A Middle School Principal’s Perspective: Refining and Expanding RTI Implementation

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    Once we finished PSSA testing in the spring, our main goal was to try and keep the momentum going into the remainder of the school year and beyond.  Our RtI model was gaining support beyond our school.  The sixth grade math program that we created was up and running.  All of the social studies teachers were getting trained in Restorative Practices.  Our plan was working almost too efficiently.  As the principal, one of my major concerns was that we would begin to lose our key people to other schools.  While I recognized that being a leader means creating others to follow in our footsteps, I was worried that a loss of a key player would mean a major setback for our program.  Right around this time of the year, my fears became a reality.  One of my assistant principals who helped create our program was promoted to the position of elementary principal in our district.  While I was thrilled for him, I was also worried that it would hurt our program.  What I learned was that he had been working so closely with so many in our school, that there were a number of people capable of stepping in to pick up some of the load when he moved on, thus further proving what a great leader he was and deserving of the promotion.

    Late in the 2008-2009 school year, we received another opportunity that would bring positive recognition for our program.  In June of 2009, we were asked to do an “RTI Talk” for the National Center on Learning Disabilities’ RTI Action Network.  This would turn out to be a great experience for us as it gave us a chance to share the lessons that we were learning while implementing RtI.  It also gave us some positive recognition within our district that we felt was overdue.  Other schools were finally beginning to pay attention to what we were doing.  Anyone who has been through something like that will tell you, it is that type of reinforcement that pumps up a staff and improves morale.  (Of course the honorarium to help support or programs that came with it was appreciated as well!)

    It was such a great experience to spend that time prepping for and participating in the hour-long “chat” that was done over the Internet.  We were able to field a number of great questions that not only helped those asking, but also gave us a chance to take stock in our program and analyze where we stood.  The transcript of that discussion, Effective Teaming and Collaboration within RTI, is available on this website.
    In reviewing our plan during the RTI Talk, we decided that we needed to come to a decision about some fine-tuning of the program for the following year.  Later that month, we set up training for our seventh and eighth grade staff on the interventions that we would need them to run next year once the program went school-wide.  Teachers were trained in Read Naturally, Rewards, Soar to Success and Corrective Reading (SRA).  So now we would have an “Intervention” period and a “Reading” period in sixth grade.  RtI Small-group and one-to-one interventions would take place during the Intervention period and the Ramp-Up To Literacy instruction would take place during Reading.  The additional math program was also offered during the Reading period for students not in the “Ramp-Up” program.  Other sixth graders would get math intervention during their electives classes with the SuccessMaker math lab in place of a foreign language class.

    In seventh and eighth grade the plan was to use interventions during the reading period (they did not have the extra intervention period because of an extended basic class each day).  The intervention program would take the place of remedial reading.  We also extended the SuccessMaker math program to seventh and eighth grade students in need.  Things were indeed looking up in preparation for year two of implementation.
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