It Is Not Always What is Visible that Matters

When the decision is made to begin the RTI journey by a group of dedicated professionals, they know that there are resources available to create the framework for the RTI delivery model, and they tap into these resources to begin the trip. They know that an assessment system needs to be in place to screen, diagnose and progress monitor student academic achievement related to their reading abilities. They know that professional development needs to be a part of the process, just as they know that a curriculum that holds up to rigorous research needs to be purchased and implemented. RTI is based on the beliefs of quality research, outstanding instruction, and high-quality assessment. If these elements are there, you have the foundation for successful RTI implementation. Or, do you?

The items described above are just some of the assets that create the framework of RTI implementation.  They are tangible.  They can be touched, seen, and in some cases they have a physical existence (Kaplan, R. and Norton, D. (2004) Measuring the Strategic Readiness of Intangible Assets. Harvard Business Review, 15-30.)  Without these tangible assets, RTI implementation could not happen in a school.  They are the tools for the work.  But, what about intangible assets?  What kind of impact do they have on the work?  How do you address and measure intangible assets?

Ulrich and Smallwood, in an article they wrote for the Harvard Business Review, "Managing the Strategic Readiness on Intangible Assets," (2004) address intangible assets as “(they)…represent the ways that people and resources are brought together to accomplish work.  They form the identity and personality of the organization by defining what it is good at doing, and in the end, what it is.”  They list the 11 Intangible Assets as:

  1. Talent
  2. Speed
  3. Shared Mind-set and coherent brand identity
  4. Accountability
  5. Collaboration
  6. Learning
  7. Leadership
  8. Customer Connectivity
  9. Strategic Unity
  10. Innovation
  11. Efficiency

Below, I have created a chart with their identified 11 "intangible" assets and I have tried to show how these intangible assets can be associated to the implementation of RTI.

Intangible Assets Impact On RTI Implementation
Talent Refers to professional development.  Does the staff have the skills necessary for full implementation?
Speed As RTI is implemented in a school, does the staff review available data and make instructional, scheduling, or staff changes and adjustments in a timely manner?
Shared Mind-Set & Coherent Brand Identity Are students making progress?  How do parents feel about the implementation of RTI in their child’s school?  Are staff members embracing the implementation?
Accountability Staff needs to pay close attention to the data to monitor instructional impact.  If students are not meeting their perceived growth, staff needs to make appropriate adjustments.  If the entire staff is not teaching the curriculum with fidelity, the staff has to address those individuals in meaningful ways to ensure proper implementation.
Collaboration When implementing RTI, you are looking at some major changes in a school.  Teachers have to come out of their classrooms and collaborate.  By sharing their knowledge and experiences, they collectively create a stronger learning environment for children.
Learning All schools begin with a basic RTI framework.  Over time, the school and staff adjust for nuances particular to their student needs.  The data lets them know if the adjustments and changes are working
Leadership With RTI implementation, teacher leaders in schools emerge.  These teacher leaders have a huge impact on successful implementation.
Customer Connectivity Children and parents will give feedback if the students are not learning.  Staff needs to listen to what they are hearing about implementation.
Strategic Unity For the best RTI implementation, having shared agreements for implementation is imperative.
Innovation When implementing RTI, there are no fail safe instructional practices.  Teachers are stretched to their limits with some children as they look at ways to identify appropriate interventions.
Efficiency Being good at managing data.

As you look at the intangible descriptors provided by Ulrich and Smallwood, I think you may come to the same conclusion I came to as I considered the implementation of RTI:

When implementing RTI the tangible assets will come easily.  In a school context, intangible assets need to also be addressed if RTI is to be successful.  Schools need to have strategies for addressing these assets, because by not doing so, they may not put into practice the most viable RTI program.

There are some outstanding resources available that you can reference as you delve into RTI.  The University of South Florida has a book titled Implementation Research: A Synthesis of the Literature.  Dean Fixsen, a co-author, has done extensive research on those “intangibles” that, when addressed appropriately, lead to full implementation.   Another book that would be especially interesting to principals is the ASCD book What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Practice, by Robert Marzano.  The book addresses first and second order change, and ways to support the change process and culture in a school.  Finally, you cannot go wrong with NASDSE publications.  They provide two Blueprints, Response to Intervention Blueprints for Implementation: District Level and Response to Intervention Blueprints for Implementation: School Building Level. The blueprints do an excellent job of identifying both the tangible and intangible assets needed for RTI Implementation.  If you are involved in the RTI process, these two documents need to be on your book shelf.

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