Getting Buy-In for RtI Implementation

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    One of the hardest things we can do is get everyone in a school on the same page whenever we implement a new program in our schools. When it comes to staff buy-in, RtI is no different. Over the past few months I have had many conversations with educators across the country related to RtI implementation in their schools. When talking with these educators, a common concern seems to be popping up. Many have told me, "We meet, come to an agreement, and everyone says they are on board, but when we go into the classrooms the issue we agreed to is not occurring."

    Whatever the issue with these professionals — fidelity of instruction, scheduling of progress monitoring, teaching the required elements of the core — it is not happening in all the classrooms in their schools. For anyone who spends time with RtI data generated from assessments, this lack of support or commitment takes a huge toll on student achievement. Even more frustrating is that an agreement had been made, but some in the school have privately decided to not support the agreement.

    In a culture of change, we sometimes have to address the unhealthy environments in our schools. As we make decisions about students, instruction, schedules, and protocol around RtI, we need a process for ensuring implementation fidelity. Many teachers in schools may agree publicly to support RtI, but when their classroom door closes they do what they have always done. When this happens, schools have to deal with poor implementation, frustration, anger, and wasted time and effort. Most importantly, kids may not be getting the educational benefit that they so deserve.

    Changing the behavior of adults in a school is no easy task. To do so takes effort, support, and diligence. Below I have listed some strategies to ensure buy-in for RtI, while also supporting the implementers in your schools:

    • Align RtI with your school mission around identified and measurable goals and make sure that a lot of time is spent discussing this alignment.
    • Develop a district or school leadership team with clear and established team norms and responsibilities. The leadership team needs to make sure that the following implementation components are clearly understood by all:
      • How administration will support staff in the RtI implementation
      • How professional development needs will be met
      • How fidelity of implementation will be monitored
      • How staff will be evaluated on implementation
    • Focus on the data. Data supports the effort (or lack thereof). You cannot argue with the hard evidence supported by data. Also, when you address issues with peers supported by data, the discussion moves from the personal to the neutral. Data is what it is!
    • As staff begin to implement RtI in your school, be sure to provide teachers a lot of feedback, training, and practice on the implementation components and skills.
    • Include a coaching model that provides for an environment of high challenge/low stress. We work best when challenged in an environment where risks are encouraged and supported without the fear of repercussion.
    • Create a system through the leadership team that continually builds on accomplishments in the building. Immediate feedback is the key. Never assume that all staff know what you know. Continually "ask and tell" as needed.
    • Make sure that everyone feels safe to speak their mind and make sure that it is clear that everyone has a collective responsibility and accountability to the process of RtI implementation. Time well spent setting up the implementation of RtI will mean less time addressing issues along the way. Always remember that in its simplest form, RtI is really about collaboration. The best core curriculum, interventions, data, or instruction amount to nothing if the implementers aren't working together to make it happen. So, always be willing to speak up, work together, and when a decision is made, support it for the betterment of children.

    Monitoring the implementation of RtI is a key. When everyone knows that the process will be monitored through a system of support, the more likely staff will buy-in. Implementing RtI is a risk for everyone. By providing a culture of support, the chances of RtI implementation can become a reality.
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