Question:The response to your new book, Why Don’t Students Like School, has been tremendous. Why do you think policy makers and educators are so drawn to your work? What about today's educational climate makes the findings from cognitive science so pertinent?
That's a generous assessment. I don't really know why people like my writing, but I can tell you two principles that I try to use in thinking about schooling. First, I try to remain theoretically agnostic. I try not to adhere to a "school of thought," but just to size up the data that are available. Naturally, the way that anyone evaluates data is colored by what he or she already believes. But there are tricks you can employ that help to keep you honest. (For example, saying to yourself "I believe X is true. Suppose the opposite of X is true — can I make the available data fit that proposition?").
I'm aided by this in my background, which is in cognitive neuroscience. People in that field are very data-oriented, and the field is fast-moving. If you're not open to changing your mind as new data come in, you won't last long. Second, I try to take a large-scale, system-wide view. One of the big dangers in education is oversimplification. "Oh, it looks like X improves learning. We need more X in schools." But putting X in schools might have far-reaching consequences. What does X do to student motivation? What do teachers think about X? It's essential to have a system-wide view.
Question:What role can a school psychologist have within an RTI framework?
I think that school psychologists are in a unique position and a really important position to help implement RTI at multiple levels. Because of their training, school psychologists 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.
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. School psychologists can really contribute greatly to the whole process from the beginning to the end.
— Dr. Michelle Hosp, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Question:How can I get teachers and staff to buy in to the RTI process?
Larry Summers is quoted as saying “in the history of man, nobody has ever washed a rental car.” 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, and to express their concerns about the changes in their roles that they make counter as a result of implementing the RTI process.
We need 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 student — 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.
— Dr. Evelyn Johnson, Boise State University