Coaching: A Tool for RTI Implementation

For RTI implementation to be successful, schools need support, resources, and focus. School principals play a very important role in providing focus and instructional leadership (see David Prasses’s blog on this site). Given the many demands on principals’ time, however, an RTI coach can be an important resource in providing the kind of support necessary for change and successful implementation. The role of the coach is to support the principal in leading RTI, while also working with colleagues to strengthen teams in their ability to use data to make good instructional decisions for students.

Coaching has become an increasingly popular model of professional development in schools. A coach typically is someone who has expertise both in content and in working effectively with colleagues. Literacy coaches are becoming more prevalent in elementary schools. "Mentor" is another term used in some schools to describe a person who provides support for improving classroom instruction. While there are a number of shared characteristics between an RTI coach and a literacy coach or mentor, there are some differences. In the Reading Coach, Hasbrouck and Denton (2005) suggest that the focus of coaching is about the students. Student improvement clearly is a shared characteristic among coaching models. A literacy coach/mentor, however, may spend considerable time working with individuals, while an RTI coach is likely to spend more time working with teams. An RTI coach would not only be skilled in working well with teams but also would have expertise in using educational data for decision-making and strong knowledge of evidenced based instructional practices.

I currently work with 37 site-based coaches. Because we started our coaching process midyear, we were not in a position to be overly prescriptive about coach credentials.  Instead, we asked schools who applied for master coaching support to appoint a coach who was interested and met most of these criteria:

  • have some flexibility in his/her schedule
  • eager to learn if not experienced
  • knowledgeable about RTI and the benefits for the school
  • skilled in data based decision-making
  • accountable to faculty through regular reporting
  • skilled in group facilitation


Among our 37 coaches we have a variety of roles represented including literacy coach, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coach, reading teacher, assistant principal, school psychologist, special education coordinator, and, last but certainly not least, classroom teacher.  Clearly, there are a variety of strengths across the various role groups, but overall, the fact that individuals wanted to work as an RTI coach, seems to have been the most important variable. This committed them to learning new skills so they could be more effective in the coaching role.  My next blog entry will provide more details about our coaching model, and what our coaches do. 

Hasbrouck, J. & Denton, C.  (2005). The reading coach:  A how-to manual for success.  Sopris West:  Longmont, CO.

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Read what others had to say...

I am quite impressed with school whose administration supports RTI and the necessary support it requires to be effective. I noticed the person who commented was from a middle school. I think that realistic implementation of RTI would begi at the elementary and midde school levels. I work at a high school and it id very difficut to get support for intervetio at that point in the child's career. I applaud schools who actually hire someone to be a coach and give the support necessary for RTI to be effective.

It's great that your administration is so supportive. This is a key variable for coaching success. I hope my next blog entry provides you with some ideas about the tasks and functions we ask our RTI coaches to perform.

I am interested in hearing more about your coaches. I was hired as a coach for next year. My administration has given me great flexibility in my schedule and job description. I have many ideas of things that will benefit the campus, but I would love to see how they match up with what you are doing.