School-Based RTI Decision Making
What changes are needed to implement RTI?
Kathy: It’s been our experience to successfully be able to implement RTI with our
staff, what we needed to do was we had to do an inclusion model. So our
special ed. staff no longer looks at a “pull-out” model, as they did years
before—it’s inclusive. So they go into the classrooms and they collaborate
and do lesson plans together and then they implement into their lessons,
the interventions. So that is what we had to look at very differently is
where we place our special ed. staff, and of course our paras and so forth
in order to support the RTI model.
Patrick: The change has taken time. It’s not a quick fix. And a lot of perception is
that you go to a workshop or an in-service and you’re going to come back
with a quick-fix and it doesn’t work that way. The change happened
slowly—like I said, we began in Kindergarten, we went two years piloting
a program of assessments called the DIBELS, in reading in our
Kindergartens and then we built that core into our first grades and into our
second grades and then this year we’re moving our third and then they
came in and decided everybody’s going to do it and that’s when the
resistance came. But the real change really came—and this is not a put-
down to our previous administrator—but her priorities were in different
areas. And when I came in, the building was in declining enrollment, the
scores were going down and so they needed to make some changes. So
they’d seen a need and they were ready for change. Then, two, is to bring
in new ideas as an administrator and support something that is systematic,
that works for everybody and if you give support to the teacher at the
bottom, at their level, where they can make it work, then the system is
successful. The downfall comes when the resources either are not there, or,
as referred to before, when the monies are not there to pay for teacher in-
service and training, then you create gaps, such as gaps in learning where
we create gaps in the instruction process.
Brandi: For our building the biggest changes came in our system where we started
switching children and skills-based groups. And we also saw a change in
the role of our school-psych and special ed. teacher. Our psych wasn’t
doing testing anymore because—or as much testing—because of the
model that we were under didn’t require a whole lot of testing so that freed
up our psych to do more observations, work with groups, help consult
teachers who were having difficulty with the model and also, changed our
special ed program a little bit where they weren’t pulling groups into
resource, we were massing adults in our lower switch groups, so kids who
were struggling with reading, if we had 16 kids in a reading group then we would have five adults in there to work with them. So, our special ed program looks quite a bit different than it did when I entered Dalton in 1999, before we started the pilot and how it looks now is completely different.
Carole: There have been a lot of changes in our school based on using the RTI implementation when we began, and the changes happened on a lot of different levels. We had changes in conversations; we had changes in leadership, in terms of teachers stepping forward and being a part of the RTI team; we had changes in our relationships with parents and we had real changes, I think, almost in our entire culture, in terms of what do we feel makes a...what is a good reading program and what is a good program for our students. We had changes in the way we looked at student growth and we had changes in the way we looked at data collection and teachers’ understanding of data collection. Teachers’ expertise expanded when we began using the RTI model in terms of understanding common terms in reading changed. And also, understanding the change process was important. Knowing what things we could expect to happen in any change in a school and anticipating that and then working through that and that helped the change become positive, I believe—and talk about that change.
And we’ve had a true change in our expectation for our students, for our parents, for ourselves. It became, what I would call as we began the change, we used to have what I would say is almost a...we began using the medical model—it was more of a clinical model and that was a change in terms of saying that the trust needed to be developed with all of us because we were truly case-managing each student in our school. So the trust levels for our staff had to change and so there were a variety changes. I didn’t realize how many changes we’d had until about three years into the process. And I asked a few teachers sitting at a table one day, “Could we ever go back to looking at reading the way we used to look at reading?” And unequivocally they said, “No—we would never.”—even teachers
who were reluctant in the beginning to make this change. So I think that the change did take time, and it’s incremental bits of time, but our motto at one point was “leap and the net will appear.” We changed the way we
provided resources for teachers and supports for teachers as well, and wanted teachers to really go forward with what they knew was best, and that drove us. Teachers are asking incredible questions now based on what sort of the experience has been. I no longer have the teacher come to me—
I had a “what it was” and “what it is now.” I no longer have teachers come to me and just say, “Gee, this child’s not making progress.” Someone last week came to me and said, “The child’s fluency is at a great spot but I’m
concerned about some of the comprehension; can you help us? Can you help our team in terms of some good, effective comprehension strategies.” Those are the conversations; they’re much more complete—they’re much more thoughtful.
One important change, I believe, were the specialist teachers became generalists and the generalist teachers became much more—their role—let
me try it again. The specialists became much more—became generalists
and the generalists became specialists. So roles began to be reversed—or
the lines became blurred between those roles.
The other piece, too, that’s been important, or a big change for RTI implementation, is that resource allocation has changed. No longer is my budget being driven by what I used to spend. Now how we...and what our school used to devote—our resources...our resources now are allocated: what do the students need? The students drive the resource allocation; what interventions we will use, and what materials we need. So, when we start planning our budgets it’s a different way to look at budgeting and resource allocation now.