As you “work on the work” of implementing RtI in your school, you probably don’t give much thought to the “infrastructure” imbedded in the process. You should. The infrastructure of the RtI framework is the foundation for a strong program and what holds the implementation initiative together. Failure to support, address, modify, and change the infrastructure of implementation as needed may limit the overall effectiveness and success of the project.
When thinking about infrastructure, consider the network of roads in your local area. Some roads are well-maintained, wide, and easily traveled. Some roads are not well-maintained and probably not well traveled. As you think about the roads in your community, why are some roads given more attention than others? The answer is pretty simple—it’s the destination. Roads that are well-developed and well-maintained are roads that lead to places of importance. These roads provide the infrastructure for easy access to what the community has deemed as important. It is along these roads that we easily and readily attain what we need to sustain a comfortable life. The structure of the road system is developed over time to initiate easy access, based on need and importance.
As we create an RtI framework in our schools, we must ask ourselves what is our destination and what types of infrastructure will we develop to create a well-developed and well-defined system that results in an instructional program that creates a high degree of student achievement? The answer must be based on need and importance. As you create the infrastructure for the road in your school, consider how you have tended to these RtI components in your school:
Have you selected a curriculum that is based on sound research? The core curriculum is the foundation for instruction and learning. Every road needs a strong foundational base. The solid base creates the strength from which everything else can be built. The stronger the base, the less time a school will have to spend on maintenance and upkeep. The less time spent on maintenance and upkeep, the better schools are able to use valuable resources in other areas. When the curriculum is based on “best-practices,” sound research, is taught to fidelity, and is aligned to school assessments, then schools can monitor instruction and student achievement most effectively.
Basing everything you do on sound research is the first step in ensuring successful implementation. Research, as mentioned above, is one of the base materials that helps guarantee a strong program. The implementation of the core curriculum, interventions, instruction, and process of implementation based on sound research helps in reaching your destination more efficiently and quickly. The great part about research-based best practices is that they are centered on the scientific practice of replication. In essence, if you want to build the best road, use someone else’s blueprints who built the roads before you.
Creating a framework of assessment is critical if you are to maintain the integrity of road. A strong assessment system based on sound principles continually provides feedback to the school as to how well the road was constructed. Through the data generated by the assessment system, schools can constantly monitor the integrity of instruction, the quality of the curriculum, and the commitment to fidelity. Data will provide feedback as to where to make needed changes.
While every project needs a good foreman, leadership that is based on input from everyone helps to create a sustainable system. The leadership team is critical in providing the parameters and structure within which everyone works. The leadership team directs program evaluation, training, and trouble shooting issues. The leadership team ensures that resources are provided, decision making takes place, and staff performance is maintained.
It does not matter the quality of the equipment if no one knows how to operate it. The better the training, the better chance the crew has the ability to create a well-functioning system. Professional development around all aspects is critical if RtI is going to happen in a school. Focusing on the research is key, but just as important to successful implementation is supporting professionals as they apply what they learn. Another great thing about professional development is that a common language is created and implementation expectations are clarified. Professional development based on research and a strong set of expectations helps to create that interdependence where “the success of everyone depends on everyone.”
As you construct your RtI highway, be sure to pay close attention to the infrastructure you are creating. When the infrastructure is well-built and well-maintained, the services that are provided to students are delivered as scheduled, arrive more quickly, and are of consistently high quality. We all know that student achievement is the destination. Spend time on creating a sound infrastructure and the road that you build will provide students access to the destination for years to come.
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