Question:What role can a school psychologist have within an RTI framework?
Response from Michelle Hosp
I think that school psychologists are in a unique position and a really important position to help implement RTI at multiple levels. So, I think one level, because of their training, they tend to have a little bit more expertise in assessment and interventions, and how to look at data as far as reliability and validity when we're looking at collecting data with assessments as well as implementing interventions, it needs to be done with fidelity.
We also need to be picking appropriate assessments so all of that information is very important to look at and I think a school psychologist could contribute greatly to RTI efforts and being that person to examine that evidence and information. Then I also think that they also have some great training to help teachers and educators look at the data, so once they've identified specific assessments to use, sometimes you get bogged down in the numbers and information and school psychologists have that training to sift through that and look at the evidence and how students — individual students and groups of students — are responding to the instruction based on the data that's being collected.
So, I really think that they can be an additional set of eyes and ears and really help at those critical moments. Lots of times when schools and teachers get stuck at a point of "What do I do next?", "What assessment should I be looking at giving?", "What intervention might be appropriate for this student or group of students?" I think a school psychologist could really step in and help them look through that information, get through the research to find those evidence-based practices that are going to be potentially most beneficial to a larger group of students or a particular set of students, and really help them streamline and get through some of those difficult questions and points in the RTI process that I think are difficult and people get overwhelmed with. So, I really do think that school psychologists can really contribute greatly to the whole process from the beginning to the end.
Question:How can I get teachers and staff to buy in to the RTI process?
Response from Evelyn Johnson
So Larry Summer's is quoted as saying "in the history of man nobody has ever washed a rental car," and the point of that quote is that without ownership school staff probably isn't going to buy in, 100%, to the RTI process and without that ownership of the process they are much less likely to implement it well, and its much less likely therefore to be successful. And one way that we found to get teacher buy-in is to really ensure that all staff have an opportunity to voice their concerns about the process, to express their concerns about the changes in their roles that they make counter as a result of implementing the RTI process, and also to ensure that as schools shift from using data to make decisions about students, that the one component that is not lost is also getting the teacher's experience and knowledge base in their personal relationship with their students; not taking that part out of the equation.
In other words, we want to respect what teachers bring to this process, and if we don't do that then you are not likely to get the level of buy-in and ownership of RTI that you probably need in order for it to work well.
Question:If I were a leader in a district and we decided we wanted to implement RTI district-wide, what would be the top three things you would encourage me to figure out first?
Response from Daryl Mellard
Think of it like planning your summer vacation because you could probably just get in the car and drive and get some place or maybe you could talk to folks around the table like, "Gee kids, what do you want to do on your summer vacation," "what would make a great summer vacation?" "Gee I wonder where we might go to have those kinds of fun events." Would it be shopping, would it be snorkeling, would it be hiking, would it be fishing? Alright so the connection then with the school district would be kind of the same way. I need to get people around the table who might help me understand why we want to go pursue these set of activities around Response to Intervention. So that would include my classroom teachers, my building administrators, probably some parents, school board members, folks that can help me identify what it is we want to accomplish and how would we know if we were successful. Those would be important considerations.
The other piece would be recognizing how Response to Intervention might help me with meeting requirements of other initiatives such as, No Child Left Behind, or what I might be considering in improving my services for students in special education or other students who are just at risk. So those are to get started anyway I want to have the right people at the table and help me figure out how we would know if we were being successful.
Then, I probably want to have some sense of short-term outcomes and maybe also some long-term outcomes because like planning the vacation there's those things that we would want to get started early on and then once we're on the trip we get a better sense of how things are working. So on the short-term, it might be: what would be those markers that we're on the right track? That the work we are doing around Response to Intervention and those components are making a difference for our students, and for our staff, and for the quality of services. Then in the long-term we might be able to look further at the performance of those students on other measures; their retention rate in school, their grades, their performance on state assessments. We might get a better sense about their participation in the variety of academic activities as well as their performance on academic and behavioral screening. The big question might be, well where should I start with these multiple components that are part of RTI, is it better to start with screening, or progress monitoring or organizing our tiers? But the simplest way to maybe get started would be those that would give us kind of an immediate impact.
Something that would really let us get started and get some momentum going so we can demonstrate our success because it's going to take some effort. We want to implement pieces that will demonstrate to those who haven't quite bought into the idea of RTI that it's worth our time, and worth our effort. Probably, I'd want to consider what are those events, what are those pieces about RTI, on which I can get broad agreement, on which I can get folks engaged, one thing is to get them to agree, yeah that's a good idea, the next thing is to get them engaged, because now we are talking about their behavior changes and then also the observable changes that we might see with participants as well, as we put all of that together.