RTI Action Network

Defining "Fidelity of Implementation" in the Context of RTI Implementation

By: Dawn Miller, Ph.D.Published: October 12, 2010
Topics: Implementation Planning and Evaluation, Leadership, Professional Development

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This blog post focuses on the role of fidelity of implementation in RtI and using position statements to stimulate reflection and dialogue. One of my earlier posts highlighted RtI-Communities of Practice (CoP) that have been created in Kansas to assist with RtI sustainability issues. The Kansas Innovations Consortium is one such CoP that has been in existence for several years. This consortium includes a cross-representation of districts, roles represented in education, and experience with RtI. One task this CoP initiated this year is the creation of a white paper about RtI based on the beliefs, experiences, and perspectives of consortium members. The purpose of developing the white paper is to uncover the misunderstandings that naturally occur as implementation of RtI evolves within a school or district.. The Consortium writing group graciously allowed me to share some of what has been written to date in hopes it will further your own thinking and conversations.

Common Misunderstandings

It is not uncommon to hear the following statements from different individuals who are just learning about fidelity of implementation:

"Fidelity of implementation is taking the art out of teaching because it means everyone has to teach in exactly the same manner"

"Fidelity of implementation means that the state/school/district is telling me what I should do in my classroom"

"We made AYP so if it ain’t broke don't fix it"

"We've always done it this way, why should we change?"

Position Statements

The following position statements are intended to provide a definition of fidelity of implementation in the context of RtI implementation:

1) Districts and buildings must clearly define the essential features of RtI using the most current research and practice literature in order for fidelity of implementation to be meaningful.

2) Fidelity of implementation must be measured at multiple levels within a school and/or district.


3) Fidelity needs to be approached from a supporting vs. a policing standpoint.

4) Fidelity of implementation demonstrates the degree to which our articulated agreements and our values are visible in our daily practice.


5) The importance of fidelity of implementation increases as high stakes decisions are being made about students, and within and across schools, and/or districts.


The process of developing these position statements around fidelity has been a very rewarding experience. The conversations that have naturally occurred when sharing our own personal interpretations of the words have proven to be rich. I encourage you to create your own discussion with colleagues using these position statements. Whether in agreement or not, I think the process will elevate the issue of fidelity and create necessary and meaningful dialogue.

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