I have been fortunate enough to work at, and with, exceptional schools, school districts, and school divisions, and have observed practices in schools, districts, and divisions that have greatly contributed to positive cultures.
Schools and school leaders who have successfully led RTI-based initiatives have demonstrated a respect for change. Change creates anxiety because we fear failure, a loss of control, lack of support, personal impact, and the unknown. Knowing the potential resistance to change by some, and the reasons why change might be resisted, school leaders must: describe the why and what of change; present research on the change; provide time for stakeholders to reflect upon the change; provide staff members with the opportunity to voice opinions; describe the professional development for the new endeavor that will be provided and the ways in which the effectiveness of the new endeavor will be measured; determine whether consensus for the change exists; and then hold one another accountable for implementing the change. Change is a complex process that must be led with patient persistence.
Like all initiatives, RTI must be implemented with transparency and trust. There is no such thing as too much communication. Leaders must continually and repeatedly describe why the change is necessary, what is expected (and what is not expected), and how successfully the change is progressing. We can anticipate that some stakeholders will have concerns and questions at some points during the implementation of RTI. We recommend that site, district, and division leaders schedule frequent times during which staff members can voice their concerns and questions, and during which leaders listen. Whenever appropriate, leaders should respond to these concerns and questions and make appropriate revisions to the efforts.
Leadership and change require courage. Proposing change requires courage. Initiating the change requires courage. Holding colleagues accountable for change requires courage. Making modifications to the change requires courage. How can leaders muster the courage to lead? Often, courage is born of necessity. We believe that ensuring that all students graduate from high school ready for college or a skilled career is a social justice issue. It’s an ethical and moral issue. It’s a life and death issue.
Response to Intervention is an organized passion—the passionate actions that embody the collective belief that all students will learn at high levels. Moreover, RTI represents the most comprehensive, research-based, and logical set of solutions that will ensure that students graduate from high school ready for life. There are not many educators with whom we interact who doubt the wisdom of implementing RTI. While a few of these committed colleagues report that they still come across educators who are intimidated by the changes required by 21st-century learning—and sometimes that intimidation can come across as reluctance toward change—most of our colleagues simply want a roadmap to guide them through the work.