing of students between teachers. What is on the schedule is more likely to get done rather than leaving it to each teacher to decide how to fit intervention time into her own daily schedule.
Activity 2: Creating an RTI Implementation Plan
As part of the team’s plan, a number of other decisions will need to be made.
Sometimes there is funding to hire new staff to assist with RTI. This could include either an RTI coordinator or intervention teachers to teach the small groups. If staff is added, a number of activities will occur, including writing job descriptions, recruiting and interviewing applicants, and hiring and training new staff. Most schools don’t add any staff when they launch RTI but they may redeploy existing staff and restructure responsibilities slightly. For example, it may be helpful to free up one afternoon per week for a reading specialist to serve as a part-time RTI coordinator.
- Assessment Planning and Training
The RTI team will need to plan the assessment functions, which include administering assessments, collecting and analyzing data, and determining how to interpret data to place below-benchmark students in small groups. Who will do these functions? The most available person is not necessarily the best choice—instructional aides might be able to give the assessments but will not always able to bring other teachers around to understanding what the data say about their students’ skill deficits.
Fixsen, D., Naoom, S., Blase, K., & Wallace, F. (2007, Winter/Spring). Implementation: The missing link between research and practice. The APSAC Advisor, 4–10.
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