8 Questions to Ask Your Principal Before Beginning RtI In Your School

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    If you are in a school that has not yet started RtI implementation, but you are moving in that direction, you may want to meet with your school principal before beginning. The support and influence of the building principal will help school staff realize full RtI implementation. RtI work is rewarding. Initial implementation can sometimes seem overwhelming, but as school teams work through the process, the benefits for students soon come to light. The principal can be extremely influential in the process. Before beginning RtI you may want to ask your building principal the following questions.

    1. As we begin looking at RtI implementation, what do we currently have in place in our school that could be assimilated into the model?

    As you work with your building principal, many components described in RtI research may already be in place in your school. Take stock of what you are currently doing to meet the needs of students in your school. A good place to start might be with a readiness survey of the building staff. The RTI Action Network offers the Self-Assessment of Problem Solving Implementation tool or you could use the Response-to-Intervention School Readiness Survey from "Jim Wright on-line." Your state department may also have a readiness survey for you to use.

    2. What do our data tell us about the students in our school?

    All districts have data at the school, district, and state level. When doing initial planning, a principal and school staff should establish a baseline of need from current data. This baseline will give the school staff a direction as they look at overall building results, subgroup results, curricular area results, and the impact of current instructional data. From this initial data, the school staff should be able to determine their focus for RtI planning.

    3. Are you willing to take the stand to support the changes needed for full implementation?

    When implementing RtI, a school is really looking for a "keeper of the dream." The principal is in the unique position of being a positive lever for change. If the principal sticks with the research on RtI, is determined to always use data to support decision making, and is persistent about monitoring implementation, then the integrity of RtI implementation will be established.

    4. As principal, what criteria do you use to evaluate the core curriculum?

    One of the first steps in establishing a strong RtI program is making sure that a strong core instructional program is place. The core curriculum provides the aligned framework for instruction while establishing the requisite skills, processes and knowledge needed for students to be successful at each grade level. For information on evaluating core reading programs and for information on what a quality core curriculum should include go to the Florida Center on Reading Research.

    5. How will you help us implement research-based instructional practices?

    When selecting instructional programs, a principal needs to know where to find information on effective programs that can be replicated across environments (i.e. in the schools). If you are a principal who is at the beginning stage of RtI implementation, please go the “What Works Clearinghouse” Web site. This site has a long list of instructional programs that schools can adopt when implementing RtI that are backed by sound research.

    6. How will you support and provide time for collaboration?

    If a principal really wants to realize the change he/she seeks through the RtI model, supporting collaboration is the key. Nothing happens in a school to promote greater change than professionals working together for kids. The RTI Action Network has a lot of resources in their "Get Started" section. The article Creating Shared Language for Collaboration in RTI does a great job of explaining how collaboration should start with a shared vision and a common vocabulary to begin the collaborative process in a school.

    7. What types of assessment data will you use to help us make instructional decisions to address student needs?

    If you ask this question to a principal, hopefully they come back with answers that talk about screening, progress monitoring, data, and graphing. Universal screening and progress monitoring assessment data and the meaningful management of that assessment data are critical as building staff make instructional decisions about students. Data should be behind every decision made regarding RtI implementation. Selecting the right interventions for Tier 2 and Tier 3 is dependent on making good decisions based on assessment data. The data are by in large generated through assessment.  The RTI Data Analysis Teaming Process describes a model developed at Indiana University of Pennsylvania that is a wonderful tool for looking at assessment data to make instructional decisions about students. In addition the National Center on Response to Intervention Web site rates tools for universal screening and progress monitoring.

    8. How will you support our professional development needs?

    If scientifically-based research is to be implemented in a school, the staff will have to be trained to implement these programs with fidelity. Building principals need to have a good understanding of the components of quality professional development programs and understand that one size does not fit all. A lot of planning goes in to developing the professional development plan, and the initial plan should be gleaned from the information discussed in question one above. The data will point the way!

    The questions posed here will provide you with a starting point for a discussion about RtI implementation with your building principal. The few tools listed here will start you on your way to some great research that will lead to RtI implementation in your school.

    Get your principal involved! Get a team involved!

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