Implementing a Combined RTI/PBS Model: Plans for Year 2 of Implementation

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    In our last blog entry, we presented some outcome data for our first year of implementation. Overall, we found positive impacts of Response to Intervention/Positive Behavior Supports (RTI/PBS) implementation on important student outcome data, but also noted areas in need of improvement. In addition to using Year 1 data to evaluate our first year of implementation, we used those data to design our Year 2 action plan to target areas in continued need of improvement. In this final blog entry related to our first year of implementation, we briefly discuss our plans for Year 2 implementation.

    When we started this project, we knew that we had to break down our very large goal of combined RTI/PBS implementation into smaller, more manageable steps. Because the system is based on a preventive sciences model, a strong Tier 1 program needs to be in place – the goal is to develop a core program that effectively serves the needs of most students. Therefore, in Year 1, we decided to focus our efforts on ensuring a strong core academic and behavior program were in place, otherwise, it is difficult to make decisions about which students are at risk (i.e. are they really at risk, or just victims of poor instruction?), and it is difficult to design an effective intervention system if we are trying to make up for gaps in the core program rather than trying to develop interventions that meet the needs of our students.

    As we reviewed our data at the end of Year 1, we determined that in reading, math and behavior, the school has been successful in establishing a good Tier 1 program. So we will now move forward in these areas to design appropriate Tier 2 interventions that support the small percentage of students who are struggling even when provided a core program that is effective for most students. This doesn’t mean that the school will stop reviewing their Tier 1 programs in these areas, just that now they can really focus on developing a strong Tier 2. In language arts, the school did not meet AYP targets, and so will need to examine its Tier 1 curriculum and instruction. Over the summer, a team reviewed the reading and language arts programs, and research staff put together screening tools for the school that will allow them to screen in the fall. Language arts was an area that we didn't screen for in Year 1.

    Developing a Tier 2 System of Support. In a preventive service model, interventions are aligned with the core instructional program. The intervention may increase in intensity, duration, and/or may have a specific focus, but the ultimate goal is to provide additional support that allows a student to be successful in the Tier 1 program. Student progress in interventions is monitored frequently to evaluate the effect of the intervention on performance and, depending on what the progress monitoring data indicate, students either remain in intervention, instructional changes are made, or a student might be referred for more intensive intervention (Tier 3). Our Year 1 data indicated that, while the school does have an effective system for reading in place, Tier 2 interventions and progress monitoring for math and behavior need some work. Our focus in Year 2 will be on implementation of research-based interventions in math and behavior.

    In math, the school will continue to improve its Tier 2 system by implementing evidence-based interventions for students in grades 1-5 who are not meeting performance benchmarks. Additionally, in accordance with a new district-level policy, the school will use Easy CBM for math to screen and progress monitor (PM) in Tier 2. The district adopted a student data system that requires the input of numerous variables, to include the collection of PM data for students who receive interventions. This district-level decision will quite likely improve the fidelity with which Silver Sage implements PM for Tier 2 interventions.
    For behavior, the evaluation data indicates that the school has implemented a strong core behavioral support system. For Year 2 then, the focus will be on improving screening procedures and developing a Tier 2 system of supports. In Year 2, the school will implement Check-in Check-out (CICO) as an intervention system for students with behavior concerns. Additionally, screening procedures for behavioral concerns will be reevaluated. In Year 1, we screened with the Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD), a tool commonly used in PBS models. However, staff reaction to the SSBD was negative (see previous blog post), therefore, we are working with other screening tools (Social Skills Improvement Systems) in Year 2.

    To facilitate Tier 2 implementation, research staff also developed team agendas and forms that focus on the specific data that need to be collected to inform system and individual student level decisions. Again, the district student data system should facilitate this process, as schools will now have access to technology that will make data collection and analysis simpler.

    Developing an integrated model. In Year 1, we began with parallel systems of implementation for two primary reasons: 1) we were unsure how to effectively combine RTI and PBS practices  and, 2) because we (research & school staff) felt strongly that each system (academic and behavior) needed to be implemented with fidelity prior to combining them into one system.
    To facilitate combining the academic and behavioral systems, we developed a school handbook that clearly defines processes and procedures for team meetings, for the use of data, and for the practices involved in instruction, intervention and assessment. We expect that this handbook will be an evolving document that will not only provide a standard operating procedure for the school to promote continued implementation even when faced with key leader turnovers, but that will also allow for the development of practices and procedures that combine academic and behavioral data. For example, one of our goals for Year 2 is the development of a comprehensive screening system that computes an at-risk index based on predicted probabilities for a number of factors. A second goal is to determine the effect of combined behavior and academic interventions (i.e. Do students who receive both types of intervention make greater gains than students who receive only one type? How do we determine when a student needs a combined approach? Are different types of interventions needed depending on the function of the student’s behavior?) To answer these questions, we are planning to conduct a variety of single-subject design trials, along with the collection of comprehensive screening and outcome data.

    Continued focus on social validity. As we have noted throughout this blog series, perhaps the most difficult challenge throughout this process has been to develop common understandings and support for implementing the RTI/PBS model. This project represents a significant shift in the school’s operations, and teachers need time to adjust to the new system. Communication consistently surfaced as an issue during our focus groups with staff – teachers want to be informed about the new processes, what their roles are, and how they will be supported as they move forward with implementation. We believe that responding to their concerns is a very positive step forward. For example, changing behavior screening procedures and ensuring that staff know student decisions are made based on multiple sources of data has helped many teachers be more accepting of the numerous changes underway.

    We anticipate that Year 2 will be as challenging and as rewarding as Year 1. We also anticipate that there will still be much to accomplish after Year 2, and we hope that we will have supported the Silver Sage staff to move forward with continued implementation and improvement efforts. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you as we continue implementation this fall!

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