Leadership at the state, district, and building level is crucial to the fidelity of RtI implementation. RtI is a significant change that affects the entire educational system. Initially district level administrators must understand and embrace the essential components and supports needed to effectively implement RtI. Administrators must prioritize resource allocation to support the effort, as well as offer professional development to school staffs on the philosophical underpinnings of RtI. Staff development on the RtI philosophy will help establish and promote consistency among districts and schools that is imperative for successful implementation. Additionally, superintendents, curriculum directors, principals, special education administrators, etc. must guide the implementation of RtI by developing leadership roles and expectations for district and building administrators. Because of the broad impact of the RtI Model and its impact on the entire educational system, significant systemic changes will need to occur to execute implementation with fidelity. These changes must be championed and monitored by leaders at all levels. Because professional development promotes change, district and school leadership should participate in trainings that develop a knowledge of curriculum and instruction across the tiers, positive school climate, the problem-solving process, progress monitoring and parent and community involvement. CDE has developed training modules to support professional development across the state and will provide training in all regions. Nonetheless, administrators’ participation in developing the infrastructure for RtI has a direct correlation to the success of the model. Although supporting initial implementation of RtI should be an important focus for districts, establishing a long term commitment of resources and time is equally critical. Schools must devote time to implementation and maintenance of the RtI Model: time for data dialogues, for problem-solving team meetings, and for development of action plans that identify continued training needs. These issues need to be monitored and reviewed by district administration. District administration should work with principals to regularly monitor and review the action plans developed by individual schools. Leadership is critical for effective implementation of RtI. The success of RtI will be determined, to a great extent, by the degree to which district and school leaders are able to move the focus of RtI from philosophical understanding to actual practice. District and school leadership is imperative to the sustainability of the model.
The purpose of the problem-solving process is to assist the classroom teacher and parents in designing and selecting strategies for improving student academic and/or behavioral performance. The purpose of the problem-solving process is to develop academic and behavior intervention strategies that have a high probability of success. It provides a structure for addressing the academic and/or behavioral concerns identified by teachers or parents. A problem-solving process requires full collaboration among a team of professionals along with parents to identify a specific, measurable outcome and to design research-based interventions to address the concerns. The process includes ensuring interventions are implemented with fidelity according to their research base and student progress is monitored to determine the student’s response. Family engagement in the process is vital to ensure all information that might impact success is considered. The purpose of problem solving is to put in place a decision-making process that will lead to the development of instructional and intervention strategies with a high probability of success. The system must integrate the use of data, both to guide the development of effective interventions and to provide frequent monitoring of progress. The RtI in Practice section of this manual outlines the problem-solving process steps to be used by problem-solving teams.
Curriculum and Instruction
The RtI Model is a three-tiered system designed to meet the needs of ALL students. Curriculum based on the state standards and quality instruction are essential for student success. Tier I instruction includes high quality, research-based curricula and instructional strategies that support the district’s curriculum guidelines. Tier I provides core instruction for all students. Flexible grouping that targets specific skills are included so that the instructional goals of all students can be met. Tier II offers supplemental instruction in addition to the standards-based curriculum received in Tier I. The curriculum and instruction at Tier II is designed to meet the needs of students not progressing as expected in Tier I. Tier III instruction includes more explicit instruction that is focused on a specific skill need, whether that be an accelerated need or a remedial need. The following section, “Understanding the Three-Tiered Model,” provides a more detailed description of the instructional components within the RtI Model.
A major feature of the RtI Model is its use of data to drive the decision-making process- at the individual student, classroom, and school levels. To support RtI's fluid approach, reliable and ongoing information must be available to:
- Identify academic and behavioral needs of individual students,
- Inform the problem-solving process,
- Design and modify instruction to meet student needs,
- Evaluate the effectiveness of instruction at different levels, of the system (e.g., classroom, school, district).
An efficient system that streamlines increasingly limited resources, however, is still paramount. Therefore, RtI uses a tiered system of assessments that increase in frequency and intensity as greater needs are revealed. Timely, reliable assessments indicate which students are falling behind in critical skills or which students need their learning accelerated, as well as allow teachers to design instruction that responds to the learning needs. By regularly assessing students' progress in learning and behavior, teachers can identify which students need more help, which are likely to make good progress without extra help, and which students need their learning accelerated.
An effective assessment plan has four main objectives:
- To identify students at the beginning of the year who are at-risk or who are experiencing difficulties and who may need extra instruction or intensive interventions if they are to progress toward grade-level standards by the end of the year, as well as students who have reached benchmarks and who need to be challenged.
- To monitor students' progress during the year to determine whether at-risk students are making adequate progress in critical skills and to identify any students who may be falling behind or need to be challenged.
- To inform instructional planning in order to meet the most critical needs of individual students.
- To evaluate whether the instruction or intervention provided is powerful enough to help all students achieve grade-level standards by the end of each year.
The four objectives outlined above can be achieved through four types of assessments during the school year, 1) screening, 2) progress monitoring, 3) diagnostic, and 4) outcome. They correspond roughly to the four objectives above, but all can contribute in helping plan effective instruction and interventions.
Progress Monitoring Assessments
Progress monitoring assessments are also brief, but are given periodically to determine whether students are making adequate progress. Progress monitoring assessment data should be collected, evaluated, and used on an ongoing basis for the following purposes:
- Determine rate of a student's progress,
- Provide information on the effectiveness of instruction and to modify the intervention if necessary,
- Identify the need for additional information,
- Analyze and interpret gaps between benchmarks and achievement.
Positive School Climate and Culture
The core principles of a multi-tiered RtI model support and embrace positive school climate within all school settings. Positive school climate depends on four essential elements: 1. creating a caring school community; 2. teaching appropriate behavior and social problem-solving skills; 3. implementing positive behavior support (PBS); and 4. providing rigorous academic instruction. Essentially, a positive school climate provides the foundation on which instruction will occur and all students will be engaged in learning. A positive school climate is observed when key elements are solidly in place. These include:
- Defining and consistently teaching expectations of behavior for students, parents and educators;
- Students and adults are acknowledged and recognized consistently for appropriate behaviors;
- Behavioral and instructional errors are monitored, corrected, or re-taught;
- Teachers are engaged in a collaborative team problem-solving process using data to design instruction and behavior intervention plans;
- Families are included in a culturally-sensitive, solution-focused approach to support student learning.
Understanding the elements of a positive school climate is vital; however, equally important in maintaining a positive school climate is the development of systems to support school personnel in implementing the identified research-based practices to improve student outcomes. Naturally, the identified practices to support student achievement and social competence are dependent on a clear understanding of the information and data available to decision makers. The school staff needs to understand what data to collect, how frequently to use them, and the purpose for collecting data. CDE has taken a leading role in the implementation of the School wide Positive Behavior Initiative currently being put into practice in 563 Colorado Public Schools. Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is an integrated approach that clearly identifies systems, practices and the use of data to improve student outcomes. It is a broad range of systemic and individualized strategies for achieving important social and learning outcomes while preventing problem behavior with all students. PBS is consistent with RtI.
Family, School and Community Partnering
When families, schools, and communities work together, children are more successful in school and schools improve. Effective partnerships include parents, families, students, community members and educators. Indicators of an effective partnership include 1) sharing information,2) problem-solving, and 3) celebrating student successes. Central to effective partnership is the recognition of shared responsibility and shared ownership of student challenges and successes.