Create Your Implementation Blueprint
Stage 4: Full Implementation
Full implementation is reached when at least 50% of the teachers are performing their new functions acceptably (Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, and Wallace 2007). It generally takes the first academic year for teachers to learn how to administer the assessments, interpret the data, place students in groups, and begin to learn how to provide targeted and effective intervention instruction. Learning to interpret the assessment data and form tight groups takes the first couple of months, and then learning to plan and deliver effective intervention instruction generally takes even longer.
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A checklist of processes that are observable when the school is in the full implementation stage is provided. Schools can use this checklist of characteristics to evaluate whether they are in the full implementation stage, and identify any areas requiring more attention.
ACTIVITIES DURING THE FULL IMPLEMENTATION STAGE
Activity 1: Teachers Receive Ongoing Professional Development and Coaching
The focus of professional development during full implementation shifts from teachers learning data analysis techniques to coaching teachers in how to deliver the most effective intervention instruction possible. There is a sequence to the new processes that teachers must learn. Administering assessments comes first and is followed by interpreting the data. Then, once the data analysis techniques are mastered, it’s possible to place students in groups by targeted skill area. Only after groups are well constructed is it possible to look at the quality of instruction; it’s difficult to focus on the characteristics of high quality intervention instruction when students in a group have diverse needs such that the skills one student needs to develop are not at all what another student needs.
Why does it take teachers so long to reach proficiency in Response-to-Intervention (RTI) practices? Teachers are often not accustomed to teaching small groups and may find this transition very difficult. But it’s more complicated than merely learning classroom management techniques to keep the other students well occupied at independent work stations while the teacher works with three to five students at a table. Intervention instruction is explicit and systematic, and it is likely quite different from the type of instruction the teacher has a great deal of experience in providing. Students in intervention groups receive immediate corrective feedback, so the teacher has to observe each student and differentiate the reteaching to meet each student’s needs. The intensity and individualization of intervention instruction is not something very many teachers know how to do before they see it modeled. Professional development is critical because this instruction is different from whole-class instruction.
At the earlier stages of implementation some of the professional development can be structured in a workshop format. For example, workshops are effective for providing an overview of what RTI is, as well as the historical and research underpinnings supporting its use. Also workshops are effective for learning to administer new assessments and how to interpret the data reports. However, when it comes to learning new instructional strategies, modeling and coaching are more effective than a workshop format. Many of the topics effectively covered in a workshop setting are appropriate during the exploration, installation, and initial implementation stages. By the time the school reaches the full implementation stage, the most effective format of professional development is grade-level team meetings and individual coaching and modeling.
Activity 2: Develop a Problem-Solving Process
Although the school may initiate problem-solving processes in an earlier stage, this process is most needed during full implementation. The problem-solving meetings are relevant after intervention instruction has been provided for a reasonable time period and enough progress monitoring data have been collected to merit discussing whether the rate of improvement is insufficient. This often means that the student has participated in a couple of 10-week rounds of intervention, with at least one round where the instruction was intensified, commonly referred to as Tier 3.
Once the school begins regularly discussing students in a problem-solving approach, it is common to increase the frequency of progress monitoring assessment during this stage. This occurs at this point because the data are now actively used in decision making and teachers see that it is easier to draw conclusions about a student’s rate of progress with more data points.
When a problem-solving process is used, a team of staff members meets to discuss the rate of progress of an individual student. The problem-solving process may have some characteristics of a child study team meeting in some schools, depending on how that process is done. It’s important to outline a process in general education that is linked to the referral process; these processes should be cohesive and connected, not two different processes. That way the information collected before referral is used for the referral decision. This is at the heart of RTI.
Activity 3: Develop a Tier 3 Instruction Layer
When schools first implement RTI, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the difference between Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction. Does more time in an intervention group automatically mean the instruction is Tier 3? What does it mean to “intensify” instruction? Does the instruction need to include a more systematic program or instructional approach? How is the instruction provided in Tier 3 different from that in Tier 2, but also different from what a student will receive if qualified for special education services? All these questions, and many more, need to be answered.
Many schools spend their first year just getting a solid Tier 2 system in place. Only after the data show that their Tier 2 instruction is effective for nearly all students will the staff begin to question what Tier 3 is. The transition happens naturally once teachers can identify the outliers—students not progressing as much as peers. I observed this natural evolution toward Tier 3 while participating in a 5th grade team meeting at a middle school in New York with many students reading below grade-level. The team met monthly to move students from one skill group to another. Before the meeting, each teacher gave the students in his or her current group a progress monitoring assessment using an informal phonics screener or an oral reading fluency probe (this school used the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills), depending on the group’s focus. The names of the skill groups were written across a whiteboard and each teacher posted sticky notes to place students in the appropriate skill group for the next month. In December, the third month the team had met, there was a cluster of five students who had hovered in the bottom skill group since September. All other students were moving up the skills continuum. The team decided to place those five students in a group with a teacher who had prior training in delivering explicit, systematic, multisensory instruction so that she could keep that group together for several months and increase the intervention time. Before Tier 2 was up and running, it would have been difficult for this team to know what Tier 3 should be and which students should be placed in this increasingly intensive tier.
Fixsen, D., Naoom, S., Blase, K., & Wallace, F. (2007, Winter/Spring). Implementation: The missing link between research and practice. The APSAC Advisor, 4–10.
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