Panel 4 Speaker: Claudia Rinaldi, Ph.D. – Boston Public Schools (MA)

RTI Leadership Forum
Washington, DC
December 8, 2010


Hi.  Thank you for the invitation to be part of this panel.  I wanted to highlight on what Ed said and show you a little bit about what’s been happening in Boston public schools.  And I’m in kind of a unique role because I get to be an external consultant for the district, but be part of the district as well.  So I’d like to share a little bit about what they’ve done and to also kind of reframe the fact that we’ve been talking all day about school districts that are implementing RTI and PBIS already, but there are many that are just in the beginning stages.  And so it really is an opportunity for us beginning for example for Boston public schools to think about how to use the lessons that you’ve all learned that you been already applying like such as Vail public schools.  So as part of the support that we are providing to the district we did research around three main urban districts that had been doing implementation of the MTSS / RTI /PBIS model.  And we tried to provide recommendations on what were the things they did really well and what were things that they needed to improve and where the message was coming from.  And so in working with the Boston public schools one of the things that we identified of lessons learned from these districts were the piece of co-construction which I think you mentioned that in a different word.

So one was that it had to be co-construction.  It wasn’t just the superintendent’s view, it wasn’t just the assistant superintendent of special education’s view and it wasn’t only the literacy person’s view, but it was an initiative that had to include co-construction and come from all directions.  So as a result of that one of the things that they worked over the summer as a district with the guidance and Steve was part of the group that provided that guidance was to really think about how to begin changing the dynamic of the district because business as usual didn’t work.  They’re experiencing major budget cuts right now.  They’ve just been closing schools every year.  Last week they closed 12 more.  And so they wanted to look for ways to redefine before they implemented this effort.  So if you could click?

So one of the things that the district put together with our help was a bull’s eye to kind of follow up on (laughs) Amanda’s bull’s eye but that really described the level of supports and I think one of the main reasons for doing this was that the district really wanted to focus the student first.  So if you notice there’s an arrow coming out from the student outward to the different levels of the organizational support of the district.

The other thing that you see in this figure is a wedge that comes out of that.  And that was the ability to make connections and I think Ed brought it up in terms of who are the high rollers?  Who are the people that really get it right away?  And how can we capitalize on them?  And they wanted to be very up front and deliberate in how to plan that implementation before that started happening, which is one of the reasons that they brought the Urban Collaborative and EDC to come in and help with them.

But as part of that, one of the neat things that they did was they identified internal people from the central office that were already deployed in working on core instruction, that were already deployed in working on family and student engagement, and that were working on Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, so people in special education.  And providing them with professional development about process.  Process of problem solving, how to guarantee that service teams, problem solving for individual children, did a process of problem solving so that there was some accountability district wide and some capacity building at the same time.  With that, then they brought the external consultants to work with them to provide support for them, but also to provide support for the leadership of the district.  And that part of that support is important because it becomes an external lens that uses research and that is focused only on supporting the district in doing that.  We’re not solving problems.   We’re not closing schools.  We’re not cutting budgets.  We are an external entity that helps them focus on the mission that they’ve identified.  Next slide.

So I was trying to figure out a way to kind of showcase how I perceive it, being from an outside lens, what we’re trying to do with this district, and so I thought of this blender or infusion if you want to make it fancier.  But what I really feel that is happening in the district is that there’s a very clear mission and goals that are being identified and that together with a leadership and involvement of the teachers with support from external and internal capacities with a plan to fade out the external capacities is really the catalyst that’s helping them move in very positive, educated, research-based practices around the implementation of the model.  Next.

So finally in response to provide a little bit more specific information, one of the things that they’re really looking at is student focus, systematically coordinated.  And they’re doing that by the multiple layers that I showed in the first graph where their problem solving team that happens at the district level, their goal is to solve the problems for the students, for the schools, it’s not for them to tell the schools what to do but the goal is clear that they’re there to solve the problem for students.  Solve the problem for teachers that can help the student.  So the arrow goes always up and they are not done until there’s a solution that is attained.  And part of our role as an external entity is to be able to secure that that process actually happens and that the district level organizational teams really meet the goal that they set out and responded appropriately to problems that the schools needed solved from the district level and those being policy, resource allocation and the removal of the silos that we’ve been talking about most of the day.  Changing business as usual.

The second aspect of implementation and sustainability that they focused on is student success owned by all teams.  So professional development is being provided regardless of whether you come from special education, speech and language, occupational therapy, or regular education, is the unified process of professional development around problem solving and how that can help students.  So trying to represent a synergy between them so that there is that entities that are separated and the typical kind of disagreements that we see from regular and special education that say, Well, you know, you need to solve the problem because I can’t solve it in regular education.   So trying to kind of build that culture of reform, culture of trust and respect.

The third item is changing the ways that schools are organized, and they’re being very open and they’re, one of the things that they’re asking us to collect is ways that they need to change the ways that they hire, that they organize, and that allocate resources.  So they’re beginning to do a little bit about what some of the conversation has been about in terms of systems, tiering their approach to supporting schools.  So I think that that’s part of the (unclear) instruction and technical assistance that we bring.

And the last one is the deliberate support.  They realize that they can’t do it alone and we’ve been contacted by a lot of other school districts where they’ve put RTI teams together to be able to plan the implementation but they have so many other things to do that they can get lost in the details.  And as our keynote at lunch said, there are a lot of changes that need to happen and there has to be a catalyst that ensures that the changes that are happening are really done with integrity to the model and that emphasize the aspects of professional development, trust and a culture of change in order for this to be effective for students.  Thank you.  (applause)

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