Be Sure to Meet the Needs of the Implementers

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    The sustained change we seek through the implementation of an RTI model in our schools is no easy task. We ask professionals who have worked in classrooms for many years to evaluate and change their practice...practices they have developed and honed over time. As we ask teachers to move away from their established practices, we need to be cautious. RTI asks teachers to implement scientifically-based research in the classroom. How we as schools approach professional development and implementation of instruction and how we gather implementation feedback are keys to effective scientifically-based research applications in our schools.

    To meet the NCLB definition of "scientifically based," research must:

    • employ systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment;
    • involve rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions;
    • rely on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers, and a cross multiple measurements and observations; and
    • be accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparatively rigorous, objective, and scientific review.

    The change we seek when implementing scientifically-based research interventions or innovations will have a large impact at two fundamental levels in the school. The first will be in the classroom. The classroom is where "the rubber meets the road" as teachers apply the components of the scientifically-based research intervention. The second will be at the building level. The fundamental organization and infrastructure will be challenged. The building culture will be changed to accommodate the intervention implementation. If there is no evidence of organizational change, then the intervention is probably being "shoe-horned" into the status-quo.

    While selecting a scientifically-based intervention may provide momentum and movement, if the needs of the implementers are not met, the momentum will come to a screeching halt. Selection of the program is just one slice of the implementation pie. Other slices of the pie include:

    • Training the implementers on program implementation with a focus on process, outcomes and practice.
    • Having on-going conversations about how the program is or will impact the school dynamics and responding swiftly to address systemic challenges to help maintain the momentum.
    • Ensuring that the implementation drivers (staffing needs, materials, costs, leadership, data and supervision) are maintained and supported.
    • Creating clear expectations and reinforcing continually the fidelity of implementation and the implementation fidelity.
    • Addressing how current structures, climate, and culture will change over time as the new program demands dictate new realities.

    As we think about RTI implementation in our schools, we sometimes lose sight of the interface between the innovation and the implementer, becoming more focused on the "program" than on the "people." We think, "This program will solve all of our problems." The best scientifically researched based program will have no impact if the people we ask to implement it do not implement it as intended. We need to always remember that people solve problems, not programs. As we meld programs and people together, scientifically-based research practices will improve outcomes for students.
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