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College Gardens Elementary School: Rockville, Maryland

By: Albert P. DuPont, Ed.D.Published: March 10, 2009
Topics: Diversity, Implementation Planning and Evaluation, K-5, Pre-K, Tiered Instruction


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Albert P. DuPont, Ed.D. is the principal at College Gardens Elementary School in Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools. College Gardens is a pre-kindergarten to grade 5 school with approximately 675 students. The school is the first International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme World School in the state of Maryland. In addition, the school offers a partial Chinese language immersion program and autism services for select students. Dr. Dupont has been the principal there for four years and has spent 18 years in a variety of educational settings as a teacher and administrator.


What did you do?


College Gardens has always been a high-performing school based on state assessment targets. However, there was a different reality when it came to our African-American and Latino/a children and those with special needs. We were not hitting the mark as well. According to state assessments, African-American and Latino/a students and those with special needs scored 15-20% lower than their Caucasian or Asian peers. Therefore, we began to examine the systems we had in place to improve achievement for all students. RTI provided a systemic and systematic way for making this happen.


Through a shared leadership model and collaborative problem-solving, the school has worked on establishing well-defined, well-designed, and well-deployed systems for analyzing students' progress. To begin, the principal had to communicate a clear vision for a process that works for all students and works for staff. The staff then took the following steps:



What challenges did you face?


The major challenge was the feeling of uncertainty that occurs when first developing the RTI process. At the beginning of RTI implementation, staff expected that there was a "set" process where they will be told what to do. They discovered that to make RTI work for them and the students, they had to develop the systems. Staff members soon began to accept that RTI is a collaborative process that must be developed as a professional learning community. There are no easy answers and answers are unique to each school. For example, deciding on decision rules for the three tiers was tough process. Yet once it was done, we had a set of guidelines to work with and adapt.


The RTI framework (tiered instruction model) gives schools only a start. The hard work is developing the systems to ensure effective implementation (decision-making rules, strategic monitoring process, monitoring with fidelity).


The other major challenge is articulating how state and district initiatives and policy align with RTI. At this juncture, a principal's guidance is critical. Staff can then begin to perceive RTI as a framework that supports what they are already expected to do, rather than "just another thing to do."


What was the outcome of your effort?


Some of the many outcomes include:



What advice would you give others?


I would encourage others to:



Leaders should have a clear vision and core values that will guide the school to improving achievement for all students. It is the responsibility of all members of the educational community to be leaders and this includes teachers, support staff, students, and parents. School staff must begin to develop a culture of shared leadership that allows everyone to participate in collaborative, risk-taking environment.

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