RTI coaches

My district has chosen to use its stimulus money to hire a group of RTI coaches and learning resource teachers for two years to help schools with the RTI process.  I feel bad for these coaches as they’ve only been given one week of theoretical training from the district and now are expected to be RTI experts for their schools!  They go to bi-weekly trainings though and consult with each other about troubleshooting and answering teachers questions.  This position is intriguing to me as I assumed this role with both of my schools last year. 

Sometimes all I feel good for is testing and I know that it’s up to me to change this perspective on a building level.  The RTI manual that I contributed to last year was updated by another group of district people this past summer and there is a whole page dedicated to what a school psychologist’s role is.  Here’s the run down:

For Problem-Solving and data collection:

Help teams develop/maintain appropriate interventions and monitor progress regularly for each tier.

Provide assistance to the classroom teacher with data collection and interpretation, as needed.

Administer standardized (diagnostic) screening assessments (math/ reading/ behavioral/ adaptive, etc.) to further define the nature of the student’s profile of potential strengths and weaknesses.

Consult and/or assist with various types of student observations, including on-off task tallies for students with behavioral concerns.

Consult with administrators regarding the specific building needs and the RtI process.

Provide RtI trainings or ongoing information sessions to staff, as needed.

For Selection of Interventions:

Help RtI Team generate FBA’s and/or BIP’s in order to develop viable interventions for students with behavioral impediments.

Provide direct support/consult to students and their families at the problem-solving phase.

Consult with teachers regarding ongoing interventions including helping with classroom functions, such as addressing social skills, improving behavior and having students take personal responsibility.

Assist with interpretation of data school-wide and system-wide.

Assist the CST to ensure that all of RtI components were chosen and administered appropriately, and that all components of the evaluation process (short of further diagnostic assessments) have been performed and documented.

Consult with RtI teams (as needed for direction early in the process) to provide support for the decision-making process; provide resources regarding research-based interventions from which to generate ideas and assist with documentation of team decisions.

Provide counseling during RtI in the absence of a guidance counselor.

Provide social/developmental histories for the RtI team and assist (as needed) with problem solving for behavior and ASD.

Meet or communicate with parent(s) regularly to help promote home-based consistency and/or limit-setting.

Assist with transitions when students are changing educational settings (school-to-school, program-to- program, etc) to ensure satisfactory adjustment.

After a referral is made:

Utilize whatever instruments are necessary to help clarify specific areas of need or answer lingering referral questions (if any) after the RtI process has run its course.

Provide a comprehensive multidisciplinary report that takes into account all of the data, the process, the characteristics of the student and the recommendations by team and specialists, to be reported at meeting and placed in the student’s cum record.

Administer full, comprehensive battery of assessments when potentially severe or acute educational or behavioral concerns arise.

 

Hopefully I can help the RTI coach as much as possible as we navigate through another year of step-by-step RTI procedures.  With this job description listed above, I might just have the opportunity to do this! (as long as I don’t continue getting streams of referrals for testing).  Changing a paradigm to something as big as RTI from something as old as black-and-white general and special education lines will take a multitude of people to convince another multitude of people.  I’m on the bandwagon… are you?

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Software programs

I attended a training on the current IEP software we use in our district – Excent – but with the upgrade of an RTI component called Enrich.  I was so excited after the presentation!  A teacher can log in and see all the kids in their classroom who are on IEPs, 504s, BIPs, RTI plans, etc.  Teachers can input RTI data and automatic graphs are created with class and district averages included.  Other team members can have access to the RTI plan to preview.  If a student moves, the plan follows them, electronically!  I love the integration piece – where you can go back and pull all sorts of data on a student, all in one place.

I doubt my district will end up purchasing this piece of Excent, but it excites me to know that the whole field is progressing, slowly, toward a more integrated, progress monitoring/documenting approach.

I know Aimsweb has all sorts of similar features, but again, my district has not chosen to purchase such software for general education purposes.  My hopes are still high though, as funding and budgets are rearranged to comply with RTI requirements for effective implementation.

I LOVE using technology to streamline processes and make our lives more efficient.  RTI data collection seems to be requiring a lot of repetition on forms.  Why not help us use our time more efficiently by not having to re-write so many basic things on every single form?  Such is life though in all fields I would imagine.

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    • Does anyone use an online RTI documentation program besides Aimsweb?
    • Do you find redundancy in completing all the RTI paperwork (even if it’s not directly you completing it)?
    • Does RTI paperwork ‘get lost’ on kids who move schools frequently?
    • Do you have pros or cons to using an online RTI software system?

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Who’s on your team?

I was asked to go and help a RTI team complete a referral packet that was returned to them for inadequate data.  Guess who completed the little bit of data that was attached?  The guidance counselor!  She stated that she is the team.  Administration at her school told her that teachers cannot be excused from their classrooms for RTI meetings and she will need to complete the paperwork to “get these kids on the fast track to get tested”.  They are still in the old school mindset that special education is the solution. 

This is the difference: RTI, hypthetically, should be just as good as special education services, except in the general education classroom!  The hypothetical part is that RTI needs to be implemented consistently and with fidelity, otherwise it will not be as good as special education.

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So who is responsible for what?  That depends on strengths of each team member, the time willing to be put in, and the resources available.  When our district created a RTI manual this summer we included the following in the appendix to help guide schools and personnel into specific roles:

Classroom Teacher

  • Keep ongoing progress monitoring notes in a RTI folder (DIBELS, curriculum assessments, SAT 10 or FCAT scores, work samples, anecdotals) to be filed in cumulative folder at the end of each school year or if transferring/withdrawing
  • Attend RTI Team meetings to collaborate on & monitor students who are struggling
  • Implement interventions designed by RTI Team for students in Tier 2 & 3
  • Deliver instructional interventions with fidelity

Reading or Math Coach/Specialist

  • Attend RTI Team meetings
  • Train teachers in interventions, progress monitoring, differentiated instruction
  • Implement Tier 2 & 3 interventions
  • Keep progress monitoring notes & anecdotals of interventions implemented
  • Administer screenings
  • Collect school-wide data for team to use in determining at-risk students

Speech-Language Pathologist

  • Attend RTI Team meetings for some Tier 2 & Tier 3 students
  • Completes Communication Skills screening for students unsuccessful with Tier 2 interventions
  • Assist with Tier 2 & 3 interventions through collaboration, training, and/or direct student contact
  • Incorporate RTI data when guiding a possible Speech/Language referral & when making eligibility decisions 

Principal/Assistant Principal

  • Facilitate implementation of RTI in your building
  • Provide or coordinate valuable and continuous professional development
  • Assign paraprofessionals to support RTI implementation when possible
  • Attend RTI Team meetings to be active in the RTI change process
  • Conduct classroom Walk-Throughs to monitor fidelity

Guidance Counselor/Curriculum Specialist

  • Often RTI Team facilitators
  • Schedule and attend RTI Team meetings
  • Maintain log of all students involved in the RTI process
  • Send parent invites
  • Complete necessary RTI forms
  • Conduct social-developmental history interviews when requested

School Psychologist

  • Attend RTI Team meetings on some students in Tier 2 & on all students in Tier 3
  • Monitor data collection process for fidelity
  • Review & interpret progress monitoring data
  • Collaborate with RTI Team on effective instruction & specific interventions
  • Incorporate RTI data when guiding a possible special ed referral & when making eligibility decisions

Special Ed Teacher

  • Consult with RTI Team regarding Tier 3 interventions
  • Incorporate RTI data when making eligibility decisions

Specialist (behavior, occupational or physical therapy, autism)

  • Consult with RTI Team
  • Provide staff trainings

Social Worker

  • Attend RTI Team meetings when requested
  • Conduct social-developmental history interviews and share with RTI Team

ESOL/ELL Representative

  • Attend all RTI Team meetings for identified ELL students, advising and completing LEP paperwork
  • Conduct language screenings and assessments
  • Provide ELL interventions at all tiers

Obviously this will look different at every building depending on the school, but just having the counselor be the only one completing paperwork will not work effectively.  Convince your building’s administration of their role, because in turn, this will help in modeling involvement throughout the whole school. Do you have any additional roles that you would like to suggest?  Any horror/dream stories about how your RTI team functions?  Do share.

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Update on data meetings

I was warmly welcomed to the grade level data meetings this past week.  The principal shared how impressed she was that I would even be interested in coming.  I guess I still have to work on the understanding of my role at my schools (this is my first year at both of my schools this year). 

At the data meetings, teachers were presented with graphs of the core reading curriculum grade averages of their class in comparison to the average of all classrooms at their grade level.  The reading coach and principal emphasized the need to use classwide comparison, to understand the data, and to align themselves with the RTI process.  I was impressed!  I think possibly these comments have stemmed from numerous discussions at RTI Team meetings and district meetings about such systems issues when looking at data.

The more involved I get and the more I talk to people on the team, the more I realize how consensus is vital!  Not just to get the team to buy in to RTI, but to continously consult and progress in RTI knowledge and understanding TOGETHER!  RTI is a process that will always need more fine-tuning as districts and schools interpret and implement things differently.  We better all be on the same page though, otherwise there is inevitable friction.  I hope to continue such involvement at both of my schools as I find my input is appreciated, and I find my role much more fulfilling than just a psychometrician.

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Grade-level data meetings

I am still trying to work my way into ‘the family‘ at my school building.  I have not been invited to administrative or grade-level meetings in the past, but I am trying to get more involved!  All the blogs and discussions I have been reading are emphasizing self-advocacy for our profession.  Without being bold and inviting myself to such meetings, how will my principals ever know what I have to offer?  To be a valuable asset to our buildings, we need to give input at more than just IEP meetings.

I got myself added to my schools’ teacher email lists so I can be informed of staff meetings and internal ongoings that I typically would not be invited to.  This way I can invite myself and show that I am interested in the nitty-gritty of my school’s workings (it has taken lots of guts because I am so used to hiding out in my office writing reports or wandering around campus looking for a classroom that nobody knows who I am).

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I have been working with my one school’s tech specialist about exporting weekly grades into an Excel graphing template so when teachers come to RTI meetings they can bring data in a graph form to show the team.  We also were discussing grade-level averages to compare the student’s performance to.  For example, the tech specialist is going to average the weekly reading assessments for all third grade classes in the school and put it in an Excel template in a shared folder so teacher’s can get updated averages to compare low-performing students to.  We decided that all third grade scores should be used in the average not just one specific class since some classes are considered ‘intensive reading’ general education classes which are not on grade level.  This way the RTI Team will have valuable updated data at our fingertips when interpreting progress to make decisions.

Back to the self-inviting… I asked my principal if I may attend a few of the grade-level meetings next week when such graphs and grade-level data is looked at and analyzed with the teachers.  This will be helpful in seeing where the administration and the teachers’ understanding is when using data to make decisions.  We’ll see if I’m granted permission and what the outcome of those meetings will be.  I’ll keep you posted.

Do you attend such meetings at your schools?  Would you find it useful to understand your school’s culture by being a part of these meetings?

With RTI evolving, we need to understand these internal systems in order to give suggestions and guide teachers through data analysis.  We are experts at interpreting standardized numbers, why would we not generalize this skill to class and schoolwide performance?   

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Checklist of steps to follow

Do you find yourself wanting a checklist sometimes?  A checklist with specific steps to follow so you can complete what is required of you?  I do… and teachers around me do… especially when RTI is at the beginning phases and everyone is up in arms and terribly confused about a new system.

I sat down with my principal and reading coach today and we created a list of what is required of teachers when coming to RTI team meetings.  I have overheard so many teachers asking about what they should bring to such meetings.  You would think it’s a no-brainer: bring as much information as possible, but often teachers come empty-handed, which forfeits the RTI meeting since no intervention plan can be made based on data.  Following is what we included.

What to bring to an RTI Team Meeting:

  • The following completed district forms:
  • Teacher Reflection Form
  • Colleague Observation Form
  • Communication Skills Checklist
  • Referral to RTI Team Form (list absences, retentions, SAT-10/FCAT scores 
  • The following applicable graphs plotting at least 8 weeks of scores:
  • Core fluency level
  • Tier 1: Core curriculum weekly assessments
  • Tier 2: Core curriculum weekly assessments and Supplemental Intervention weekly assessments
  • Tier 3: Core curriculum weekly assessments, Supplemental, and Intensive weekly assessments, and any additional monitoring graphs the team discussed at the last meeting.
  • The following applicable printouts:
  • Current Progress Monitoring Plan
  • Current class grades
  • DIBELS Cummulative Report
  • AR Current Diagnostic Report and Student Record Report
  • STAR Report
  • Early STAR Report
  • Earobics Report
  • My Reading Coach Error Report 

I know that this list is very specific for my school, as many reading this list might not have the programs we use.  This is just an idea of what teachers might need in your district - a breakdown of what is expected of them to bring to the meeting.  My colleague frequently says that many of the teachers that she has encountered are concrete, needing steps of what is expected of them, especially since they drill their students daily about procedures and such steps to complete assignments, etc.  Why not provide the scaffolding to teachers to make the implementation phase of RTI that much easier?  Some districts I assume do this much better than others. 

  • Have you been involved in such team planning at your schools? 
  • How do you coach teachers who are still confused about the system and requirements of them?
  • Do you find yourself being used as a RTI resource in your buildings?  Why or why not?

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Interventions, again

Being a part of RTI meetings, usually the team looks over to me when it is time to decide which interventions to use.  Why me?  Do I exude such expertise?  I doubt it.  We have an additional component to our elementary core reading program in my district, which automatically is a tier 2 intervention.  What frustrates me at times is if the identified problem is comprehension for example, this tier 2 intervention often only targets phonics and vocabulary.  How can this be an accurate intervention then?

Tier 3 is a whole other can of worms when searching for interventions.  Some students receive this additional reading component (tier 2, mostly repetition of the core in a simplified way) in a small group.  So that constitutes the tier 3 intervention, right?  Wrong!  I love how Florida’s PS/RTI Project states the 3 tiers, visually, in one of their powerpoint presentations.  There are 3 triangles in 3D form, laying on top of each other, indicating a stacking effect.  So, students in tier 3 should be receiving tiers 1 and 2 simultaneously, not in place of the core and supplement.  Students get more, not just different instruction.  There are some logistics though to be worked out, such as skipping art for example, since there would not be enough minutes in the day to receive all these additional interventions.

So then where might we find tier 3 interventions?  Will they constitute various strategies within the current curriculum and supplemental instruction, or will they be additional instruction?  This probably can only be answered case by case as each problem statement needs to be addressed so differently from student to student and teacher to teacher.  My current overall conclusion (I’m still working on this) is that tier 3 interventions generally are modifications and specific strategies within the tier 1 and 2 instruction, not an additional curriculum program.

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As I wrote that last statement, I reflected on a student we just had a tier 3 RTI team meeting on, and that student is clustered in a completely separate classroom (general ed), receiving core curriculum that is at least a grade level below typical students in that grade.  His tier 1 has become his tier 3.  He does not demonstrate success with the typical core, so the grade level is ability-grouped and the lowest students are placed in this classroom receiving this intensive instruction with a separate curriculum.  Do the minutes add up so he receives at least 120 minutes of core, 30 minutes of supplemental, and at least 30 minutes of intensive instruction a day?  Isn’t this the push for tier 3 students?  To receive all the resources we have to offer?

  • How do your schools identify tier 2 and tier 3 interventions? 
  • Do you have a bank of standard interventions to suggest at team meetings? 
  • What resources do you use to find new interventions that address specific problem statements?

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Resources

Does anyone have any suggestions for finding resources for schools who are tight to begin with?  In a Technical Assistance Paper I just read for the state of Florida, there is a statement regarding school districts not using more than 15% of their Part B IDEA money for any one year. 

  • Where is this money? 
  • Can principals choose to allocate 15% of their special education funds toward general education interventions? 
  • Could special education teachers help provide tier 3 interventions in the general education classroom?  Wouldn’t this help out with resource issues in a building?

As you can tell, this is the most common question I’ve heard from my buildings: how do we allocate enough resources to successfully implement tier 3 interventions?

If you answers to these questions, please share.

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RTI and private schools

I did a RTI presentation, along with 2 other psychologists, for the private school administrators in our county.  This is the first I’ve done of its kind so it was rather nerve-racking!  We put together a powerpoint, adapting slides from various presenters, to give an overview and specifics of our district’s adoptions thus far.  The group was receptive and asked some great questions that helped us understand some of the challenges private schools might face with implementation.

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One of the differences between our public schools and private schools is resources.  The administrators let us know of some of the difficulties they might face, such as providing tier 3 interventions and conducting universal screeners more than once a year.  With multi-grade classrooms, 30+ students per room, and no paraprofessionals, things are tough for teachers to keep up as is, let alone actually give more time to specific students.

One of the largest hurdles I’ve encountered, in public and private schools, is resources.  With the economy the way that it is, and budget-cutting in every department, implementing RTI seems like a daunting, sometimes impossible task when trying to allocate resources.  Here are a few suggestions to share with your building administrators:

  • BE CREATIVE!  Resources are around, you might have to look for them.
    • Utilizing P.E., art, music teachers, paraprofessionals, and parent volunteers might be the only option.  Train these helpers to give 30 minutes of targeted small group instruction at the end of the day, for example.
    • Use center time to provide that extra, individualized instruction for an identified small group (be sure to group students accordingly with constant monitoring to see if a shift to another group needs to be made).
    • Any other ideas?  Please share.

Consensus-building is key before such implementation ideas are tossed around.  Getting administrators on board will help with the infrastructure set-up which inevitably will make implementation all the easier and more successful.

Question: Can anyone share about how private schools in your district are successfully implementing RTI with the resources and knowledge they have?  Is there much communication between the public district and the private school sector?

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What is your graph measuring?

What to graph has been a large hurdle for my one school.  Obviously, once the problem statement has been formulated and the goal written it should be easier to pinpoint what type of assessments will be used.  These assessment results will be what we graph. 

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So often when talking to teachers or school personnel I realize that many do not understand the connection between the problem statement, goal, assessment, and progress monitoring graph.  These components all need to be linked, otherwise what’s the point?  We would end up with a phony graph that does not accurately show any type of response.  A few times I have seen that the intervention is not even correlated with the specific problem statement! 

If we really want RTI to work, don’t you think these are vital issues to teach those around you?  In my district we do not have a thorough system in place yet to cross-check these components in a RTI packet.  Without an appropriate plan and accurate progress monitoring, we are all wasting our time.

I think this is a valid reason why school psychologists should be required to sit in on RTI team meetings.  We can help with making sure all components correlate and accurately measure what the team is setting out to do.

RTI changes so many fundamental practices that schools have been doing for decades, it is going to take a long time to re-teach those that need to learn these concepts.

Graphing is such a key component when looking at what the teacher is doing and if it is effective or not.  One thing I have noticed though is the need for a graph that is sensitive to change.  If I just look at the 5-point smiley face checksheet at the end of the week, I might not notice enough of a change in the points to have an accurate measuring of a behavior intervention for example.  I might need to create an additional checksheet that evaluates the specific behavior frequency on a daily basis.

Understanding how to accurately document progress is not always black and white (such as weekly reading probes).  Behavior graphs is where it seems to get messy for my school.  This is why I feel that it is so important to consult with the team to jointly brainstorm of the best ways to graph progress.

Have you had any graphing issues lately?  Are you responsible for graphing or teaching teachers to graph?

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