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August 24, 2009


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Athena Oden, PT

You are right! I am NOT a special education teacher and I am reading this blog! I am excited about the transformational possibilities of RTI and am working to help implement changes in some areas I hope will make an impact. I am a physical therapist (related-service personnel) and have helped create a curriculum for elementary level general education. The focus is on evidence-based motor activities that build a support system for the child to succeed academically. There is much evidence available about the connection of motor control, physical activity and learning for ALL students. Our curriculum includes all students in the motor class, with extra support available for those students who may need it (along with developing a measurement tool and screening tool). We see changes in academics, behavior, and in the 'big picture.' In some elementary schools and early childhood programs, we have been able to implement this support as a standard effective practice for all students. As a physical therapist, I feel we should use our training and expertise to enrich the general education environment and truly be a part of the team invested in change.

Patti Ralabate

Congratulations Athena! What you and your school team are doing is exactly what will make RTI a transformational approach. All the students are benefiting from your expertise and, at the same time, those students with specific motor needs benefit too. I'm particularly interested in the screening tool you mentioned. Is it evidence-based and available to others to use as a universal screening tool? Thanks for sharing your work with us.

Charles Johns

This is really an insightful post. We have found that huge transformations really did happen when we ratched up our RtI system. It seemed like a whole different array of issues "mattered" and we saw wide scale improvement in academics and behavior. While many people don't realize it, there is a change in leadership as well. It is far more important that leadership respond to the needs rather than manage resources. We often describe the change as turning administration upside down. Now the impetus for programs comes from the classroom, rather than from decree.

Lori Smith

I believe that your points about successful RtI implementation parallel my experiences as a school principal at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High. As we enter year 5 of implementation, our "vision" of RtI has fully evolved into the driving force for school improvement and increased student achievement. All of our team decisions around curriculum are driven by what our intervention audits tell us.
Your second point, regarding leadership, also serves as one of the most important sustaining factors of RtI. Without continual evaluation and revision of our problem-solving process, we would not be able to include as many stakeholders into our meetings as we do. Meetings always include myself and my assistant principal, counselors, district intervention specialist, and special education teachers as part of our core team. This core team consistency has been invaluable because we have maintained the same members for 5 years. Also, having the variety of expertise around the table is critical to evolving and making improvements to our interventions and processes.
Lastly, your point on resources has been the toughest part of our decision-making over the past 5 years and the point that requires the most man-power, research, and evaluation. We have found it critical to break our core team up into research teams based on our needs. Once we have our plan for needed resources, we strategically plan ahead at least one year due to budget shortfalls and budget cuts that we have experienced. In doing so, we have been able to purchase instructional materials, technology, and other resources associated with our three levels of interventions.
We are truly a team with a vision and consistent drive to continue improving student achievement. Excellent post- RtI can most definitely be transformation if those three key points can be consistently monitored and evaluated.

Patti Ralabate

Thanks Charles and Lori for sharing your experiences. It is very exciting to see enlightened school leadership guiding RTI implemention with a "vision" that includes key voices, is proactive, and builds reflective practice. Your respect for the expertise of your teams and the team decison-making process is obvious in your comments. I hope others have the chance to learn from your successes.


My school is in the beginning stages of implementing RTI. Your blog was helpful at giving some insight to successful implementation of the process.


As we are just beginning our discussions of RTI, and I use the word discussions lightly as it has mostly been mentioned in passing, and as I read this blog, I wonder if my district will have the financial resources to implement the training involved in RTI. We are in a dire financial situation and it looks like it is going to get worse before it gets better.

It will be unfortunate and decrease the success rate if we are expected to implement the system without proper training.

Kristina S.

I recently learned about how effective this model can be if implemented correctly. As an educator who is in the process of completing my masters I was excited to hear of the RTI approach and feel it will certainly cut down on the number of students who end up being labeled. In addition we can help ALL our students who have needs and immediatly adress them so our students remain positive about their education and not just 'shut down' because they are struggling. I look forward to hearing the RTI approach pop up in more education circles!


RTI has recently been implemented in my school. At first, I think it was frowned upon by many teachers because they did look at it as another thing on their plate. Along with the interventions come paperwork, assessments, and data analysis. Throughout the last couple years, the teachers are really beginning to see the benefits RTI is having on their students. Grade levels have really come together to help make the whole process easier on one another. Teachers are working on co-teaching models to help alleviate some of the time constraints. Due to large class sizes and limited time, students are pulled for interventions, however, the rest of the students are also pulled for science and social studies. One thing we are working on is eliminating any extra paperwork. I think this will help teachers with the RTI process.

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