What role do parents play in the RTI process, including when do they become involved, are they on the decision making team, and where can they learn more about RTI?
First, an observation: we conducted a national study involving some 60 elementary schools and their implementation of RTI. Those parents were uniformly complementary about the improvement in their children's education as part of RTI. They gave examples such as, well, they felt like they were more aware of what was happening in the schools, they felt like there was better communication among the school's staff and with them about the activities involving their youngster — their youngster's progress, and they felt like they were more connected to that academic program with more engagement. Which in turn, was translated into the students feeling like they were more engaged in school as well. Parent involvement in planning of RTI, that seemed to be another part of your question, that is, how do we involve.
My hunch is I'd want to involve parents very early as my district and as my school are moving to implementation, because I want to hear the parental concerns. What are those concerns about our current delivery of education that parents would like to see improved? Parents can be involved in helping us develop the language around response to intervention because heaven knows screening and progress monitoring and tiered levels of services may not be too familiar with most parents. Parents also are important for building the support for the change, the system enhancement that's going to be part of RTI. I can think of four studies that linked parent involvement to the school's effectiveness in implementing a reform and I can think of one study that linked the lack of parental support and that reform effort's failure to get implemented or to be sustained in the schools. If you stop and ask yourself, "How many bond issues do we get passed without parental support?" you think, "I don't know of any where that played out," so parents do have an important role in that development of that RTI model.
When it comes to that planning and working for implementation, when would I involve the parents? More formally, after we've got the RTI model implemented, well, parents are going to choose to be involved in varying levels, but as a school person I'd encourage parents to be involved as we look at the results of our screening whether we're screening annually, or maybe even three times a year, when we're looking at those academic benchmarks that would indicate how well a youngster is performing in class and then when we're conducting the progress monitoring so that students who are part of more intensive interventions will have their progress monitored, or will conduct those formative assessments to inform us how well that intervention is working. And I'd certainly want to involve them as well when we consider next steps. That is, what do we think of as being an appropriate placement for a youngster? Whether that's maintaining the current placement or current level of performance in a tier or changing that.
One of the resources that parents might find helpful is a booklet we prepared a couple years back called "The ABCs of RTI for Parents." This short booklet is available free, it gives parents a description of RTI and includes the description of those components of RTI such as screening and progress monitoring but also includes questions that parents might bring to a school staff when you're reviewing the results of screening or progress monitoring or a student's participation in different tiers or levels of services so that they get a better sense of dialog about their child's participation within the school. Another advantage of the booklet is that it helps educators understand what the expectations are from a parent's perspective, this helps you explain roles and responsibilities of what those expectations might be as well as an opportunity for the school staff to describe the procedures, that is, share with them about the workings — the steps — of RTI within the school. A different document that's available from the National Center on Learning Disabilities is called "A Parent's Guide to RTI," this booklet is also available free of charge, it can be downloaded from the internet, and provides another view — a little different framework — about implementation of RTI and how a parent might be involved in that implementation as well. The booklet is a good resource for parents as they consider the schools implementation of RTI framework.
— Dr. Daryl Mellard, University of Kansas