Panel 4 Speaker: Edward Shapiro, Ph.D. – Lehigh University (PA)

RTI Leadership Forum
Washington, DC
December 8, 2010


Thank you so much.  There’s always an advantage and a disadvantage to being last.  The advantage is that everything I’m going to say has already been said which is not true hopefully.  And the disadvantage is it’s the last one of the day.

My emphasis in presenting here is really focusing predominantly on the concept of sustainability and what it really takes to make this last.  This is something that actually is quite interesting and interesting in a process way because there’s no magic answer to what makes this last.  But we know enough about sustainability from the work that’s been going on predominantly in implementation science.  Next slide please.

In implementation science that has been done predominantly led by the work of Dean Fixsen that really puts sustainability in a key location within this hierarchy of stages of implementation.  And sustainability of course is at the bottom, but it’s the key element to what we all want to do because ultimately the objective of any change process we put in place is to have it stay and be there over a long period of time.

So the question that I ask, next slide please, the question that I ask is of what changes, what remains?  So after change has been put in place and we’ve implemented, what really stays there?  And well I was looking for a good way to sort of address this and I thought this would be a way to think about for all of us what remains after learning has occurred.  Would you play the video, please?

(video)  I think it don’t matter what … I find that educa….

Ed: Is it not buffering?  We only need the first minute.  Well I can just sit down then (laughs).

(video)  I think it don’t matter where you go to school.  Italy.  America.  Brazil.  It’s all in the same.  It’s all just memorization and it don’t matter how long you can remember anything, just so you can parrot it back for the test.  And I got this idea for a school I would like to start.  Something called the five-minute university (laughter) and the idea is that in five minutes you learn what the average college graduate remembers five years after he or she is out of school (laughter) (applause).  Wouldn’t cost like $20.  That might seem like a lot of money, $20 just for five minutes, but that’s for like tuition, cap and gown rental, graduation picture, snacks, everything, everything included.  You know like in college, you have to take a foreign language.  Well at the five minute university you can have your choice--any language you want you can take it.  Say if you want to take Spanish, what I teach you is cómo está usted, that means how are you?, and the answer is muy bien, means very well.  And believe me, if you took two years of college Spanish, five years after you’re out of the school como esta usted and muy bien is about all you’re going to remember.  (laughter, applause)

Ed:  I think everybody appreciates the point.  Go to the next slide.

When I think about sustainability I really think about three key interlocking pieces and that are proportional, I think, here in the demonstration, that it really is a combination of leadership, partnership and what I’m calling a knowledge capacity and it’s how these three interact that create the sustainability possibility that we’re looking at.  Next slide, please.

When we talk about leadership, we really talk about it at 3 levels, and I think these are interconnected and I don’t think you can separate these.  So when the leadership we’re talking about, we’re talking about leadership from the state level, leadership at the district level, and leadership within the building level.  Now at the state level, what I’m really talking about here is that the state level leadership has connected the RTI initiative to other initiatives that are very important to the state.  In Pennsylvania like many other states we have a very big initiative called the Standards Aligned System.  That’s what everybody talks about in our state.  It’s what we talk about when we talk about instruction.  What was key in Pennsylvania was to connect RTI to that initiative and that was done actually about a year ago when our state came out with what is, we call it a BEC but what it really is is a state policy kind of brief sent out to all of the schools that basically connected response to instruction and intervention.  In Pennsylvania it is RTII, not RTI.  Response to Instruction and Intervention.  This was a change made by Jerry Zahorchak about 2 years ago.  We think it’s a critical change.  It’s not just semantic.  But that change connected RTI to the Standards Aligned System as a way that it could be implemented.

At the district level there has to be a district commitment that’s philosophical and part of the vision expressed by the district superintendent and the entire central administration.  And it’s more than lip service.  It’s connected into budget considerations.  It’s talked about in the budget considerations of the district, not just talked about as something that we want to be able to do.

At the building level there has to be a connection to teacher leaders, individuals who get it, folks in the schools who get it quickly who become the mentors and the models for everyone else to see.  Next slide, please.

At the partnership level we’re talking about partnership at every one of these areas and I want to emphasize true partnership, which is a two-way form of communication, not one way.  It’s not I tell you what we’re doing and you say that’s nice.  It’s I tell you what we’re doing, you tell us what we should do, and we come together in some negotiated way with an agreement that ends up being better for all of us.  For teachers in particular, one of the elements that is critical for RTI, and we all know it, is accountability.  It’s accountability for student outcomes.  It’s accountability for implementation of fidelity of instruction.  And fidelity of intervention.  And to get successful RTI, you need to have teachers who recognize that accountability is part of it, and the place where this has to take place is in discussions and contract negotiations and contractual agreements.  One of the things that I never heard mentioned yet today was anything about teacher unions.  And if we ignore the teacher unions in this process, we will have a failed model and I can give you a great example of that shortly if I have time in our own work where the teacher unions were the lynchpin that made it work or fail.

I can tell you another story in terms of similar to this in terms of partnership and that is you know the partnership between administrators and teaching staff.  I walked into a district one day to do an in-service at the district administration’s request.  It was to present to them their DIBELS data and the relationship between their DIBELS data taken in first grade and third grade outcomes on their own PSSA, our state assessment, very strong (unclear).  The correlations were about .7.  Very good data.  Very good data and I’m there to present, somebody in the first row says, You know Dr. Shapiro, we’re an anti- DIBELS school district.  I said You’re a what?  Anti- DIBELS.  We don’t believe in DIBELS.  So here I was about to give a presentation for 3 hours on their data of DIBELS data supporting their results to a district that tells me they’re anti- DIBELS.  There’s a problem there that there’s no partnership between what the administration is saying and what teachers are saying.  And what the administration thought is if I present these data, it’s going to change everybody’s mind.  It didn’t change anybody’s mind.  It just cemented in their minds that DIBELS isn’t something we should be paying attention to.

A critical partnership here is the parent partnership, and we’ve heard time and time again today three different events and I think we’ll have a forth one now of a parent talking about the failure to communicate.  The failure to engage.  The failure to involve.   In the districts we’ve been working with where we’ve gotten great parental involvement, we have a parent advisory committee set up around RTI by the district that meets with parents who help to formulate and answer the question, How do we communicate with parents about our screening, about our progress monitoring data, about what RTI is about.  How do we get them going?  And it wasn’t a lot of effort to find these parents interested in being part of this.  They become the spokespersons for all of this.  Next slide please.

When I talk about knowledge capacity and practice, here we’re talking about the fact that professional development has to be there.  One of the things we know that will happen—guarantee in schools—is we are guaranteed that personnel will change.  New teachers, new principals, new school administrators—people will come and go.  We know that.  It’s not going to be any different in any school I’ve ever worked with.  If we don’t plan for professional development that handles that problem across time and across people, we will have a failed model that will work for a period of time and then stop.  We also know that there are advancements in assessment, advancements in instruction, advancements in all the interventions we’re talking about that are still developing.  Nobody has stopped doing the research on this.  One of the things that I can point to as an example is assessment.  The big assessment process right now for RTI has been the use of curriculum based measurement.  CBM is a very big part of RTI.  People talk about it.  They use it.  It’s a very valued part of the process.  But doing CBM does not…doing RTI does not require that I do CBM.  RTI requires I have universal screening, I have progress monitoring in place, I have data based decision making, but the methodology I use for that doesn’t have to be CBM.  One of the developing methodologies right now is computer adapted instruction, computer adapted testing.  That is a very big development.  In fact, the US Department of Education which there are several representatives here gave a huge contract to two companies to develop the next generation of our tests.  One of those companies, the Smart Balance Coalition, is going to develop computer adapted tests that are going to become state tests.  Well if you’re using a computer adapted test for your state assessment there’s not going to be a lot of leap to say shouldn’t I be doing that for my RTI model?  That’s a change.  That’s a knowledge development.  That has to be considered.

Equally important is something else we haven’t heard talked about yet today and that is what do we do at the pre-service level?  We can do all this training at the in-service level of all our teachers that are going to change and all our administrators that are going change, but what are we doing in higher education?  I can tell you for a fact, no much across the country in our teacher education programs and even our special ed programs and school psychology programs.  We need a methodology to change that.  In Pennsylvania we’ve taken this on.  We have actually a form, a higher ed form that’s now being done regionally across our state to try to get this information out there, but it’s only a drop in the bucket.  If we don’t train the next generation of folks coming into our schools with these methodologies, then we’re not going to be hiring the right people for these kind of jobs.  Next slide please.

I like to always tell a couple of good stories and not-so-good stories.  Here’s a really good story.  Dr. Rita Bean at the University of Pittsburgh, you may know, very well known now emeritus faculty member in reading, was asked to do, or she actually asked to do this, she went in to evaluate the (unclear) function differences that have occurred in well-functioning RTI models in our state.  She identified these models through the help of our local, our state training groups, and identified through interview process interesting outcomes.  And it was very consistent.  Common skills and competences were found such as in-depth knowledge of literacy and data analysis processes, a recognition of the importance of differentiated instruction and a real knowledge that collaboration was critical, and a commitment to life-long learning.  This was from the staff who were interviewed in these districts.  And they recognized a facility with technology is an essential element of being able to do good in RTI models.   Next slide, please.

This was a little diagram, not a surprising thing, but the shared leadership is what really came though.  It’s a little small qualitative kind of process that really tells big stories.  And now a not-so-good story.  Next slide.

This is the RTI, the failed experiment.  In one of our districts that I worked with they failed to attend to core instruction.  Their solution to RTI was to hire interventionists who would do Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions.  And when kids were identified as in need of Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions, the kids were sent off to these interventionists.  When the kids came back not cured, the core instruction teacher said “You haven’t solved the problem for me.”  What’s going on here?  Very old model.  Nothing new.  The emphasis was on tiered interventions to solve problems.  The model was shut down after several years, after about two years of trying, three years we shut it down.  We didn’t shut it down.  They shut it down.  The district shut it down.  They said this is a failed experiment.  It doesn’t work.   Well it doesn’t work because this is how you’re doing it.  Next slide.

So I don’t want to go through all the details.  There’s a lot of bullet points up here, but I think what’s clear is sustainability will occur when it’s feasible, when there’s on-going support that’s provided to it, and what’s critical here is that the support and what we’re doing supports the development of competency over time and that this is supported by the administration and it’s scaffolded right on up to the state level.  Next slide.

When the change is required for teachers, it augments their skills.  So if we’re going to do something that’s going to be required for teachers we’ve got to augment those skills and we’ve got to engage them. We’ve got to engage the teachers in this conversation.  It has to have visible benefits and student enjoyment.  This can’t be done if students don’t like it.  And the conceptual knowledge that’s there has to be built up as well.   Next slide.  Go ahead and click through.

To me there’s only three things that are necessary to make this all work.  And it doesn’t matter which group we have, but there’s only 3 things.  Click through.  Leadership, leadership, leadership.  We talk about it all the time and to me it’s the only way that this is sustainable.  It’s about the leadership at every level.  It’s about the leadership at every single level of what we do in the school.   And, one more slide.  And I’ve used this quote many times.  You’ve probably seen it a zillion times in presentations, but I think it really does for me put into one simple sentence what it’s about—that a leader is a person you follow to a place you would not go to by yourself.  And to make RTI sustainable, we need leaders in all of these areas.  Thank you.   (applause)

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