Addressing Sustainability of RTI Implementation

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    In a previous blog, I shared the work of our RtI – Community of Practice called the Kansas Innovation Consortium. This consortium represents educators of various roles who are part of districts or universities who share in common an implementation of RtI and value in sharing and learning with, and from, each others. This year we initiated the writing of a white paper to help address some misunderstandings we have heard from colleagues and communicate what we believe based on our current level of implementation and experience with RtI efforts. In the previous blog post I shared the position statements created around the issue of fidelity of implementation. This post will address what we have developed around sustainability. Much of our discussion is based on the work of Michael Fullan in his book: Leadership & Sustainability: System Thinkers in Action (2005). Our hope is that sharing our position statements will stimulate and promote needed and healthy discussions around RtI implementation.

    Common Misunderstandings

    It is not uncommon to hear the following statements when educators are introduced to RtI:

    "Here we go again…..this too shall pass.”

    “As long as you make AYP, just go ahead and keep doing what you are doing.”

    “That’s just what we do, but I don’t know that it is in district policy.”

    “That may be what is being promoting, but I’m not sure that affects ‘our’ students.”

    “We’re already doing ‘it’ we don’t need to spend the time discussing it further.”

    Position Statements

    The following position statements are intended to address important facets of sustainability that need to be considered and discussed at the onset of planning and implementation so that the focus is on the big ideas represented in RtI as part of a continuous process of improvement:

    1. Core beliefs and values must be considered at the building level and must be built directly into systems and practices.

    • The foundational beliefs of RtI should be visible: that all students will learn and the responsibility of educators is to provide whatever is needed to ensure the academic and social success of students.
    • There should be a focus on successful instructional and curricular features that come from a variety of research bases (e.g., ELL, Special ED, at-risk learners) and explore how those practices strengthen the differentiation process.
    • We need to ensure that our time and resources are aligned for appropriate supplemental intervention (e.g., schedule, highly-qualified interventionists)
    • We must recommit and mature the Student Improvement Process so individual plans created are meaningful for students, staff, and families.

    2. Core beliefs and values and beliefs are reflected in the mechanisms set up at the district level.

    • The values and beliefs developed or adopted by the RtI leadership team should be revisited on a frequent basis and used to direct subsequent actions.
    • Meetings agendas should be designed to focus on continuous improvement. The district team shows the purpose and value of being transparent by using data to report progress on a regular basis in school and community settings and by celebrating the success of schools implementing RtI.
    • Failures are described by the district team as an opportunity for growth and incentives are used to encourage innovation.
    • Changing the cultural norms of the district that present barriers to RtI becomes a focus of the district leadership team.

    3. Before we prepare to implement RtI practices we consider the larger system issues that will influence the sustainability of these practices.

    • Position descriptions are re-written to align with RtI practices.
    • Professionals interviewed for new positions are introduced to RtI principles and are told in advance that they will be working collaboratively with other teachers in ways that allow for reflection on classroom practices.
    • District teams establish meetings that function as feedback loop systems so that professionals from each school can meet regularly to report progress, share ideas and contribute to ongoing professional development efforts within the district.
    • Professional development opportunities are directly aligned with RtI efforts and organized in ways that allow school personnel to participate in the identification of important learning opportunities.
    • Interagency partnerships are established to ensure that students receive academic and social supports in the home, school, and community.

    4. Schools and districts must have a clear understanding of how laws, regulations, policies and procedures that exist at different levels of the system (federal, state, district, and local) influence current and future decisions.

    • District Leadership Teams should provide transparency on policies and procedures so employees and families understand the original law or regulation and the resulting district interpretation.
    • Wherever possible, policies must be adapted and modified to support sustainable implementation efforts.
    • Schools, districts and states must become stronger advocates at the federal level and join with other educators to influence legislators and policy makers in order to create a more sustainable and effective context for RtI implementation.
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