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Books in Translation

What Every School Leader Needs to Know About RTI

by Margaret Searle

Table of Contents


The RTI framework coordinates the best of what we know about assessment, research-based instruction, intervention, and the kind of collaboration that breeds quality programs. When I first read the RTI regulations, they made me do my little happy dance because of their simplicity and commonsense approach. Finally, there were some guidelines powerful enough to make a difference but open-ended enough to allow each school district to tailor the implementation to its own needs.

As I consult with districts to help them formulate and implement school improvement plans that include RTI requirements, I hear the same comments over and over. Administrative and teacher leadership teams want to know:

  • Where should we start?
  • Where do I find research-based interventions?
  • What's a pyramid of interventions and who can show me what to put in the tiers?
  • If this means more testing, how are we going to have any time to teach?
  • How is this whole thing going to work without killing us?

Some of these answers are relatively simple because RTI is built on a solid foundation of best practice. I often suggest strategies I have used myself as a teacher, supervisor, and principal to help teams see that quality practices and programs they've implemented in the past fit nicely into the RTI framework.

As I search to find practical and effective ways to support teachers and students, I continue to learn about wonderful books, Web sites, articles, and resources. Each provides helpful ideas, but, unfortunately, I haven't been able to find anything that puts all the RTI pieces (quality assessment, research-based instruction and intervention, and collaborative problem solving) together for both elementary and secondary schools. That is my mission in the following pages.

In this book, I attempt to paint a broad picture of the separate RTI components and how they fit together. At the same time, I will help you link these RTI components to all the great work already done in your district and school. RTI, thankfully, is not a new initiative or a program you can buy. It is simply a framework in which educators organize and coordinate what they have in place and then identify and fill in the missing pieces. If your district has been working on differentiation, summative and formative assessments, research-based interventions, professional learning communities, inclusive education, 21st century skills, mapping, and self-monitoring, you're already ahead of the game. All of these initiatives fit within the general RTI structure.

In Chapter 1, we look at the "big picture" behind RTI and the student-centered thinking behind the legislation. We will begin to connect the dots between quality programs already in place and the new responsibilities that RTI demands. Your job will be to identify gaps between these "dots" and opportunities to upgrade your system without sacrificing the valuable work that came before. There is always a need to progress to the next level of excellence.

Who isn't tired of starting new programs that sound great in theory but are then pulled up by the roots before they have time to flower? That is an exhausting waste of time, energy, and resources. It's time for all educators to get serious about the effort they devote to new improvement plans. RTI calls for a systemwide commitment, with all the resources and administrative support that entails. In Chapter 2, we learn how to set up this infrastructure that will ultimately support, focus, and sustain your RTI goals.

RTI requires a higher-quality assessment system than most initiatives by blurring the line between assessment and instruction. The process focuses on the use of data in decision making, not on data collection to simply comply with regulations. Through pertinent examples, we examine the "how" and "why" of assessment in Chapters 3 and 4.

Chapters 5 and 6 describe the pyramid of interventions and ways to build capacity in your staff. Options must be in place that provide the type of evidence-based instruction and interventions that are helping schools across the nation deliver better results. We discuss the three tiers of intervention and ways to design and implement them. We also take a close look at powerful methods to strengthen Tier 1 classroom instruction so that it minimizes the need to overuse more costly and labor-intensive Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions.

RTI depends on teamwork for success. If teachers are asked to "go it alone," quality goes down and frustration goes up. Chapter 7 describes a step-by-step problem-solving process that supports staff and parents when they get stuck. Through early interventions and coordination of programs and resources, many students who were formerly misidentified with a learning disability can receive appropriate supports within a general education setting.

Chapter 8 puts all the pieces together and helps you plan a road map for moving forward. Are you ready? Let's get started.


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