Panel 2 Speaker: Daryl Mellard, Ph.D. - National RTI Center (DC)

RTI Leadership Forum
Washington, DC
December 8, 2010


Daryl Mellard:  Steve, what a great job you did in the introductions, but in part of the introductions he missed some of the great attribu…you guys are wonderful folks, but Mendy has an attribute that you may not be familiar with and that is she’s connected through family to Bill Self.  KU basketball?  Bill Self?  All right.  (laughter)  More about that later, then, but anyway, all right, all right.  Let me continue now (laughter).

?:  She’s an Arizona fan, I’ll tell you.  So there’s a contingency for her to come.

Daryl Mellard:  Oh, all right.  Then, I have this joke about this urologist too, but I’m going to save that for the last couple of minutes.  All right, so about Amanda’s paper which was really greatly appreciated and I value the perspective that she’s offering.  I believe that several important points are also relevant for our consideration.  One, the distinction she made between selecting appropriate evaluations and then implementing them with fidelity.  It doesn’t do us any good, as Dean Fixsen says, to have high quality interventions if they aren’t being implementing with fidelity.  And that’s what, your points as well within the school districts.  And then second, one of those great challenges about operator error and limiting operator error, our work agrees.  There’s a great deal of reluctance if you will to systematically collect and to use formative assessment information in our decision-making process about students’ progress within tiers.  We don’t want to do any more assessment than is necessary, but then using the information that’s available for us as well.  Our experience in looking at elementary schools and middle schools, over 100 middle schools and over 60 elementary schools with their RTI implementation, is that they’re less likely to use the slope data, that is, the improvement data in making decisions about student movement.  It’s about level of performance generally is what that gets reduced to.  And so while more is better is generally thought of within that school district, that’s a value.  More is let’s give them more.  There are other competing values as well, such as well the student needs help so we should be giving him or her all the help that is available to us.  So other decision aids that one might consider would be Bayesian statistics which again you don’t need a calculator to do but we can use that in guiding our decisions and the same(?), multi-attribute utility measurement.  Let’s incorporate the values of these different stakeholder groups that are of concern in implementing this response to intervention.  We can do that and it’s important to consider it as well, particularly when I think back about the parents comments—oh this is good.

Woman calls out, not near the mic, hard to hear:   I was just (unclear) the answer to that.

Daryl Mellard:  Okay, so we’ll come back, but the notion of RTI kind of being scary on the landscape.  So a week ago today I was in Alabama, and I’m a Kansas guy, and I understand about tornadoes, but in Prattville, Alabama, we had a tornado the first of December.  Now, in the saying, that’s kind of strange, but in the same way the tornadoes kind of a, maybe an analogy to how some folks are seeing about RTI as well.  So that’s how that fits.  And then the next slide, maybe, is yeah, that gets us to here, about incorporating the utilities, the values of other perspecti… parents have values that can be represented in our decision-making process about the quality of the interventions, how long we should run those interventions, to be looking for student responsiveness when we begin thinking about cutoff scores—there’s science to be applied but it isn’t just a science problem.  The greatest challenges we have around RTI are not the technical issues.  It’s about you and me and our values and points of view that we bring to that implementation as well.  In general, schools are not configured if you will.  They have low competence (confidence?) in using data to guide their decisions.  So in the next slide a few perspectives from that work back when we were part of the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities and current work under the National Center in Response to Intervention, we see significant efforts being made at SEA levels to use RTI.  And just as it is important for a district, for the state level there are 5 important components that they also have to have.  That is, they have to be specific in what we are going to offer as guidance around RTI.  We have to have, second, a consistent message about how that is going to be implemented, what that should look like.  No. 3, we have to have a stable platform.  We don’t want to be running 5 other different strong initiatives.   To borrow from George’s point of view about the number of indicators or activities his wife was engaged in while she was working on school (unclear).  Well, we’ve got to have a stable platform.  And then just a district and the school, and the state, we need to use our institutional power and we have to use our institutional authority.  We have to become, this is our part of our agenda.  When we begin thinking about other activities that we might engage in, reference how, what’s the impact of this around response to intervention?  So those would give a great deal of guidance and stability if you will as we move ahead.  RTI is certainly complicated as we’ve heard from others this morning.  And will it be sustained, going back to Don’s earlier question—what will it look like 10 years out?  I think that’s a significant challenge but again it’s not a technical issue.  It says how much will you and I and our colleagues in implementation understand the importance of shifting roles and responsibilities that are part of the essential components when it comes to implementing.  Screening.  Progress monitoring.  Data-based decision-making.  Tiered levels of service.  I mean it’s a continuing challenge (unclear) and that’s true for all of us as well.

Ummm, on specific points, what does our evidence tell us about students with disabilities?  When we look across those schools and those districts, some cases the special education numbers go up, sometimes they go down.  I don’t have a clear pattern in looking at that school-level of implementation across the change.  When it comes to special education services, I don’t see a change in service delivery in special education as a result of RTI.  Okay?  Special ed looks kind of like the same.  We may be serving more numbers in some places, and fewer in others but it looks generally the same.  How about in terms of students needing foundational skills?  I believe there’s great value and it’s being recognized for having standard treatment protocols for that primary core curriculum.  Think of the core curriculum as a standard treatment and thus the reading series becomes a protocol that needs to be followed with high fidelity if we’re going to reduce operator error, for example, as well.  And certainly there’s great potential, greatest potential is in that area as well.  Instructional strategies.  When we looked at those Tier 2 level classes we seem to have seen the best and the worst as we went into some of those schools.  Silent reading doesn’t look like an effective intervention.  I don’t think you’ll see that showing up very well, you know, as having a large effect size.  But on the other hand, yeah, you’ve got to move away from RTI as a program that is for RTI kids or something we do from 9:30 to 11:30.  So on the last slide I’ll just offer a few practical issues that I think are important for us.  You know, if we can invest in recordkeeping and support access to using that, again we have to have buy-in, as you’ve heard.  We have to have school-wide support.  You’ve got to have that.  We have to have clear indicators of improvement, of change, so that we can look to the progress we make, and the notions about systemic leadership. Even the students can lead.  It isn’t just the building administrator but the building administrator is core to making that work within a school.  Investing in staff.  Staff development.  The parsimony on selecting measures and the frequency with which standardizing procedures using the data.  So you’ve got many directions you can go.  360 points on a compass, some of those are not going to get us where we might intend, or what we might like to, but there’s science to support that but again it’s about you and I and the values and perspectives that we bring that’ll really make the difference on this implementation.  So thank you.  (applause)


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