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The "Hard" and the "Soft" of RtI Implementation

By: Bob HeimbaughPublished: September 14, 2009
Topics: Leadership

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During a recent training in our school district, a presenter spoke to the "soft" and "hard" skills needed to implement change in a school. Using my own loose definitions of "soft" and "hard" skills, I would characterize them in the following way:



Learning hard skills is much easier than learning the soft skills needed for any change initiative in a school. Hard skills are measurable, visible, and can be implemented by anyone. As you implement RtI in your school, you will find that the hard skills of the process can be learned by everyone. Some of the hard skills related to RtI implementation might include:

Soft skills, on the other hand, deal with the skills needed by school professionals to collaborate and work together. Pick up any book on RtI implementation and the bulk of the book will be focused around the hard skills of implementation. The technical aspect of RtI implementation is critical. It is the framework that establishes the expectations. But, if you neglect the soft skills your RtI initiative may come to a screeching halt. Soft skills include:


As a school, spend a lot of time, at least initially, discussing how you are going to address the current culture of your building. Below is a list of suggestions that, in my opinion, need to be addressed by every school as they begin RtI implementation:


If you were to go back and review some of my previous blog posts, you would find that I spent a lot of time focusing on the soft skills of RtI implementation. The hard skills are important, but my history as a building principal has taught me well that nothing happens in a school until you address the heart.

As a principal, I met with teachers and rolled up my sleeves and worked with them as we established schedules, initiated the testing protocol, created ability groups, created data sets for review, and wrote meeting agendas. All of these activities are imperative to successful RtI implementation. The work done around the soft skills of RtI implementation, in my opinion, was much more important.

Pay attention to the people, and your RtI program will come to life. If you neglect the people and spend most of your time on the technical aspect of implementation, your RtI initiative will struggle…and most likely fail.


Here are a few references that I have pulled off the shelf as I have worked with people in my school:

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