Response to Intervention


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Response to Intervention A Teacher Team's Experiences and Challenges for District and School Leadership
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1 online resource (144 p.)
Meyer, Michele M
University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Doctorate ( Ed.D.)
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University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Educational Leadership, Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education
Committee Chair:
Behar-Horenstein, Linda S
Committee Members:
Eldridge, Linda
Wood, R. Craig
Coady, Maria R


Subjects / Keywords:
collaboration -- distributedleadership -- intervention -- leadership -- principal -- rti -- teachers -- teams
Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Educational Leadership thesis, Ed.D.
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theses   ( marcgt )
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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004endorsed the Response to Intervention (RTI) model to replace the discrepancy model used to identify students for special education services and guide ways to ensure that all students' learning needs are met. The purpose of this research was to describe the experiences of a first grade teacher team's implementation of RTI, and elucidate practical, authentic recommendations for school leaders that would inform future practices for school and district RTI implementation and sustainability.Data was gathered from focus group interviews with the teacher team and observations of the seven first grade teachers at a rural Title 1 school. The school principal was also interviewed to gather a leadership perspective and compare it to the findings from the teachers. The study sought to answer three primary questions: 1) What new practices are required of teachers in RTI; 2)How does RTI affect teacher learning; and 3) How can school and district leadership best support teachers in the implementation of RTI? The results indicated that a lack of effective school and district-wide leadership during the second year hindered the successful implementation of RTI as a prevention/intervention framework and as a replacement for the discrepancy model of students qualifying for special education services. A lack of consistency between two district departments, changes in top district administration, and lack of oversight by the school leader had profound effects on teachers. Teachers in the study were coping with feelings of frustration, students who continued to struggle, and uncertainty about their own roles, the processes, and data based decision-making. The theme "coping with the effects of leadership challenges at the school and district level"emerged. In response, teachers employed coping/learning strategies including collaborating,questioning, initiating their own learning opportunities, and observing other teachers. Teachers in the study lacked the skills necessary to engage effectively in collaborative data analysis and data based decision-making. Despite a lack of professional development, leadership support, and tangible resources, RTI motivated the participants to become better teachers. The findings reinforced the crucial role that district and school leadership play in successfully implementing and sustaining RTI.
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by Michele M Meyer.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--University of Florida, 2012.
Adviser: Behar-Horenstein, Linda S.
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2 2012 Michele M. Meyer


3 To my Parents


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I recognize and appreciate the many contributions that my entire dissertation committee made to help shape my research goals and to make my dissertation one of my greatest accomplishments. Most importantly, the chair of my committee Dr. Linda Behar Horens tein help ed me to believe in myself by recognizing my strengths ear ly in the doctoral program. She encourag ed me to stretch in areas in which I needed to grow and provid ed unending support throughout the d issertation research and writing. The concept of stretch and shine" will always be with me whether I am working with children or adults I also appreciate the insight provided by my other dissertation committee members that led to a finished product of which I am very proud. These committee members incl ude Dr. Cynthia Garvan, Dr. Maria Coady, Dr. Fran Vandiver, Dr. R.C. Wood, and Dr. Linda Eldridge. I wish to acknowledge all of the other professors in this program who had a n impact on my personal and professional growth and whose support I will never forget I am grateful for the opportunity to have be en a part of the UF distance learning cohort that wa s created in this county To the teacher participants and principal at the research site, I will be eternally grateful. Without you, this research would not have taken place. Thank you for trusting me and for opening my eyes to the kind of support that teachers really need by sharing your reality with me Karey Stewart, the principal at the school where I work, also deserves recognition for providing me w ith many opportunities to be engaged in the RTI process at our school, and for her endless support on the job while I conducted the research and composed this dissertation. I also acknowledge my fellow cohort members who provided so many awesome learning opportunities through the valuable discussions that we shared as well as


5 through a shoulder to lean on during challenging times To Cathy and Sarah, t hank you for becoming my friends in this process and for helping me along the road of this dissertation r esearch and composition My best role model for life long learning, Dr. Wayne Leaver, also deserves recognition for his support, ideas, feedback, and for being a wonderful mentor and friend. To my three adult children, Maria, Alicia and Andrew, and my son in law, Kirt (all of who m never want to hear the w ord dissertation again), I am so proud of the lives that you have created despite not getting my best support over the last few years. In this process I have learned that my children still want me t o be an important part of t heir lives, even when they are grown and making new lives for themselves. I am eager to spend more time with each of you and my five precious grandchildren Sean, Kevin, Kyla, Carter and Jonah I really promise that this is the last time that I will go back to school, but I will never ever stop learning I warn you though, that this passion for learning might be genetic! I am also grateful to many friends who have stuck by my side despite my disappear ance, sometimes for weeks on end, when I was immersed in my schoolwork or research. Last, but not least, to my significant other and best friend Rick; I could not have done this without you! I appreciate your ability to listen as well as your patience, humor, wisdom, and cooking! Thank you for just being you and for giving me your unending support over these p ast five years


6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 9 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 10 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 13 Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ....................... 13 Origin of Response to Intervention ................................ ................................ ... 14 Implementing Response to Intervention ................................ ........................... 18 Purpose of the Study ................................ ................................ .............................. 20 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ........................ 21 Definition of Key Terms ................................ ................................ ........................... 22 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERA TURE ................................ ................................ ............ 25 A Plea for Increased Collaboration in Schools ................................ ........................ 25 Collaboration in Professional Learning Communities ................................ ............. 27 Group Development, PLC Processes, and Team Effectiveness ...................... 28 The Emergence of Distributed Leadership ................................ ....................... 30 The Response to Intervention Problem solving Model ................................ ........... 31 The Role of the Teacher in Response to Intervention ................................ ............. 34 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 35 3 METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 36 Setting ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 36 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 37 Research Design and Data Collection ................................ ................................ .... 39 Grounded Theory Research ................................ ................................ ............. 39 Focus Group Interviews ................................ ................................ .................... 40 Participant Observation ................................ ................................ .................... 42 Principal Interview ................................ ................................ ............................ 43 Field Notes and Memos ................................ ................................ .................... 43 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 44 Methodological Rigor ................................ ................................ .............................. 45 Researcher Qualifications ................................ ................................ ................ 48 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 49


7 4 RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 52 Research Question 1: How does Response to Intervention affect teacher learning? ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 52 Research Question 2: What new tasks and practices are required of teachers with RTI implementation? ................................ ................................ .................... 58 Analyzing Data ................................ ................................ ................................ 59 Progress Monitorin g Plans and Technical Skills ................................ ............... 61 Research Based Interventions ................................ ................................ ......... 62 Time Management ................................ ................................ ........................... 64 Teacher Leadership ................................ ................................ ......................... 66 Research Question 3: How can school and district leaders support teachers in response to intervention implementation? ................................ ........................... 6 8 Direct Support from School Leadership ................................ ............................ 68 Professional Development ................................ ................................ ................ 72 Tangible Resources ................................ ................................ ......................... 74 Findings from the Pr incipal Interview ................................ ................................ ...... 76 District Problems Revealed ................................ ................................ .............. 79 The Systemic View ................................ ................................ ........................... 81 Site Based Cha llenges ................................ ................................ ..................... 84 Planning for the Third Year of RTI ................................ ................................ .... 87 Generating a Grounded Theory ................................ ................................ .............. 88 Coping With the Effects of Leadership Challenges at School and District Levels ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 91 Using Coping Strategies to Learn ................................ ................................ ..... 95 5 D IS CUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 100 Summary of Findings ................................ ................................ ............................ 100 Connections with Prior Research ................................ ................................ .......... 106 Practical Implications of the Findings ................................ ................................ .... 109 Suggestions for Future Research ................................ ................................ ......... 111 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 113 APPENDIX A AN EVOLUT ION: FROM ISOLATION TO TEACHER LEADERS I N RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION ................................ ................................ ............................. 116 B INFORMED CONSENTS ................................ ................................ ...................... 117 C TEACHER DEMOGRAPHICS QUESTIONAIRRE ................................ ................ 123 D I NTERVIEW QUESTIONS ................................ ................................ .................... 124 E ARTIFACTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 127 Artifact 1: Response to Intervention Problem Solving Discussion Guide .............. 127


8 Artifact 2: Email Announcing RTI Professional Development ............................... 129 Artifact 3. Professional Develop ment Announcement 1 ................................ ........ 130 Artifact 4: Professional Development Announcement 2 ................................ ........ 131 F SAMPLE CODING ENTRIES ................................ ................................ ............... 132 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 137 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 144


9 LIST OF TABLES Table P age 3 1 Participant e xperience ................................ ................................ ........................ 39 3 2 Strategies u sed to check accuracy of f indings ................................ .................... 46


10 LIST OF FIGURES Figure P age 4 1 What teachers need from leadership to implement response to intervention ..... 76 4 2 The process of RTI implementation ................................ ................................ .... 90 4 3 Coping with the effects of leadership chall enges at school and district levels .... 95 4 4 Coping strategies leading to teacher learning ................................ ..................... 98


11 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION : A TEACHER TEAM'S EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES FOR DISTRICT AND SCHOOL LEADERSHIP By Michele M. Meyer August 2012 Chair : Linda Behar Horenstein Major: Educational Leadership The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 endorsed the Response to Intervention (RTI) model to r eplace the discrepancy model used to identify students for special education services and guide ways to ensure that all students' learning needs are m et The purpose of this research was to describe the experiences of a first grade teacher team 's implement ation of RTI, and elucidate practical, authentic recommendations for school leaders that would inf orm future practices for school and district RTI implementation and sustainability. Data was gathered from focus group interv i ews with the teacher team and observations of the seven first grade teachers at a rural Title 1 school. The school principal was also interviewed to gather a leadership perspectiv e and compare it to the findings from the teachers. T he study sought to answer three primary questions: 1) What new practices are required of teachers in RTI ; 2) How does RTI affect teacher learning ; and 3) How can school and district leadership best suppo rt teachers in the implementation of RTI ? The results indicated that a lack of effective school and district wide leadership dur ing the second year hindered the successful implementation of RTI as a prevention/intervention framework and as a replacement f or the discrepancy model of


12 students qualifying for special education services A lack of consistency between two district departments changes in top district administration and lack of oversight by the school leader had profound effect s on teachers T eachers in the study were cop ing with feelings of frustr ation, students who continued to struggle a nd uncertainty about their own roles, the pr ocesses and data based decision making. The theme c oping with the effects of leadership challenges at the scho ol and district level emerged. In response, teachers employed coping/learning strategies including collaborating, questioning initiating their own learning opportunities, and obser ving other teachers. Teachers in the study lacked the skills necessary to engage effectively in collaborative data analysis and data based decision making. D espite a lack of professional development, leadership support, and tangible resources RTI motivated the participants to become better teachers. The findings reinforced the crucial role that district and school leadership play in successfully implementing and sustaining RTI.


13 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Statement of the Problem Response to Intervention (RTI) has been implemented wit h increased frequency since its endorsement by the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). RTI is considered the practice of offering high quality instruction and re frequent monitoring guides decisions about instruction ( Batsche, Elliott, Graden, Grimes, Kovaleski, Prasse, Schrag, & Tilly, 2006) Because of its application to all students, r esearchers claim that RTI can make both general and special education more effective (Buffum Mattos & Weber, 2009 ; Sailor, 2009). During RTI school s use their resources collectively to intervene early and make instructional chang es that can assist struggling students to improve academic and/or behavioral skills (N ational Association of School Psychologists, [N ASP ] 2006). Prior educational reform efforts have demonstrated that implementing change is more complex in actual practice than has been described in the literature. Oftentimes, e ffective implementation requires fund amental changes in the system and concomitant changes in leadership (Burns & Ysseldyke, 2005; Lau, Seiler, Muysken, Canter, Vankeuren, & Marston 2006 ; Mahdavi & Beebe Frankenberger, 2009; Richards, Pavri, Golez, Canges & Murphy 2007). T o ensure that the re is a collective response from core and supplemental support instructors, cultural and structural barriers between general and special education must be eliminated (Buffum et al., 2009). Professional learning communities (PLCs) is one mechanism to create the cultural and structural change s that are necessary to the effective implement ation of an RTI program.


14 The notion of collective responsibility for student learning is a radical departure from the ways most schools have functioned in the last four decades (Buffum et al., 2009, p.48). RTI involves new ways of thinking for staff members T he administrator's primary role is that of a change agent (Lau et al 2006) In his study of the RTI model Lau (2006) identified role changes amon g the principal, school psychologists, and special education teachers. R esearchers have suggested there is a need to know more about the capacity and knowledge of the people on RTI teams (Hawken, V incent, & Schumann, 2008 ) Origin of Response to Intervention RTI began as a replacement for th e traditional IQ achievement discrepancy criterion that was used to identify students whose academic achievement was significantly less than their intelligence and indicated students for special education services Two primary criticisms were leveled against the discrepancy model. Researchers observed that it led to a disproportionate p lacement of males and minority students in to special education and it offered no provisions for instructional interventions or educational goals I n the mid 1980 s RTI was first implemented when educational leaders in the state of Iowa began searching for an alternative to the discrepancy model. They sought to create an "integrated special education and general education service delivery system" ( Ikeda, Rahn Blakeslee, Niebling, G ustafson, Allison, & Stumme; 2007, p 256). A t that time, Iowa imple ment ed a statewide RTI problem solving model whereby researchers developed decision making systems by using data to enhance outcomes for children ( VanDer Heyden, Witt, & Gilbertson, 2007) Although a few schools in California had


15 experimented with other new approaches to replace the discrepancy model, Iowa was the first t o implement RTI systematically and statewide. The p rogress of one Iowa district became a focus of early research on RTI. Grimes & Kurns (2003) found that the majority ( 87% to 97% ) of administrators and general and special education teachers in the 54 Iowa Heartland Area Educati on Agency (HAEA) school distr icts believed that th is p roblem solving process supported teachers in improving student performance. A combination of staff development, monitoring implementation, and integrating research to practice with rigor were necessary for the successful implementation of RTI (Ikeda et al., 2007) In 199 0, Pennsylvania implemented the Instructional Support Team (IST) model in all of its elementary schools over a five year period. Next, Ohio followed with a similar intervention model Connecticut Michigan, New York, and Virginia later replicated previous work, however, on a smaller scale (Burns & Ysseldyke, 2005). Under the se model s general education and instr uctional support teachers worked collaboratively to implement team developed interventi ons. In early 1993, school psychologists in the Minneapolis Public School System (MPSS) follow ed the lead of the Iowa HAEA districts In response to research identifying problems with the discrepancy model of qualifying for special education, MPSS requested and received a waiver from the Minnesota state laws that required its use. In its place, the MPS S implemented the problem solving model based on the findings from the HAEA research (Lau et al., 2006) The problem solving approach addressed core concerns at an individual and/or school wide level by providing interventions for


16 students rather than focusing on a perceived deficit in the child (Lau et al., 2006). Lau described the steps to the problem solving model 1. Define and analyze the problem wit hin the learning context, considering factors such as environmental variables and instructional match. 2. Develop a hypothesis about the problem and determine instructional interventions that may meet the needs of the student. 3. Monitor progress on an ongoing basis and evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions. 4. Continue the cycle as needed. The models implemented in the Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Minneapolis schools were later c lassified as one of two basic approaches. As noted in the s teps above the problem solving RTI (PS/RTI) model required staff to hypothes ize about student learning needs while using response data These models utilized curriculum based measurement (CBM) for screening and progress monitoring of students M ost of the early research on RTI involved the implementation of the problem solvin g model The other approach, the standard protocol model (Buffum et al., 2009; Sailor, 2009; VanDerHeyden et al., 2007; Vaughn, Linan Thompson, & Hickman, 2003) used a standardized protocol to examine the nature of student deficiencies and to determine who qualified for specific in terventions (Buffum et al., 2009 ; Sailor, 2009). For example, a school or district could decide that anyone scoring below the 45 th national percentile on a standard ized reading test would receive a specific Tier 2 reading intervention, and anyone scoring below the 25th national percentile would receive a specific Tier 3 intervention. In this example, the national percentile scores of 25 a nd 45 became criterion for se lecting who would receive the pre determined interventions.


17 So me schools and districts have implemented blended models of RTI (Buffum et al 2009, McCook, 2006; Sailor, 2009). Blended models closely r esemble problem solving models, in that they call for defining the problem, developing a plan, implementing and evaluati ng it (Buffum et al., 2009 ). Both RTI model s evolved into a n early intervention /prevention model for all students ( Reynolds & Shaywitz, 2009; Sailor, 2009; VanDerHeyden et al. 2007) The e mphasis on prevention and early intervention is an important philosophical difference between RTI and the traditional approach of qualifying for special education based upon discrepancies betwee n IQ and achievement (Lau et al., 2006). RTI suppo rts the No Child Left Behind's ( N CLB ) goal of increased accountability for a ll schools because it require s increasing percentages of students in various demographic subgroups to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Howell, Patton and Deiotte (2008) best described th e relationship between RTI and NCL B : RTI is based on the premise that all factions of the educational community collaborate. This process ensures that no group or subgroup of students is left out. RTI can provide measurable outcomes and show the kind of de l iverables that NCLB requires. To promote the concepts of prevention and early intervention in schools, IDEA (2004) also mandated the use of evidence based practice in general education prior to conducting an evaluation fo r special education. The literatu re describing RTI has stressed the importance of high quality and rigorous instruct ion for all students in the core curriculum (Buffum et al. 2009; Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton, 2004; McCook, 2006; Sailor, 2009).


18 Implementing Response to Intervention A s schoo l systems across the nation began implementing RTI the collaboration required among teachers became a reform initiative that American public schools had never experienced Implementing RTI represent ed a paradigm shift for educators, from working in isola tion to collaboration to fulfill ing greater accountability and showing increased student achievement. For example, in one California school district, teachers were given weekly release time as they began to implement RTI. Specifically, they had to learn h ow to collaborate and take responsibility for student learning in the school as well as those in their classrooms (Buffum et al., 2009 ). In another study on RTI, when teachers and administrators studied assessment results and made necessary instructional p ractice changes, they noted how it affected their teaching and learning ph ilosophies (Kimmel, 2008 ). In Florida, where this study was conducted, RTI was first piloted in 318 schools that used the Reading First program. In 2003 2004, the pilot schools foc used on early intervention/prevention by improving core classroom instruction and promoting differentiated instruction. In these schools, RTI replaced the discrepancy model for special education identification. In the first three years there was a signifi cant decrease in the number of students qualifying for special education services in g rades K 3. T wo possible explanations were given for this sharp decline. First, was a belief that the actual model led to fewer students with reading difficult y Second, t eachers may have become more confident in their ability to teach students who demonstrated learning difficulty without feeling a need to refer them for special education. P ilot studies were crucial because if early interventions were not powerful enough, "then the RTI instructional model could [have] actually delay [ed] the identification of


19 students for needed instructional services" (Torgesen, 2009, p. 40). Buffum et al. (2009) noted that schoolwide problem solving RTI would be only as effective as its interventions and that ineffective interventions would only lead to equal access to a system of failure During the Florida pilot studies, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills ( DIBELS ) was the universal screening tool. W hen Florida began i mplementing RTI statewide in the fall of 2009, the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR ) replaced it as the universal screening tool. T he FAIR provided very detailed information regarding each student's reading ability. The change in screen ing assessments was a result of lessons learned from the pilot schools' implementation of RTI. I n November 2010, (PS/RTI) State Project published a manual to guide and support Florida schools and districts implementing and evaluating th eir RTI progra ms. T he PS/RtI: Evaluation Tool, Technical Assistance Manua l (2010) applied knowledge and information that was gained from the four years of piloting RTI in Reading First Schools. The manual includes tools that were d esigned to assist educational leaders in evaluating which s ystemic factors contribute to and/o r hinder implementation of PS/RT I practices. When implementing RTI, school leaders also need to consider s ustainability a concern expressed frequentl y in the research on RTI Burns & Ysseldyke (2005) noted the importance of leadership Leaders' support and presence is crucial to the initial implementation of RTI, and perhaps more important for sustaining RTI practices Santangelo (2009) found that RTI implementation at one school was not sustained during the second year because of a dramatic reduction in staff and the elimination of


20 funding. After the district reduced the school's staffing allocation, special education teachers returned to focusing thei r efforts only on students who were eligible to receive special education services. Santangelo (2009) also reported that there has been insufficient research focused on the factors that influence the sustainability of RTI. While preparing staff for initi al RTI implementation, the district made extensive investments in summer trainings where the research took place. They mandated o ne week of training for elementary school teams and one week for the secondary school teams Each school team was able to send up to eight staff members to the trainings, including the school's administration and teacher leaders. A renowned expert who had written a book about the experiences of i mplement ing RTI in another state was hired to facili tate the trainings. Also in attendance for some of the training were three pilot school teams in the district that had already begun RTI implementation. The district also purchased rights to "Direct Step" and required every instructional staff person to co mplete about eight hours of training from three on line modules before the end of the first year of RTI implementation. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this research was to describe the experiences of a first grade teacher team implementing RTI, in or der to elucidate practical, authentic recommendations for school leaders that would inform future practices fo r school and district RTI implementation and sustainability. Qualitative methods for gathering data included focus group interviews, observations of the team analyzing data, a principal interview and artifacts pertaining to RTI The conceptual framework for this study was viewing the teacher a s a collaborative problem solver involved in shared leadership


21 during RTI implementation rather than as a p ractitioner in isolation Appendix A illustrates the paradigmatic shifts in the teacher Research Questions 1. H ow does RTI affect teacher learning? 2. What new tasks and practices are required of teachers with RTI implementation? 3. How can school and district leaders best support teachers in the implementation of the RTI problem solving approach? S ignificance of the Study The knowledge base of RTI in general education is only beginning to emerge (Dexter Hughes & Farmer 2008). According to Santangelo (2009), previous research of RTI models relied heavily on surveys and post hoc analysis of district data to support evidence of increased student outcomes. Two limitations of these methods were noted. First, they did not reveal any actual chang e in school practices. Second, they did not allow for the investigation of extraneous factors such as interactions among team members. E ven though most early researchers on RTI focused on its outcomes it might be assumed that any process using data to design instruction and student interventions would result in the desired outcomes. However, v ery few researchers have focused on the process of successfully implementing RTI. VanDerHeyden et al. (2007) su ggested that future research investigate extraneous factors that influence team decisions as they analyze data. By studying the process of RTI implementation from the teacher team's perspective the researcher attempted to bridge the gap between theory an d practice. T his study sought to discover if and how the process of teacher implement ation aided changes in achievement. R esearchers have suggested that "future inquiries should


22 explore how teachers could be supported within a new model of general educatio n accountability and research based practice" (Hollenbeck, 2007, p. 144). Conducting an in depth study of the teachers' experiences is one way to explore how teachers can be supported during RTI implementation. Researchers have also concluded that the most important issues for further research are understanding the roles that educators play in the RTI model and how academic and behavior interventions meet individual student needs (Hawken et al. 2008). The significance of considering practitioners as collaborators in RTI research cannot be overstated (Hollenbeck, 2007). Ongoing training in collaborative teaming and progress monitoring might be needed as roles shift and evolve ( Marston et al., 2003 ). Researchers have been urged to embrace the challeng es that affect sustainability of practice and decision making to better understand how the RTI process can be expanded. Currently there is l ittle research that shows how school based practitioners have been supported while they incorporat e RTI within norma l school routines (Ardoin, Witt, Connell, & Koenig 2005, p. 375 ) continued research is necessary to guide the adoption of specific RTI practices by states an d districts" (p. 57). Definition of Key Terms AXIAL CODING A process of synthesizing the data into a meaningful whole after it has been broken down into codes and themes during initial coding processes. CODING A process of sorting and assigning labels to portions of qualitative data that capture the main attribute s of the data. There are various methods of cod ing used in qualitative research. COLLABORATION Groups of people e ngaging in dialogue to work together towards common goals and to reflect on pr ofessional practice in order to improve student achi evement


23 CORE CATEGORY T he category found to have the greatest relevance to all other categories of data, which is used to construct a relationship with the other categories that ultimately lead to a grounded theory. (Otherwise known as the core variable or core theme ) DISTRIBUTED LEADERSH IP The interaction of leaders and teachers in a collaborative learning environment that in fluenc es school and instructional practices through out the organization. GROUNDED THEORY RESE ARCH A qua litative method of analysis that culminat es in a theoretical construct that e xpla i n s a social process IN VIVO CODING A method of coding that us es the participants' actual words in the codes to preserve their voices in the research PROCESS CODING A rranging the data that is coded into groups using gerunds, or action words as labels in order to represent a process. PROFESSIONAL LEARNIN G COMMUNITIES ( PLC s ) T eams with a common vision, c ollaborati vely engag ing in planning and reflective practice with a focus on continuous improvements in student learning gains and results PROBLEM SOLVING RTI ( PS / RTI ) A n RTI framework that requires data based decision making among teams to meet student academic and behavioral needs The problem solving process includes problem i dentification problem analysis, plan development and implementation and evaluation of interventions RESPONSE TO INTERVEN TION A school wide framework to ensure that all students learn, consisting of various process es, including the foll owing: 1. U niversal screening to determine how instru ction will meet student needs, including differentiat ing and scaffold ing classroom instruction and 2. Selecting appropriate research based interventi ons to close the learning gaps of at risk students; 3. R egula r progress monitoring using formative assessment data to determine whether or not the learning gap is closing a nd students at risk are making adequate gains and 4. C ollaborative data based decision making leading to removal of interventions more intensive interventions, or an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services for the individual students being monitored


24 STANDARD PROTOCOL RTI A n RTI framework that uses pre determined benchmarks to determine which studen ts will receive specific, pre selected Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions, with a set duration and frequency based on the common needs of the school UNIVERSAL SCREENING U sing a ssessments to determine student progress in relation to benchmarks or standards, le ading to the identification of students who will receive interventions and have their progress regularly monitored. In RTI, universal screening is recommended at the beginning, middle and end of each school year.


25 CHAPTE R 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERA TURE Schoolwide r esponse to i ntervention (RTI) is a complex process. Sailor (2009) co mpared it to building an airplane as you fly it. The major compone nts of RTI proposed by Fuchs and Fuchs (2007) involve decision making at several levels: from teams of teachers, to larger teams within schools, and to districts for their role of providing support and resources to the schools. The purpose of this research was to describe the experiences of a first grade teacher tea m implementing RTI, in order to elucidate practical, authentic recommendations for school leaders that would inform future practices for school, district, or statewide RTI implementation and sustainability. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of related topics including : (a) a plea for increased coll aboration in schools (b) collaboration in professional learning communities ( PLCs) (c) the response to intervention problem solving model (d) the role of the teacher in response to interventio n. A Plea for Increased Collaboration in School s Reform s that began in 1970 s and continued into the 21st century have required teachers to change from working in isolation to collaborating in teams, to working in PLCs and accepting leadership roles within and outside the classroom. Since the 1980 s, researchers have recognized the potential that collaboration had to bridge the gap between theory, research and practice However, without a common planning time and training opportunities it has been difficult to work tow ards collaborati on (Gerber & Popp, 2000). In addition a lack of knowledge about collaboration impeded it (Wheelan,


26 2005). Researchers have suggested school faculties should be familiar with how to elicit collaboration and provide opportunities for teacher s to learn to collaborate. Historically, collaboration in schools was aimed at meeting special education students' learning needs in the least restrictive environment (Gerber & Popp, 2000). Later, r esearch on collaboration centered on encouraging universi ties, school administration and teacher education programs to work together to improve educational programming for pre service teachers In the late 1980 s, system wide collaboration between universities and public schools was proposed, and this led to the creation of professional development schools (PDS). Similar to the concept of teaching hospitals, the PDS provided opportunities for teachers to expand their roles and "negotiate the boundaries of theory and practice with immediate, contextual activities" ( Dangel, Dooley, Swars, Truscott, Smith & Williams, 2009, p.14) From PDS emerged teacher inquiry and a shift from teacher isolation to a community of collaboration (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2001). Findings from a national survey showed that pre service special education teachers were still more likely to receive training in collaboration than pre service teachers were in general education programs (McKenzie, 2009). In response, Kaasila and Lauriala (2010) formed a collaborative, interactionist model of t eacher change using university students in the teaching profession. They suggested that educators learn to recognize barriers to collaboration such as previous experiences, expectations of self and others, and fear of failure. The researchers recommended that university based teacher educators engage in collaborative practices with each other to model how to


27 increas e collaboration among pre service and experienced teachers (Kaasila & Lauriala, 2010). In school based practice, many teachers continued to wo rk in isolation for several decades The traditional structure and organization of schools did not afford the m the opportunity, or time to do otherwise (Levine & Marcus, 2010). Thus, when school reform efforts aimed at improving teacher practice and increa sing student achievement was initiated, communities of practice also known as professional learning communities ( PLCs ) emerged Collaboration in Professional Learning Communities Prior studies have shown that a culture must change to sustain collaborative learning communities (Hall, 2006). One study showed that a supportive school culture led to increased achievement in reading and math among third, through fifth graders (Strahan, 2003) and confirmed previous findings that developing collaborative work cultures leads to meaningful changes in schools. Collaboration is one of the major tenet s of PLC s and at the heart of high performing schools (DuFour, 2004). PLCs have transformed the rigidity of traditional school structures to organizations that foster cooperation, emotional support and professional growth among faculty and sta ff (Barth, 2001; DuFour, DuFour & Eaker, 2005 ). The "big ideas" that represent the core principles of PLC s are ensuring that all students learn ; promoting a culture of collaboration towards school improvement ; and focusing on student learning results (DuFour, 2004) These same tenets form the basis for RTI. However, many groups of individuals working in schoo ls have been calling themselves PLCs without actually engaging in the principles of learning communities (DuFour, 2004; Vescio, Ross & Adams, 2008). Schools that are not authentic learning communities will have


28 difficulty implementing RTI successfully in the absence of the solid f oundation of a PLC (Buffum et al., 2009) Three general themes from PLCs are required for successful implementation of RTI: collaboration for (a) curriculum development and implementation, (b) staff development, and (c) opportun ities to reflect on and change practices that are required for students' immediate needs. Research has shown that highly functioning teams develop new curriculum, identify innovative teaching strategies to assist lower functioning students, and increase st udent achievement (Phillips, 200 3 ) The shared responsibility for all students is one of the major cultural changes prompted by RTI For example, in many elementary schools the responsibility for making decisions about instruction for individual students h as expanded to entire grade level teams plus special education teachers and support staff assigned to work with the team. Group Development, PLC Processes, and Team Effectiveness Wheelan (2005) pointed out tha t t he idea of using group s to solve problems, coordinate curriculum, or make decisions about school policies is that well performing groups make better decisions than would a n individual (p. 2 4 ). Prior empirical evidence showed that the team task strongly affects the processes required for its performance (Salas, Sims, & Burke, 2005). Team performance suffers when schools create time for teachers to collaborate without specifying structures and aim s (Levine & Marcus, 2010). Understanding tasks the team needs to accomplish collaborativel y lend s support to more effective performance of the team. Additionally, a task focus helps teachers make the best use of limited time to analyze student data and pla n for changes in instruction or interventions collaboratively. Levine and Marcus (2010) suggested that future


29 research explore if specific collaborative activities are observable in classroom practice, relationships with students or families, or student ac hievement Garmston and Wellman (2008) asserted that ongoing groups must balance three agendas: task focus, process skills development, and group development. Thus, understanding and recognizing the importance of group development is essen tial for the impl ementation of RTI Wheelan's (2005) research confirmed the stages of group development (forming, storming, norming and performing). Unfortunately, m ost educators have little or no prior knowledge of group development and group process, which affect both te am functioning and effectiveness. Knotek's (2003) ethnographic research examined the efficacy of the social process of multidisciplinary student support teams (SST s) during the pre referral process of the traditional (discrepancy) model. In his study of t wo schools with large numbers of African American students on free and reduced lunch the problem solving process varied considerably. Outcomes were dependent on the social interactions of the SST a nd their collaborative ability to plan to meet the needs o f students with disabilities. The social milieu of the teams fostered objectivity and rigor but "sometimes the social process made the team more reflexive and less reflective" (Knotek, 2003, p. 11) Other researchers examined social validity to describe whether a process leads to the desired results for a particular social group ( Mahdavi et al., 2009). They explored the ways collaboration was viewed by the teachers and administrators at two Montana schools piloting the RTI process, and the degree to which stakeholders accepted the RTI process as it was developed at their sites. The ir findings showed support for the RTI process. The researchers suggested implementing changes at an appropriate rate


30 increases the social acceptability of the RTI proce ss and that monitoring and coaching at collaborative meeting s can help keep staff on track. The Emergence of Distributed Leadership Research reinforced the importance of administrative support and leadership when implementing RTI (Hollenbeck, 2007 ; Lau et al., 2006; Mahdavi et al., 2009). PLCs are grounded by a belief that it is essential to develop the leadership potential of all staff members and that leadership should be widely dispersed (DuFour et al., 2005 ; Hoyd, 2004). PLCs support the perspe ctive that "all teachers are leaders" (Barth, 2001; Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2001). Research on RTI has stressed the need for distributed or shared leadership and collaboration, not ju st for teacher teams, but also for all stakeholders (Buffum et al., 2009; H owell et al., 2008). For distributed leadership to be effective in schools, formal leaders and teachers must develop capacities in facilitation, interacti on, and communication (Scribner, Sawyer, Watson, & Myers, 2007). Leaders influence followers through social interaction. However, the construction of leadership for instruction varies by the leaders' position and is often situated in a variety of types of interactions ( Spillane, Halverson & Diamond, 2004) R esearchers suggested that future inquiry explore the construction of leadership by studying the everyday interactions between teachers and administrators and teachers and teachers (Spillane et al., 2004 ). For example, "As distributed leadership practice de velops within and between schools, we certainly need to refine the theory...We will undoubtedly need to know more about the impact and effects of different forms of distributed leadership practice on organisational (sic) learning" (Harris, 2008, p.158). Ot hers have called for further research on how to build leadership capacity and/or the capacity of teacher teams.


31 The R esponse to Intervention Problem solving Model B uffum et al. (2009) proposed that, "RTI can help harness, systematically and coherently, t he resources and expertise of specialists in general education, Title I education, English language learner e ducation, and special education (p. 23) Advantages to r esponse to i ntervention include earlier identification of student problems, more accurate information about students with learning or emotional disabilities, and elimination of the discrepancy model to qualify children for special education services (Buffum et al. 2009; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007; Howell et al. 2008; McCook, 2006). Dexte r et al. (2008) suggested it is vital to evaluate full RTI models as districts or states implement their unique processes. A full RTI model has six major structural components. Schools must make the following decisions regarding the major structures of RTI : How many tiers of intervention to use How to target students for preventative intervention (universal screening) The nature of that preventative intervention How to classify response, (monitor progress) The nature of the multidis ciplinary evaluation prior to special education The function and design of special education (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007, p.15) T he structural components of RTI related to core curriculum, instruction, assessment and intervention are of great importance as well The differences in schools, districts and states necessitate that decisions surrounding these issues be determined locally. For example, many schools or districts, including the district where


32 this research study took place, selected a three tier system of interventions (Buffum et al., 2009; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007; Howell et al., 2008; McCook, 2006). Yet s ome researchers have advocated that Tier 3 actually begin the provision of special education services (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007). An adequate response t o Tier 3 interventions represents a questionable basis for assuming that a child does not in fact require special education, when Tier 3 actually resembles the intensity of special education services (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007; Sugai, 2007). In earlier RT I studies, researchers made the decisions about the nature of the intervention and the means to depict the student's progress. In practice, however, this responsibility fell to teacher teams ( RTI problem solving team s ). Previous research revealed, "As indi vidualized student assessments identify more specific needs, staff will increasingly need to develop and deliver differentiated lessons (Buffum e t al. 2009, p. 84). A caveat in the law complicated the task of selecting interventions for students by manda ting that RTI decisions be based intervention" ( Bradley, Danielson, & Doolittle, 200 7 p. 10). R esearchers have responded by point ing out that teachers need the support of administrators and district personnel to access and learn about a variety of scientific, research based interventions (Sailor, 2009). Further, it was noted that schools have a variety of supplemental interventions to meet the diversity of student needs, and to target the cause of the student's difficulty rather than the symptoms (Buffum et al., 2009, p.93). For students receiving interventions, the PS/ RTI process calls for furth er decision making based on regular progress monitoring data from six to eight weeks of


33 interventions. Prog ress monitoring requires the use of graphs to show the aim and the students' actual progress. This visual tool supports the IDEA mandate that school staff is responsible for keeping parents informed of their child's progress when they are receiving any int erventions. Progress monitoring data can lead to a variety of decisions, includin g: continue interventions (Tier 2), move up to more intensive interventions (Tier 3), or move the student back into the core instruction (Tier 1). When student progress monito ring data left teachers uncertain about how to proceed after at least 6 8 weeks of interventions, they would request a meeting with the School wide RTI team (administrators, coaches, school counselor and/or psychologist) to determine the next steps to take Buffum et al. (2009) cautioned schools not to violate this norm before moving to a more intensive intervention because it could result in due process complaints and delay special education services. Stecker (2007) suggested basing instruction at Tier 3 on individual student learning needs and delivering it individually or in very small groups. The original expectation for Tier 3 int ervention was 5 0 minutes or longer in duration, five days a week, in groups of three or fewer student s (Buffum et al., 2009) This level of intensity complicates school wide structures, because students have to receive instruction in all academic areas within the six or seven hour school day. This logistical problem lent support for the recommendation tha t the third tier be the provision of special education services rather than having another tier of interventions. Either way schools choose to use the third tier a benefit for students and school staff in RTI is that new funding allocations within IDEA pe rmit special education teachers to work with all students


34 In Florida, if the team decided the child would benefit from special education services after the student lacked sufficient responsiveness to Tier 3 interventions, the intervention strategies and progress monitoring data became a part of the psychological evaluation. If the full evaluation supported special education, progress monitoring data and interventions then became a primary tool for writing the goals and objectives for a student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The progress monitoring data is also important to support fidelity of intervention implementation. While it has been suggested that school administrators monitor interventions researchers found it was essential to dete rmine the extent to which treatments were implemented and whether they were implemented as intended (Burns & Ysseldyke, 2005). Yet, how to assess fidelity in actual practice remains an unknown (A r doin et al., 2005; Burns et al., 2005; I keda et al 2003). The Role of the Teacher in R esponse to Intervention RTI has major implications for the educator's workload. Most t eachers are trying to grasp how to meet student needs with interventions stay informed of best practices and reflec t on their own practices (Carney & Stiefel, 2008). A recurrent theme in research is that RTI challenges teachers' organization, planning, and energy level and often leads to frustration (Mah davi et al., 2009). Another prevalent theme among teachers implementin g RTI is how to mak e efficient use of their time. The classroom teacher needs to be prepared to provide a range of interventions that may extend outside of their grade level curriculum, or collaborate with other building staff to ensure that student in structional needs are met (Marston et al., 2003). An emphasis on collaboration across disciplines a nd across general and special education boundaries has been a challeng e for many teachers. Collaborating school wide,


35 identifying the most appropriate strat egies and skills to teach, monitoring individual student progress and using data based decision making require s a variety of teacher skills. Expertise in curriculum based measurement and data based decision making is required of all teachers. Ensuring that such skills are included in general and special education teacher programs is a topic that requires r esearch (Richards et al., 2007). Th e selection of interventions and methods of monitoring the response to the interventions often requires collaborative decision making. Other decisions that require the collaboration of grade level teams are how to : improve core curriculum instruction; group students for core reading instruction; and regroup them for Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervent ions. The school administrators, reading coach, reading resource and special education teachers often are involved in decision making to ensure the ir school follow s the recommended structures of PS/RT I. Administrators s eek the input of teachers regarding h ow to implement RTI, and use their input and feedback to ensure continuous improvement of the system. Summar y Fuchs and Fuchs (2007) proposed that RTI requires decision making at several levels: from teams of teachers, to larger teams within schoo ls, and to districts for their role of providing support and resources to the schools. PLCs lay the foundation for collaboration and teacher learning that are essential to RTI Distributed or shared leadership is believed to increase the likelihood of succ essful and effective RTI implementation H ow to best support teachers and prepare future teachers for facilitating student learning in the RTI framework remains unknown.


36 CHAPTE R 3 METHODOLOGY The purpose of this research was to provide a comprehensive description of a tea cher team's experiences in the second year of RTI in order to illuminate practical, authentic recommendatio ns for school leaders to guide the implementation and sustainability of RTI at school and district levels. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the setting and participants, the research design methods of data collection and analysis, and methodological rigor. Setting The setting for this study was a Title I school in a small rural town in Florida The district offices are l ocated in an affluent city with very different demographics than the locale where the study took place. Five years ago, the school received a grade of A from the state, although it has maintained a C for the past few years. T he overwhelming majority of students in the research site (89%) are H ispanic B lack (African American and Haitian ) students comprise about 10 percent of the student population and Caucasian students are the greatest minority (less than 3%). Seventy three p ercent of the students live in homes where the first language is not English Compared to the other five elementary schools in th e rural town, t his school has the lowest percentage of students on free and reduced lunch (93%). Approximately 11% of the stude nts are in special education. This school d oes not have any full time special education classrooms since the entire school district ha s been using an inclusion model to teach those students who receiv e special education services. O nly a few schools in this district had students assigned to full time special education classrooms.


37 Thirty three percent of this school's students are classified as migrant Thus, their families migrate to other areas to find work, typically in farming. Most migrant students retu rn to this community d uring the months of October and November, and leave during April or May when farm work in th e area subside s Migrant students typically demonstrate difficulty learning the English language and show inconsistencies in their academic ac hievement It is common for migrant students to attend two or more schools each year. They begin the school y ear in one school, and return to this community mid year. Depending on where their families move to find work in the spring, they may actually end the school year in yet another school The high migrant population complicates implementing RTI because the school must accommodate them into existing intervention groups when the y return to this community several weeks after school has begun in the fall Participants In order to incr ease the objectivity of the study, it was determined that the teacher team being studied should not be at the school where the researcher was employed. Potential sites included four elementary schools Howev er when the district office approved th e study they selected the school where the study would take place. The school principal was in his fourth year. He had the longest tenure as a n elementary principal in th e community aside from one other with 30 year tenure who lived locally A fter identifying a school for the research site purposive sampling was used to select information rich cases for in depth study (Patton, 2002). The principal ruled out asking the kindergarten team since their focus was more on language development than RTI. However the first grade team volunteered to participate As noted by the


38 principal they were one of the most stable teams in the school They were selected for the study Among the team were seven first grade teachers. The researcher met with the participants to describe the study and seek consent for participation, for taping interviews and conducting observations. T he consent form appears in Appendix B All teacher names used in the study are pseudonyms because the con sent included a confidentiality agreement. Demographics of the teacher team were also gathered when the participants signed consent forms to participate in the study. A copy of the form used to gather participant demographics appears in Appendix C. At this first meeting of the teachers, t he researcher beg an to establish comfortable and trusting relationships with the teacher team. The first grade teacher team consisted of six females and one male. The team leader moved to an ESE inclusion position du ring the middle of the school year. However, she continued as the team leader until the end of the school year. She remained closely connected with the team continued to provid e special education services to first and second grade students and served as t he mentor for the new teacher who replaced her. The total number of years of experience among the teachers ranged from two to nine years an average of 5.3 years On average, th e number of years teach ers had been in this school was 4.1 years, while thei r average years of experience teaching in this grade level were 3.6 years. All seven participants held endorsements as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, and had completed the training required by the state of Florida to work with children whose first language was not En glish. All participants held a b achelor's degree in either elementary education or early


39 childhood education and held Florida certifications in th e same. Two of the teachers held certification s to teach students with disabilities, and one of the teachers held a gifted endorsement. Two of the teachers h ad master's degrees ( one in School Counseling and one in Reading ) and three of the teachers w ere c urrently working on their m aster's degree s in Curriculum and Instruction (C & I) with a reading endorsement. All teachers on the team had also completed the three RTI online training modules from Direct Steps, mandated by the district. T able 3 1 show s the educational background of each participant Table 3 1 Participant e xperienc e Last Name Total Years Teaching Years Teaching at the Site Total Years Teaching This Grade Other Grades Taught Certifications/ Endorsements H eld Other Degrees Held Taking Classes for MA Degree Moore 4 4 3 4 th 2 nd ESO L, ESE C & I Smith 2 1 1 3 rd E SO L, Gifted, Counseling M. S. Counselin g Leader 7 7 6 ESE E SO L ESE Jones 4 3 3 Pre K ESE E SO L Brown 9 4 1 5th E SO L C& I Davis 2 2 2 N/A E SO L Miller 9 9 9 N/A E SO L MA reading Range 2 9 years 1 9 years 1 9 years Average 5.3 years 4. 1 years 3.6 years Res earch Design and Data Collection Grounded Theory Research Originating from the work of Strauss and Glase r (1967), the purpose of grounded theory research is to "demonstrate relations between conceptual categories and to specify the conditions under which theoretical relationships emerge, change, or are p. 675). Grounded theory met hods are essentially, "a set of flexible analytic guidelines that enable researchers to focus their data collection and


40 to build inductive middle range theories through successful levels of data analysis and conceptual development" (Charmaz, 2002 p. 507). Literally speaking, theory arising from grounded theory research is "grounded" in the views of the study participants. Grounded theory is the preferred method for this study because the intent of grounded theory "is to explain a process"; the process spec ific to this rese arch was the implementation of response to intervention Creswell (2008) noted, "as a systematic process, grounded theory exhibits the rigor quantitative researchers like to see in an educational study...the data collection process contai ns a self correction nature" (p 447). However, Creswell also cautioned a weakness of grounded theory research is that varied approac hes developed over time could lead to confusion about which procedures would best produce a well developed theory. D ata for this study came from multiple sources: three focus group interviews, observations of team meetings, an interview with the school principal, and analysis of artifacts pertaining to RTI Each data collection method is explained in detail in the follo wing sections. Each focus group interview and observation lasted between forty five and fifty minutes, except for the final focus group interview, which was seventy five minutes in length. The total time spent with the team was two hundred and fifty minute s (4 hours and 10 minutes). The interview with the principal was fifty minutes thus the total time spent in the field with all participants three hundred minutes, or five hours. Focus Group Interviews The objective of focus group interviews is to gather high quality data in a social context where people hear their views in the context of others' views (Patton, 2002). The focus group therefore aligns with the assumption that knowledge is socially


41 constru cted. Focus groups provide insights into the attitudes, perceptions, and opinions of participants in a natural setting where participants are able to influence each other (Krueger, 2004 ). Th e opportunity to influence each other creates a space for insightf ul sharing that would not be available in individual interviews or other forms of data collection. During the interviews, the facilitator focuse d on understanding the thought processes of the participants rather than on helping the group reach co nsensus (K rueger, 2004). The initial questions were pilot tested with primary level teachers to determine if other questions were needed The questions that were used for the focus gr oup interviews are in Appendix D Q uestions for the two subsequent focus gro ups arose from the data analysis of the prior focus group interview Care was taken to create a trustworthy, open environment where participants would not feel judged and honest opinions would flow freely. The focus groups began with welcoming and thanking the participants, followed by an overview of the topic, setting of ground rules, and then the first question. During the first focus group, the researcher sought information about each teacher's role within the r esponse to i ntervention process The resear cher wrote field notes in addition to tape recording the sessions. Pauses and probes helped solicit additional information from the group C omments and gestures were self monitored by the researcher to avoid communicating agreement or dissent with what was being shared (Krueger, 1994). B oth v ideo and audio recordings were used to capture the teachers' words and body language in order to ensure that technology problems would not affect the research during the first two focus group interviews Later, on ly audio


42 recording was used because the researcher could accurately recognize their voices. Verbatim transcriptions of the teachers' spoken words were typed into protocols Thick, rich descriptions of the dialogue, written field notes from observat ions and memos were sorted, categorized and rearranged into themes (coded). The constant comparative method involved the continu ous review and analysis of the codes to seek better understanding of the categories and their relationships to one another Afte r each focus group interview or observation, the descriptive data was assimilated with the prior coding in order to analyze t he findings holistically Participant Observation In order to gather data from different settings, the participants were observed in two problem solving team meetings where they used data to make decisions as a team. E ach observation follow ed the first and second focus group interviews. Field notes in the form of running records with thick, rich descriptions that included b oth verbal and non verbal observations were documented The researcher transcribed the taped dialogue and written observations and then coded categorized, and embedded them into the prior coding Data analysis followed, continuously using the constant co mparative method. During the first observation the participants used recent benchmark testing to determine which students would begin receiving interventions from the math coach. Since the second observation occurred near to the end of the school year, th e teachers analyzed a variety of academic achievement data along with behavioral observations to create new heterogeneous groups of stu dents for next year's teachers.


43 Principal Intervie w The researcher conducted an individual interview wi th the principal following all focus groups and observations to contextualize the results, and to obtain a leadership The interview with the princip al sought to substantiate common themes of the teachers' reports. This included exploring the support that teachers rec eived from school leadership, such as the opportunities for professional development D ata from the written t ranscript s of the interview were code d and the codes were combined wit h existing coding entries using the constant comparative method of data analysis The questi ons for the principal interview are in Appendix D Field Notes and Memos Field notes are descriptions of what the researcher observes in a qualitative stud y (Patton, 2002). They include everything the rese archer deems to be important, including experiences and thoughts while collecting data. Field notes, kept in the form of running notes during the sessions with the participants throughout the research proce ss, contributed to the validity of the research. Memos written in a research journal depicted the reflections during the interviews, observations, coding and data analysis Memos included ideas and hunches that arose through reflection and dat a analysis. It was suggested, The comments and thoughts recorded as field log entries or as memos are links across your data that find their way into the analytical files" ( Glesne, 2006, p. 14 8 ). The field notes and memos became a part of the data gathered throughout the study Field notes recorded researcher observations during each interview and problem solving team meeting. M emos recorded researcher thoughts and insights after reflecting


44 on data collection and analysis As suggested by Bogden and Biklen (2007 ) the memos included analysis of emerging themes, thoughts regarding methods, dilemmas or conflicts, awareness of assumptions, or points of clarification The field notes and memos provide d insigh t into relationships among the themes created in gathering and coding the data. The y also contributed to triangulation of instrumentation (the use of multiple sources of data) to facilitate accuracy and dependability of the findings. "Triangulation recogni zes the multiplicity and simultaneity of cultural frames of reference through which social events and institutions are possib le" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2008, p. 300). Additionally, the combination of multiple methodological practices and perspectives adds rigo r, breadth and depth to inquiry (Flick, 2002 ). Data Analysis The initial coding method was in vivo coding, literal codi ng, to "preserve the participants' meanings of their views and actions in the coding itself" (Charmaz, 2010, p. 55). In vivo cod ing is appropriate for all qualitative studies, but since it involves using the actual language of the participants, it is particularly useful for studies that want to "prioritize and honor the participants voice" (Saldana, 2009, p. 74). The coding process involved forming initial categories of the data followed by using the constant comparative method of data analysis. The constant comparative method (CCM) entailed continual review and reflection of data to determine the most appropriate thematic gr oupings. After coding the data from the first two meetings with teachers, process coding further categorize d the data into themes u sing gerunds (action words) for data analysis Corbin and Strauss (2008 ) noted process coding is particularly appropriate for qualitative studies that search for "ongoing action/interaction/emotion


45 that is taken in response to situations" (p. 96) which in this research was the teacher team's responses to RTI implementation. Additionally, process coding was the primary method of coding used by this researcher in the qualitative studies completed in the doctoral coursework. Saldana (2009 ) supports the use of more than one coding method. He cautioned that in vivo coding might limit the researcher's perspective since it honors the pa rticipants' voices Sometimes participants say it best; sometimes the researcher does (p. 76). The constant comparative method of data analysis continued until all the data was categorized into themes and subthemes. T hematic analysis is "a strate gic choice as a part of the research design that includes the primary questions, goals, conceptual framework and literature review p.140 ) Saldana further noted that developing themes requires comparable reflection on participant meanings. After gather in g and coding all the data from the focus group interviews, observations, principal interview, artifacts, field notes and memos, final themes emerged using the second cycle coding method of axial coding. Axial coding is a process of synthesizing the data in to a meaningful whole after it has been broken down into the codes and themes duri ng the initial coding process. Axial coding also involves using the constant comparative method of data analysis in order to identify a c entral theme and the relationships a mong other (sub) themes uncovered in the research. To complete the analysis, a visual paradigm portrayed the theory generated from the data collection and analysis. The theory describe s the interrelationship of the themes related to RTI implementation Methodological Rigor T he research began with a pilot focus group interview of five primary level teachers at a different school to test the interview questions and add to the


46 methodological rigor of the study. T eachers in the pilot study focused o n the research based interventions. In particular, they noted the students' success with the Leveled Literacy Instruction (LLI). Based on the findings of the pilot study, the focus group interview questions were modified to ensure capturing all relevant in formation. The primary change was the addition of questions pertaining to the use of research based interventions, which contributed important findings to the results of the research. Creswell (2003) noted that in qualitative studies, validity does not carry the same connotations as it does in quantitative research He explained that terms such as trustworthiness, authenticity, and credibility are common ly used in qualitative research, yet he also noted that validation is an active part of the process in grounded theory research Creswell identified eight research strategies that check the accuracy of findings and suggested using at least three of these strategies in a rese arch study. These strategies are considered best practices in qualitative research. In T able 3 2, the researcher describes how six of Creswell's validation strategies were used in this stu dy. Table 3 2. S trategies used to check accuracy of f indings Strategy How the Strategy w as Applied Triangulation Different data sources were used to build coherent justification of themes. Sources includ ed group interview data, individual interview data from the school principal observations of team problem solving meetings, a review of artifacts pertaining to RTI, and researcher constructed field notes and memos written throughout the study. Member Checking Data from field or participant experiences were coded and used to develop emergent findings. At subsequent meetings emergent findings were shared so that p articipants could respond to the ir accuracy


47 Table 3 2. Continued Strategy How the Strategy w as Applied Using thick, rich descriptions to convey findings In data collection and analysis, and in writing the final report, thick rich descriptions were preserved and used to give the discussion an element of shared experiences. Clarify the bias the reader brings to the study. Presented in the discussion of findings. The researcher is a doctoral candidate with an EdS in Educational Leadership. Having served five years on a leadership team at a neighboring elementary school, the researcher has had varied opportunities to learn about RTI. The researcher believes knowledge is socially constructed. Peer Reviewer Another student in the doctoral cohort served as a peer reviewer who corroborated the findings by reviewing and assessing the data to determine if she came to similar conclusions of themes created from in vivo coding, process coding and data analysis External Auditor A fellow employee served as an external auditor to review the research project and its conclusions and corroborated the findings G rounded theory research lends itself to the formulation of questions that emerge from data analysis ; it adds depth and meaning to successive d ata collection. Creswell (2008) noted that the emerging design is a process "in which the inquirer refines, develops and clarifies the meanin gs of categories for the theory (p. 450). The use of an emerging design, gathering data over time and analyzing it continuously, add ed to the validity of grounded theory research. S ome experts have claimed that qualitative research is never replicable, yet Patton (2002) noted that carefully documenting the procedures for generating and interpreting the data help to establish that the evidence to support the claim is dependable. D ependability w as built into the study by generating clear research


48 questions, seeking multiple sources of data from different settings, and providing opportunities for member checks and peer reviews. The participants re viewed c onti ngent findings from data analyse s i n succeeding focus group interviews and the researcher gave them opportunities to provide feedback The researcher shared a diagram of the grounded theory with the participants to v erify the themes and relationships developed were representative of the thoughts, attitudes and perceptions of the group as a whole. Miles and Huberman (1994) stated, "Feeding findings back to informants is a venerated, but not always executed practice (p. 275). Researcher Qualifications I have completed several courses in qualitative research methods and data collection during my doctoral studies and received training in use of the constant comparative method of data analysis. In these courses, I wor ked on two qualitative studies with others in a docto ral cohort, one pertaining to theory generation of elevator behavior and the other gathering qualitative feedback about the courses taken in this cohort. In both studies the professor gathered and coded all individual research findings, which allow ed each person to compare their own conclusions with the collective findings. In this process, I was able to validate that my individual findings were consistent with the collective findings of the cohort. As a school counselor and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I received considerable and relevant training in verbal and behavioral observations, facilitating groups, group processing, and group development. Some of this training was in a group pra cticum at which time I co facilitated a court ordered group of males charged with domestic violence. Three years as a bereavement counselor allowed me to perfect my group therapy skills and fulfilled the requirements for state licensure as a Mental Health


49 Cou nselor. To date, I have twelve years of experience in school counseling, where I have also facilitated social skills and anger management groups. Extensive experiences facilitating grou ps for both children and adults lend credibility to the process skil ls needed to facilitate focus group interviews. I have also conducted and presented two qualitative studies during my years as a bereavement counselor one at the Association of Death Educat ion National Conference, the other at the International Conference on Death Education. Additionally, servin g on the school leadership team afforded me the opportunity to work closely with the school wide implementation of PS/RTI I have facilitated progress monitoring meetings with t hree different grade level teams and provided Tier 2 interventions to small groups of students who were at risk I continue i n those roles today Rather than expecting team leaders to take on the role of facilitating progress monitoring and decision making th e principal at my school delegated each person on the leadership team to work closely with one grade level team to give them the support they needed in the process of RTI implementation. Limitation s One of the weaknesses of using focus groups i s the unan ticipated volume of data and the complexity of the analysis. This problem has actually led to some accusations of researchers overlooking important evidence, ignoring critical factors, or twisting facts to meet earlier assumptions (Krueger, 1994). A fellow doctoral student, who served as the external auditor of the research, checked the coding and themes to help prevent such errors in analyzing the data. Additionally, the dissertation committee provided insight regarding the need to continue analyzing the f indings from the study some of which were unexpected


50 O ne limitation of this study was that site based decision making allowed schools to make decisions democratically and based on their unique school cultures. Thus, PS/RTI was structured differently in schools within this district and across the state The implementation of RTI at the child, classroom, school, and district levels will be decidedly varied in form" ( 6). Adding to these variations is the fact that RTI is relatively new in the practice of the teaching profession. Thus, someone reading this research would have to determine if the findings from this study would be applicable to his or her situation Another possible limitation of the study was that each of the participants on the team ha d fewer than 10 years of teaching experience T here is a possibility that this team was less resistant to change than teams with veteran teachers. O ften teachers with more experience have a greater tendency to re sist change (Ubben, Hughes, & Norris, 2007) Teachers with the greatest longevity sometimes react to implementing change and doing away with it before they have an opportunity to evaluate its effectiveness (Carter, 2007). The total time spent with partici pants, five hours, may be seen as a limitation. However, in examining research on focus group interviews, the recommended length for each focus group interview ranges from thirty minutes to three hours. Krueger and Casey (2009 ) pointed out that one challen ge in conducting focus groups is to balance what you would like to do with the realities of time and budget. While the original intent of this research was to have 60 to 90 minute focus group interviews, a compromise was reached since some of the teachers worked in after school programs, others already


51 worked past contract hours and others were taking classes towards their Maste r's degrees. Due to teacher time limitations the focus group interviews occurred during the teacher planning time, which was the first period in the morning. Having less time for the focus group interviews was a compromise T eacher input received earlier in the day was likely to be more positive compared to what might be shar ed after a long day of teaching and working with children. Ha ving a large team of seven participants allow ed for increased input into the focus group interview s, which also compensate d for the decrease in desired time for them Further, includ ing an additional focus group interview might have been seen a s essential to gather ing more data H owever the data gathered from the three focus group interviews and two observations reached the poi nt of theoretical saturation w here no new infor mation was being offered and the full range of ideas ha d been previousl y expressed by participants ( Kruger & Casey, 2009)


52 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS The purpose of this research was to provide a comprehensive description of a te acher team's experiences in the second year of response to intervention ( RTI ) in order to illuminate practical, authentic recommendatio ns for school leaders to guide the implementation and sustainability of RTI at school district or statewide levels. The answers to the research questions listed below are discussed first in t h is chapter. 1. How does RTI affect teacher learning? 2. What new tasks and practices are required of teachers with RTI implementation? 3. How can school and district leaders best support tea chers in the implementation of the RTI problem solving approach? F indings from the principal interview follow and contextualize the findings of the teacher team within the larger system implementing RTI and undergoing change. The chapter concludes with a description of the core theme and grounded theory that emerged from the study. Research Question 1 : How does Response to Intervention a ffect t eacher l earning ? Early in the research, Ms. Moore expressed that RTI implementation gave her the motivation to be a better teacher despite the fact that is was challenging. Ms. Moore: RTI looks good on paper, and makes you more aware. But in reality it is very challenging and frustrating B it makes you want to be a better teacher All of the teachers on this team concurred with her. This was one of the most insightful finding s regarding the impact of RTI on teacher learning, something that I reflected on frequently when coding and analyzing the data from the focus groups and observations.


5 3 Mr. Smith provided another example of motivation to be a better teacher. When I first met the team, Mr. Smith was proud of his ability to gather student data He had recently learn ed to enter student data into the district based Data Warehouse (DW) system This teacher's motivation to learn anything pertaining to the RTI framework was evident throughout the time I spent with the team. He also expressed a desire to grow and advance h is ability to analyze data using DW. Mr. Smith: So where I want to grow is data analysis, and then I have been briefly introduced into how to get onto Data Warehouse (DW). I know it is out there but I don't know how to do it plotting data points to b e able to look at trends. So, I'm great at collecting the data, but when I have it, I do not know what to do with it to analyze it. Mr. Smith followed up on his desire to learn more about analyzing data. During the last focus group interview, he reported that he attended the Data Warehouse training for progress monitoring held at the district office, a training opportunity that was self initiated. He excitedly shared how meaningful the training was and felt so accomplished that he offered to sh ow the team how to gather, input and analyze data in DW. There are two possible reasons the teachers might have felt that RTI motivated them to be better teachers. First, engaging in the process of analyzing data show ing learning gains can be motivating i n and of itself. Because d ata is central to tracking student progress in the RTI framework it is reviewed more frequently These reviews allow teachers to keep a closer eye on learning gains and differentiate or change instruction accordingly. In the foll owing excerpt, Ms. Jones expressed the importance data analysis plays in differentiating instruction for students with varying needs Ms. Jones: I think that by analyzing the data more closely, have been able to, like, tailor differentiated instruction even better. I don't think it's changed that much, as I differentiated before RTI, but I think that extra analysis of the data gives you more information to tailor your differentiating to your students' needs


54 A second reason RTI might have motivated teachers is that the principal explained to them that RTI is really what great teachers have tried to do for many years. Therefore, the teachers might have believed that engaging in this process was an avenue to hel p them become great teachers Regardless of the reason for the motivation, it was a surprising and positive finding that the entire team concurred RTI made them want to be better teachers. I reached other conclusions as I analyzed the data and relationshi ps of the codes and themes from a process oriented perspective. The teachers used different strategies to learn about the RTI framework. They collaborated, asked questions, initiated self training opportunities, and observed other teachers. As they learned about RTI using these strategies, they also returned to one or more of the strategies to comprehend the new knowledge they constructed about the RTI framework. Thus, the teachers engaged in a cycle of continuous learning: learning new information and retu rning to the learning strategies to further their understanding of the new knowledge. The findings revealed that independent learning led to interdependent learning. In fact, all teachers on the team displayed great willingness to share new information or new learning with their team. Other examples that show evidence of participants sharing their own learning that led to opportunities for interdependent team learning follow For example, i n the first focus group interview Ms. Brown explained that her f ormer fifth grade team had shared students across the grade level B y the last focus group meeting, the teachers on this team were also planning to share students across the grade level to teach reading when they returned in the fall. In addition Mr. Smit h shared what he had learn ed while taking classes for gifted endorsement. H e suggested t o


55 teachers that they consider student mastery of skills and give advanced, independent work to those students who have mastered specific standards. This idea served to remind the participants that differentiation is not just for students who are struggling but also for students need ing advanced learning opportunities and challenges. I n the team setting t h is idea also helped th e teachers recognize that all learning exper ie nced by teachers ultimately pertained to RTI in one way or another, because RTI is about ensuring that all students learn. These examples among others, support ed the main tenet of social learning theories that meaning is socially constructed. Therefo re, in a collaborative team setting, anything learned independently and shared with the group had the po ten tial of becoming an opportunity for interdependent learning. There were also a few instances where individuals learned from prior group knowledge. Fo r example, the two newest teachers did not know the district used to provide an increased number of professional development (PD) offerings for teachers compared to the present time. Also, one teacher did not know that DW had been updated so that progress monitoring data could be entered to provide student comparison graphs The relationship between independent and interdependent learning appeared to be interchangeable Another positive effect on teacher learning was that RTI necessitate d that the teacher s work ed collaboratively. This finding supports prior research (Buffum et al 2008, Howell et al., 2008 ) whic h indicated that collaboration and professional learning communities (PLCs) are central to the successful implementation of RTI. Ms. Brown shared this notion in the first focus group meet ing Ms. Brown: S o we ended up sharing strategies, so if it's done the way it's supposed to, teachers are going to work together; they have no choice.


56 Teaching in isolation does not fit into the paradigm of RTI. D eveloping an effective learning community is the foundation for everything that teachers must be able to do when implementing RTI (Buffum et al., 2009; Hollenbeck, 2007; Howell et al., 2008; Phillips, 2004). The findings showed that when teachers collabo rate, everybody in the learning community benefits. Findings from this study revealed that th e teacher team formulated their own learning community which became a place where t hey collaborated to improve student learning, plan ned and ma d e instruct ional decisions, and continue d their own learning. The creation of hands on experiences to assist with language development exemplified how the teachers collaborat ed to improve student learning. To plan, each teacher post ed lesson plans for one subject are a on the shared computer drive, and explained them to the team so they could collaboratively develop common homework and assessments used for the whole grade level. They pointed out this was the first year they provided the same homework across the grade l evel, and they were pleased with the outcomes of doing so. In the following dialogue, Ms. Brown and Ms. Moore shared how the team collaborat ed to support each other's learning and to increase student learning. M s. Brown : Also, we teach the same lesson, w e plan together, so if something is not working, about the way we introduced the lesson or the kids are not getting it we talk about that H ow did they do with you because my kids didn't get that" ? Ms. Moore : We get ideas, we say, well I did it this way. We revisit the lesson and try it another way and see if it works better using a different strategy someone else recommended All of th e teachers claimed th at they contributed meaningfully and equally to the team an d collaborat ed to support the team endeavors. They also expressed a desire for more time to collaborate, if only there was more time available. A s the focus group


57 interviews progressed it became evident that they had g rown as a team over the c ourse of the school year. In doing so they noted that they provided more consistency in planning and teaching across the grade level this year Also evident was that the team had created trusting relationships, which allo wed both individuals and the team to develop and evolve. T he findings showed that the team was the primary source of support for the teacher participants. I witnessed effective communication and collaborative skills throughout all of the interactions the participants had with one another. At different times in the interviews, the participants spoke of how valuable the team was to them. Mr. Smith explained what he believed was the value of team work. Mr. Smith: I think its um, I think it's great how this year, in our team, with every choice, and I am saying every, I bel ieve that, like every choice or decision that I can speak for myself, but, I know for myself, I felt like I was heard, e ven though I am very detailed, and I felt like I was valued, because I felt like I had input, and it seems like all of our decisions were made together. The team made repeated comments about a school norm that their principal implemented with the inception of RTI; that teachers should always turn to their team first. The high frequency of mentioning this normative strategy led me to reflect on this norm throughout the data collection and analysis processes. At times, I viewed this as an effective l eadership str ategy that reinforced the team's functioning as a learning community one that contributed to the development of the team as they learned how to work within the RTI framework. The number of times the teachers mentioned using this strategy made it clear that the team took it very seriously. In summary, the findings showed that RTI had a motivating e ffect on teacher learning. RTI also reinforced the need for teacher collaboration, which provided


58 opportunities for the teachers and the team to gro w and develop. At the last focus group interview, the participants spoke passionately about new ideas they hoped to implement in the following school year. Almost all of the ideas they presented in the last focus group related to improving the efficiency o f their team functioning in order to support student learning. Research Question 2 : What new tasks and practices are required of teachers with RTI implementation ? RTI require s teachers to analyze data from universal screenings in the beginning, middle and end of the school year. T he Florida Assessment s for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) is the universal screening tool used in Florida. The problem solving response to intervention ( PS/ RTI ) process is dependent on analyzing student data from universal, standardized and formative assessments The process requires teachers to mak e instructional decisions based on the data. Instructional d ecisions must be made for the class as a whole (Tier 1), for groups of students with similar needs (Tier 2), and for individual students with more intensive needs (Tier 3). For reading, the team felt competent in their abilities to gather data from a variety of sources, including running records, fluency levels, and Fountas and Pinell (F&P) reading lev els F&P levels are benchmarks that provide recommended reading levels for the beginning, middle, and end of each school year, ranging from A (kindergarten readiness level) to Z (seventh grade and beyond) Each teacher stressed the importance of different iating instruction to meet their students Th ey were confident with their instructional abilities to differentiate and believed that using student data helped them to improve their ability to


59 differentiate instruction to meet ecific needs A few teachers on the team mentioned the importance of scaffolding instruction for students. One of the strategies they learned at a recent extensive writing training was the frequent use of common and/or hands on experiences for children. Th is strategy assisted them as they thought about teaching. First, it propelled them to create more opportunities to link lessons with prior knowledge and second it helped them to develop common language for the lessons. Subsequently some of the teachers had begun to provide these experiences more frequently in their lessons. Teachers were accustomed to receiving professional development on teaching strategies or methods that appl ied either to the core curriculum or to differentiation Thus, the only real change in practice related to Tier 1 (classroom instruction) was using data more proficiently to inform and differentiate instruction. Therefore the teachers specifically expressed that they needed new skills to accelerate the learning of stude nts with learning gaps, most of whom received Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions in small groups. Analyzing Data T eachers had trouble trying to analyz e the data They lacked the skills necessary to engage in collaborative data based decision making This was essential for monito ring student progress and mak ing sound instructional decisions. They had difficulty us ing data to make decisions concerning which students would receive Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions I recorded the following memo a fter codin g the first observation of the team analyzing data to determine which students would begin receiving math interventions : Entering the coding from the last observation I am struck by their high


60 levels of uncertainty. It never had occurred to me that teache rs might need PD in how t o analyze data collaboratively T o make instructional decisions and decide whether students need classroom instruction or placement in intervention groups t eacher teams must first know how to analyze the data. This was a fundamen tal problem fa cing the research participants. It led to many of their challenges in implementing RTI, including their frustrations concerning those students who were receiving interventions and continued to struggle E vident ly, the t eam needed more training in data based decision making to make the decisions necessary to carry out their plan of sharing students across the grade level for reading instruction next school year. The y also needed to learn how to analyze data so that they could make decisi ons for regrouping students when the migrant students enter ed the scho ol later in the fall and after intervention groups were already established. Compounding the decision making process were the size limitations for Tier 2 and 3 student groups that requir ed making room for new students who had more intense needs by removing students who were making some progress in intervention groups When the teachers were discussing progress monitoring in the last fo cus group interview, they recommended the idea of pr oviding teacher training for data based decision making. The excerpt below validated my observations that the teachers were aware of their lack of proficiency in data based decision making, particular ly for progress monitoring. It also confirmed that the team leader was not sure of her own role as the facilitator of the team since she expressed a need for training in the facilitat ion of progress monitoring meetings.


61 Ms. Moor e : It d oes not have to be the team leader, but someon e on the team should know how to facilitate those meetings [data analysis meetings] what needs to be discussed Ms. Leader : A nd there should be training for it [interrupted] Ms. Miller : Yea, how should that discussion go, what needs to be d ecided, and whose role is what or does everyone have a different role in that meeting. Progress Monitoring Plans and Technical Skills Progress Monitoring Plans (PMPs) were needed for al most all students receiving Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions. Dev eloping a PMP involves identifying the specific problem, hypothesizing why it was happening, and determining the appropriate intervention s for the students For students at Tiers 2 and 3, teachers first had to learn to how to develop and correctly enter Pr og ress Monitoring Plans (PMPs) in the DW system The study participants were at different stages in learning these skills. Although site based training was offered at the beginning of the school year teachers did not have enough early practice with these skills to become proficient RTI implementation requires computer literacy for reporting and analyzing student data Another technical challenge for many teachers was learn ing how to construct the ar ea in DW to report progress monitoring scores Entering assessment data in DW for progress monitoring generated comparison graphs automatically through computer programming. C omparisons of student progress would become necessa ry later on if the RTI process l ed to a formal student evaluation for special education services. Learning to set up DW to record progress monitoring scores required attending staff development at the district offices during non working hours. Because of this, only a few teachers recei ved the necessary training. In fact, no one on this team had learned how to enter progress monitoring scores in DW until the end of the school year. A t the last focus


62 group interview, Mr. Smith shared what he had learned at the training and offered to teac h it to the others on the team. A s shown in other RTI research (Carney & Stiefel, 2008, Mahdavi et al., 2009) teachers felt challenged by a lack of time to learn things that were required for RTI. For these teachers, find ing time to learn the technical s kills for DW compounded their frustration Th erefore, most teachers continued to keep progress monitoring data in excel spreadsheets or hand written records in the event it would become necessary for an evaluation or f or mov ing a studen t from one tier to another. Research Based Interventions The participants expressed a genuine concern about the new practice of identifying and using research based interventions required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 that endorsed RTI. However, the teachers perceived the intervention selection as a daunting task, specifically because they had no training that encompassed the use of research based interventions. The participants had no idea how to find research ba sed interventions, and expressed concern because they believed that implementing these interventions would require additional training. Ms. Jones: B ut like, other things, they say it has to be research based. I don't even know where to start, and I gu ess obviously that's been one struggle. I don't know where and what's research based and how to get it and how to implement it; usually there's trai ning you need to use it, so [ silence ] Unfortunately, the team opted not to receive specific training for L eveled Literacy Instruction an intervention that was piloted that year at other Title 1 schools with great success. Notabl y t he Leveled Literacy Instruction (LLI) required several hours of teacher training over the course of one semester T he teacher team believed the training might not be worth the time because it would have take n them away from


63 teaching duties for a significant amount of time. The primary interventions the first grade teachers and reading teachers us ed were Reading Mastery Triumphs from the Treasures reading program, and the new Ticket to Read online resource. The first grade teachers were impressed with the support they received from the reading resource teachers and the reading coach. They repeate dly noted the contribut ions of the lit lab" teachers (reading resource teachers and the reading coach) to their team and students It was clear the reading coach and reading resource teachers had decided which interventions to use for specific groups of students. In the element ary schools in this district, t he reading coach and reading resource teachers had expert knowledge of the various r eading programs available in their school However, the classroom teachers did not have any training on other programs available for use des pite the fact that they were responsible for providing Tier 2 interventions along with the reading resource teachers. T he teachers remained concerned about their lack of knowledge regarding research based interventions in the second year of RTI T he t eache rs need ed training so that they would be able to identify, select, and provid e appropriate research based interventions that address specific learning problems Based on my experience in the district t he school reading coach and reading resource teachers w ere best equipped to offer this training T he participants were also concerned about the practice of a pplying interventions with fidelity. They were concerned specifically that their time constraints in accomplish ing their teaching duties would affect the fidelity of the intervention implementation. Th eir concern s about fidelity provided evidence that the teachers had solid knowledge about RTI. Yet, they had difficulty with its actual implementation.


64 Time Management During the course of this stu dy, time management skills that would have benefitted the teacher team were identified First, the team would have benefitted from using grade level sets of data, rather than classroom sets to make decisions to form intervention groups. In lieu of profess ional development, the study participants would have benefited from having specific directions on how use the data to select students for an intervention group. They also would have benefitted from having the principal or someone else in le adership, answe r their questions about how to analyze the data before their data analysis meetings. However, this would have required them to be more assertive about letting the school principal know what th eir needs were Using any of these strategies w ould have saved t he teacher's ti m e when they were selecting which students would get math interventions. As mentioned before, and in prior research, teachers found that time became a precious commodity since the inception of RTI. At the last focus group interview, some of the participants recalled using protocols for team meetings in the past. One teacher shared her action research findings that verified the benefits of using protocols for team meetings. All teachers on the team agreed that using protocols would support th em and keep them on task when they were monitoring student progress or making data based decisions. Using an agenda for their team meetings would have provide d similar support in keeping them on task. In fact, some school principals require d teachers to su bmit agendas and/or minutes from their team meetings. During this discussion, the teachers also talked about assigning roles to each team member. They understood that assigning roles such as time keeper, recorder, and facilitator would have increased thei r efficiency during meetings. It was evident the teachers recognized these time management strategies could have


65 i ncrease d opportunities for collaborati on, a desire they expressed in the second focus group interview. Following is a list that summarizes new teacher practices for the implementation of RTI identified in this study. The teachers practiced some of the activit i es during the course of this study, and some were actions they antic i pated using the following school year. 1. Analyz ing data to differentiate and scaffold instruction of the core curriculum, and target specific skills to accelerate learning for students with learning gaps. 2. Analyz ing data to determine how to share students across the grade level. 3. Analyz ing data to determine how to group students for Tier 2 interventions and to identify which students will receive Tier 3 interventions. 4. Regroup ing students receiving interventions outside the classroom to make room for migrant students who arrive later in the school year. 5. D evelop ing effective PMPs, and alig n formative assessment s for progress monitoring with the identified problem and the interventio n selected to close the learning gap. 6. Us ing DW to record progress monitoring data and generate graphs that included compariso ns with other students data (who were receiving the same intervention ) 7. Implement ing interventions with fidelity. 8. Us ing time management strategies to conduct team meetings more efficiently 9. Distribut ing roles among the team, such as timekeeper, taskmaster, and record keeper to document decisions reached and it ems that need fol low up. T h ere was also one strategy identified in the research t hat the teacher team had not yet employed. Selecting inte rventions is an important step in the PS/RTI process. Notably the teacher participants desired to h ave the know ledge of which reading interventions were available in the school. Without knowing the options to select from, they did not have the ability t o s elect appropriate interventions for students in Tiers 2


66 and 3. Unfortunately, plans to train teachers for this important practice were not mentioned. The reading coach and reading resource teachers made the determination of which interventions to use and w hen H owever, the teachers wanted to make these decisions since it was related to the accountability they had for student learning gains. The in ability to select from a range of interventions, and the teachers' uncertainty about analyzing data to make deci sions revealed weakness es in the delivery of staff development and in distributed leadership in the school and district. Teacher Leadership B eing a leader among teaching colleagues means r elentlessly pursu ing whatever it takes to increase student learning and knowing when to ask for support Yet, the high stakes environment that seemed to heighten their sense of vulnerability and impede d their ability to get administrative support. P erhaps the ir difficulty stemmed from a school cul ture that did not permit teachers to feel safe enough to seek instructional help for their students. Throughout the study I became concerned that the norm of turning to the team first for support was a double edged sword because it may have prevent ed tea chers from reaching out to administration and other leadership for help Perhaps t eachers' implicit apprehensi on about seeking help from the administration was driven by a fear that if they asked for assistance, they would expos e the whole team's lack of knowledge. The team did allow me to see their vulnerabilities during the study Also, the focus groups gave them an opportunity to voic e their concerns and stress why they need ed additional support. Distributed leadership can onl y work in an environment where information flows in many directions and all are willing to communicate collaboratively


67 across the organization. However, unlikely that school leaders had cultivated an environment that encouraged distributed leadership. At the time of th is study t he teachers felt trapped in a cycle of frustration because of their lack of knowledge and training. The findings suggest ed that s chool and district leadership lacked a firm commitment to ensuring that teachers had the fundamental knowledge that they needed to implement RTI. True l eaders do not stand by and wait for things to happen, they influence others and initiate changes towards continuous improvement, in thi s case the RTI process. Lacking the necessary training, t he teachers used trial and error to make many decisions, rather than making meaningful, effective data based decisions to improve student learning. In terms of overall implementation, teachers in this study lacked knowledge of staff roles and school processes for RTI They also lack ed proficiency in selecting interventions, data analysis, and data based decision making. Prior research on RTI has stressed the importance of administrative support and leadership (Hollenbeck, 2 007; Lau et al., 2006, Santangelo, 2009) Research also revealed a need for distributed and shared leadership (Buffum et al., 2009, Howell et al., 2008). Based on my observations, t he teachers on th is team had leadership potential, but there was no develop ment of their leadership capacity in the process of implementing RTI. T he teachers exhibited effective communication and collaborative skills that are essential for PLC s T his led to individual growth and the development of the PLC. However, no one on the team emerged as a leader Although the team leader was an excellent listener and facilitator she had no more knowledge or training than anyone


68 else did. Ms. Miller spoke about becoming next year's team leader, and a s the most e xperienced teacher on the team she contr ibuted some meaningful ideas during the focus groups S he was also very vocal in expressing her frustrations with RTI implement ation. However, l ike the present team leader, she showed no signs of leadership capacity or an ability to get the support and training needed to alleviate the team's frustrations. Research Question 3 : How can school and district leaders support teachers in r esponse to i ntervention i mplementatio n? The findings from the teacher s revealed that the best ways for school leaders to support t hem in RTI implementation was to provide the following 1. Provide additional instructional staff, h ave processes and specific directions in place, and increase follow up from administration 2. Provi de i ncrease d professional development (PD) during working ho urs, or compensation for attending during non working hours, and allow teachers to indicate what type of PD they needed 3. Provide t angible resources such as flowcharts, decision making guides and a list of intervention tools Direct Support from School Leadership In coding and using the constant comparative method of data analysis, I divided each of the main themes above into two subthemes: having and lacking. T he lack of support th at teachers received from administratio n was evident when t hree fourths of the codes (66 out of 88) that appeared in the category "lacking support specifically pertain ed to a lack of administrative follow up or direction While the teachers frequently noted their appreciation for support from the literacy team, they did not mention having the suppor t of their school administrator or leadership team. However, they point ed out that if the principal wanted a specific child to receive special education serv ices the n


69 the RTI process led to an evaluation. T he teachers saw that as a disadvantage because there were so many other students who continued to struggle while receiving intervention support. F our themes emerged regarding the support teachers wanted from school leadership. The teachers felt an increased level of accountability for student learni ng and they wanted the principal to support them by hiring additional instructional staff to provide Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. It was apparent that c hanges in classroom instruction (Tier 1) would not close learning gaps quickly when almost fifty percent of the student population was below grade level in reading. Title 1 school staff works hard to meet the needs of higher numbers of students with unique needs, such as migrant students and Englis h Language Learners (ELL). However, the return of m igrant students to school later in the fall became a significant problem at the research site, as noted earlier. Th eir return caused a delay in receiving interven tions while teachers and the literacy team decide d how to adjust their intervention groups and accommodate them Buffum et al (2008) and other researchers suggested the intensity of Tier 3 interventions require 30 to 60 minutes per day in groups of three or fewer students. Having additional instructional staff would alleviate th e problem of mov ing students out of int ervention groups prematurely in order to make room for new students with more intense needs. In one of the memos after a focus group meeting, I noted the teachers had high levels of uncertainty and frustration that prevent ed them from asking for an RTI meeting to discuss the lack of success some students were having. T his finding provided


70 evidence that the teachers' struggles affect ed the students In the following excerpt, one teacher expressed her frustration about the lack of dir ection the teachers receive d. Ms. Leader: Not knowing what to do next is very hard the school psychologist is doing with the student we referred, not knowing if we are even going to have a meeting this year to follow up with that student. So far, nothing has been scheduled. The principal explained that conflicting informat ion coming from two district departments hindered his ability to provide clear directi ons about RTI procedures to the teachers Reflecting back, I wondered if the principal was buffering his staff from the problems stemming from distr ict leadership. T he re search participants also wanted an increased administrative presence in their classroom and follow up to help them be accountable for student learning. The teachers wanted to be asked about how specific students were doing Just being asked by school leade rs to explain the decision making process relative to RTI, would have given them an opportunity to voice their concerns and have meaningful dialogue with leadership. Ms. Brown explains what the teachers want ed from their school leader s Ms. Brown: W hat I w ould like to see next year is, being that i nformation is given, is, somebody needs to come in like I have a list, I have 4 kids who I kn ow need to start the RTI process, and I don't know s omeone f rom the RTI team needs to come in and, you know, check on these kids [long pause] Yes, follow up and say, I see you have four kids that need to start the RTI process, how are they, what are they doing, what are you seeing so far? I mean like how many Dolch words just a quick 5 minutes If someone in leadership did not recall a child they had previously discussed, teachers began to feel alone in their struggles. Some of them felt like it was the first time they were talking about a child when they brought up a student's name for a second or third time. Ms. Miller echoed this dilemma.


71 Ms. Miller: So I know they have like 700 or more kids to take care of, but it would be nice if somebody on that team takes it as their job to come back and check. A more frequent l eadership presence and follow up would have increased teacher perceptions that school leaders supported the m and felt as accountable for student learning as they did. However, it became evident during the study that the teachers felt as if they were carrying the "burden" of acco untability on their own shoulders Ms. Moore expressed her thoughts about accountability and support Ms. Moore: I don't think there's been enough of a focus on RTI schoolwide or district wi de, to give enough information to the teachers. And you were saying it makes you more accountable, but I think it also puts a lot more pressure on teachers. W e are accountable and we always have been, but we used to get more assistance and help. And I feel it's harder t o get that now And you do n't know what to do, so it puts a lot more pres sure on us to try to solve the puzzle and put the now and I feel more alone now. O ther experienced teachers on the team also expressed they fel t more alone now H owever, they all reiterated they received excellent support from their own team and the literacy team. With effective leadership support, the teachers might not have experienced the hig h level of frustration about students who continued to struggle while r eceiving interventions The lack of support contributed to inadequate feelings the teachers experienced Ms. Leader: T he main problem is to keep collecting data and change i nterventions and watch children continue to struggle, and yet nothing happens Ms. Moore : You be gin to feel like a failure as a teacher. Several teachers on the team concurred that the lack of administrative support led to feelings of failure. The teachers also wanted additional staff members to be present at RTI meetings. From a leadership perspective, servicing students typically takes priority over


72 attendance at meetings if teachers have to leave during instructional time However, the RTI framework requires collaborati ve decision making It was troublesome to the teache rs that a lack of f ull representation at meetings led to increased work for the m. Ms. Davis : I think it would be nice to have a bigger comm ittee sitting there, discussing these kids that are RTI. Ms. Moore : Cuz they're always saying, email this person, cuz they weren't there, so we need to go get information from them. And if they were there, they could just write it down. There's always a question to get answered. Ms. Jones : Compared to last year, it was more searching, it was more trying to find things our your own, or trying to find someone who knew how things worked. This notion of searching and finding information on their own gets to the heart of the effects of lack of school leadership The lack of leadership or resource personnel at RTI meetings added to the teachers' workload and time constraints. Ms. Davis remark illuminated how a lack of direction and support hampered the team Ms. Davis: I feel l ike you have t o be constantly going around and bugging, buggi ng people to get any answers, to figure out what to do A lack of administrative support led some teacher s to b elieve that leadership did not share a sense of accountab ility for student learni ng H owever during my interview with the principal, he shared that his own job was dependent on being accountable for student learning gains. Professional Development The principal believed that the initial professional development (PD) for district st aff was beneficial. However, he concurred with the team 's perception that there was a lack of school and district level PD opportunities The teachers believed that the district PD offerings this year were fewer in number than in pr evious years and they agreed more PD was necessary to make RTI work successfully in their school. During the last


73 focu s group, they reported want ing available training during contract hours or receiv ing compensation to attend trainings during non working hours. In prior ye ars when the overall economy was thriving, it was customary to give teachers in this district stipends for most PD offered during non working hours. The team wondered how decisions were made to determine what PD was offered. T h ey wanted to have more input int o what trainings were offered district wide. Many of the challenges th at they experien ced could have been alleviated by shared decision making Even a simple survey could have allowed the teachers a voice and simu ltaneously revealed their needs anonymously In the second year of RTI implementation, the district and schools needed to provide initial RTI training for new teachers and ongoing training for those trained previously. While site based decision making was becoming the norm, school leaders h a d difficulty providing the necessary trainings for their staff while making the systemic changes needed to support the RTI framework Therefore, school leaders asked the district support staff to provide more training B y the middle of th is school year, the district increased their professional development offerings on RTI Examples of some of these trainings are in Appendix E. The teachers stated that district trainings seemed to disappear after the first year of RTI implementation. However, t he economy was in a downward spiral during this time causing many districts to make large budget cuts. A lack of funding for ongoing trainings was also possible because of the large investment for hiring a national expert to facilitate the initial trainings for the dist rict


74 Tangible Resources A few months before beginning this research the district published and distributed an RTI decision making guide in response to growing awareness that teachers and other school staff were having difficulty implementing RTI. The decision making guide is shown in Appendix E with other artifacts from the research. However, this resource did not make it into teacher's hands at the research site or at the school where I worked. Many principals had reached consensus that the guide was so complicated it might increase the high stress levels teachers were already experiencing Meanwhile, the teachers in the study struggled without a visual aid depicting the RTI process and flow of decision making. other tangible resources could have assisted the teachers. For example, a less complex guide to RTI decision making could show which types of data to use for variou s decisions. The need for such support became evident during the two observations of the team ana lyzing data, because the teachers continuously question ed what they were doing. Following is list of examples of the type of information that would have assisted the teachers with decision making. To determine which students would receive Tier 2 or 3 inte rventions at the beginning of the year, use a grade level list of FAIR results and running records To determine if a student could move out of level 2 interventions and receive only the core curriculum, use progress monitoring data in addition to F& P rea ding levels and fluency rates.


75 To determine which student to move from a Tier 3 intervention group to make room for a new migrant student, use comparison progress monitoring data from formative assessments in addition to reading levels and fluency rates. To determine how to share students across the grade level for core curriculum, use grade level sets of FAIR data and reading benchmark data, (rather than trying to work with six class sets of data). A tangible resource discussed earlier in these finding s was a list of interventions available at the school and district. The facilitator of the initial district training suggested that each school creat e this resource so everyone in the school knew the int erventions available and to guide them in selecting the most appropriate one to use However, at the time of this research, such a list had not been developed or given to t he teachers in the study. Team meeting protocols were another tangible resource noted earlier in the findings The teachers saw the value that protocols would have in keeping them on task to make efficient use of their time. T he tea chers also wanted someone to model a few protocols so they could choose one specifically for their team 's use To summarize what tea chers need from school and district leaders in RTI, the research revealed the need for several types of direct leadership support. These includ ed having processes in place, increas ing leadership presenc e in classrooms, follow ing up with teachers about the pro gress of specific students, and providing more instructional staff to assist with interventions. The findings also revealed teachers needed increased professional development for the new teacher practices necessitated by RTI, and tangible resources to g uide implementation and decision making. Figure 4


76 1 presents a summary of the key findings brought forth by the participants in the research. Figure 4 1 What teachers need from leadership to implement response to intervention These findings concur with prior research showing that professional development is one of the most important factors for successful RTI implementation (Jacobs, 2008; Sailor, 2008; Shores, 2009). The findings also support earlier reports that leadership pla ys a key role not only during the implementation of RTI, but also in sustaining it (Burns & Ysseldyke, 2005). However, t he teachers noted that this year seemed more frustrating and problematic than the first year of implementing RTI. Using the familiar ana logy that RTI implementation is like building the plane as you fly it; during the sec ond year the construction plans were n o t even strong enough to get the plane off the ground. Findings from the Principal Interview Surprisingly, the principal did not feel buy in was a problem in implementing RTI at his school. The teachers did not reveal any problems with buy in either. Perhaps th e staff had already bought into the school vision. Perhaps the lack of problems with buy in resulted from the princ ipal sharing his own belief t hat RTI is what great teachers have What Teachers Need From School & District Leaders Professional Development Initial and ongoing Site and District based During Paid time Teacher input into selection of offerings Support Specific direction and processes in place Increased presence in classrooms Following up to help with accountability Additional Instructional staff Resources Time, Money for PD Intervention training and lists of options Protocols for team data discussions Other tangible aids, eg. decision making guides


77 real ly tried to do for generations ( differentiate instruction to meet individual student needs ) He explained to his staff that they had already been doing a lot of what is requi red for RTI, but they were taking it to the next level. The ideas he shared with this staff were consistent with the finding noted earlier that RTI motivated teachers to improve their teaching abilities. In practice, RTI requires major systemic change to implement a nd sustain. The principal confirmed it ha d been challenging to implement the RTI process. The principal confirmed that implementing RTI was much more challenging than getting buy in. Principal. I think the roadblock we hit was actually trying to implement it and track it and have the right data to show that it's either working or not working. So that's been the issue really implementing it, not buying into it." T he principal acknowledge d the nee d for more professional development and district support noting specifically that o n going training fell short. The plan to use a train the trainer model to teach other staff about RTI did not work as intended for several reasons. Only a select team of r epresentatives from each school attended the initial training, and so me of those teachers had moved on when school started in the fall The principal said t he plan for trained staff to teach those who did not attend the district training did not work as pl anned be cause one week of training was not enough to gain the level of competency needed to train others He also stated it was difficult to maintain ongoing professional development in his school because high staff turnover created a situation where teach ers were at varying levels in their learning. The principal reported that he presented general information during faculty meetings, such as describing what Tier 1 and Tier 2 look like. He ask ed teachers to bring their information a nd data to team meetings and he present ed them with "if then"


78 scenarios. He also noted he was inclined to provide "a kind of informal professional development" to teacher teams or individuals as issues arose. Initially, principal s in Title 1 schools in this district focused on p roviding site based professional development to improve Tier I (core classroom instruction) at the ir school s. The RTI trainer hired by the district had suggested that the top priority for Title 1 schools should be to improve core instruction (Tier 1) so that fewer students need ed Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions. Therefore, the principal sent s everal teachers to an intensive writing training at another local school. He also allowed a few teachers to attend a cooperative learning training, and he was committ ed to provid ing this training for his staff at the start of the ne xt school year. He believed this training would help teachers with academics and student behavior since cooperative learning often leads to increased student engage ment. An important wa y to improv e classroom instruction (Tier 1) is to hire highly qualified teachers. The principal noted t hat staff turnover le d to a lack of high ly quali fied veteran teachers in this community E xperienced teachers tended to move into the city after a few y e ars of making the long commute. New teachers were likely to replace the veteran teachers because of their willing ness to take a position anywhere to begin their teaching careers. Ac cording to the principal, the fact that beginning teachers we re continuousl y replacing the veteran teachers ad d ed to the challenges of improving the core curriculum The problem of high turnover is likely to grow u nless the district finds a way to attract and keep veteran teachers at schools in this unique community With te acher merit pay replacing the traditional compensation structure in Florida s ome veteran


79 teachers have already begun to position themselves at top schools with a history of consistent learning gains Many t eachers believe that working at schools with consistent learning gains w ill improve their chances of increased compensation when merit pay begins District Problems Revealed The principal agreed that ongoing professional development was lacking across the district since the inception of R TI. He also reported that consistency was the kind of support he needed from district leadership and he explained the situation best in the following excerpt Principal. I think we need just ongoing staff development and support a nd training I think that 's really the most important thing. Oh, and I think c onsistency across the district, so we're all doing the same thing, not necessarily a coined program but just so the language is universal and the process is as universal as it can be. I think that's impo rtant because then you get buy in, and then we're all speaking the same way because I think a lot of times when you're on different pages it's fragmented and when you're fragmented it's not strong an d it does n t work as well as it should. The principal's thoughts about RTI implementation being fragmented were consistent with the teachers' experiences implementing RTI. Teachers were frustrated with a lack of s chool procedures and processes that were essential to the success of RTI In the last focus group interview the teachers expressed their need for the structure that stem med from knowing school processes Their lack of knowledge about RTI processes impeded the m from propos ing an RTI meeting to discuss ways to help struggling students In one of my memos after the second focus group meeting I recorded the nature of this problem: "It seems that the uncertainty and lack of support is causing teachers to sort of give up on moving a child through th e RTI process".


80 While problems at the district level were outside of the principal's control, he could change other things at his s chool. Just as teachers must identify their students' learning gaps, so too must school leaders identify the learning gaps of their teaching staff. The primary gaps in teacher learning uncovered in this research centered on data analysis, data based decision making, and selection of research based interventions. The principal could have provided training for his teachers in all three of these areas without district support. H owever, this required that he take the time to identify systemic problems and teacher weaknesses in order to provide school based trainings that support ed RTI implementation T here was no evidence to sugges t that the school as a whole was functioning as a learning community. If th is had been the case, the collaboration across teams would have produced an environment where answers to questions were easy to access Instead, the teachers were further frustrated by having to search for information on their own. Had the school developed a resource for sharing of intervention knowledge, teachers would have been spared taking their time to do so. Unfortunately, the teac hers fel t unsupported and solely accountable f or student success. The principal explained that because of the individuality of each school across the district site based decision making had been the norm f or quite some time. Yet, with RTI implementation principals needed co nsistency and guidance from district leaders. Without having a similar plan that was implemented throughout the district, the principal could not even turn to his own peer s for support because e very school had different interpretatio ns of the RTI framework. The principal remarked that other principal s in the district also shared his concerns because they identified RTI as the number one issue


81 when school administrators were asked to list their greatest concerns at their end of year me eting. The Systemic View Additionally t here were some specific events happening with district leadership that created the fragmentation and inconsistency the principal discussed. The principal reported that the special education department was reluctant to take responsibility for RTI implementation district wide Therefore, RTI was implemented under the leadership of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I). This situation perplexed the principal because in every instance of his prior learning about RTI, special education departments were in charge of RTI implementation. Two years after RTI implementation top administration mandated that the district's specia l education department take responsibility for RTI. F ragmentation at the district level led to an inconsistent understanding that underscored implementing RTI The curriculum and i nstruction department interpreted RTI in terms of a prevention/intervention model and the special education department viewed it a s a replacement for the discrepancy model of evaluating students for special education services. Th is disconnect ion at the district level also created a situation where teachers, school psychologists a nd school leaders all had different understandings of RTI processes and implem entation. Where I worked, t his lack of common understanding led to conflict s between the school psychologist who was responsible for supporting teachers in gathering the necessa ry information to writ e evaluation reports and the specialist responsible for ensuring that school based decisions for students followed special education laws. The principal described a similar scenario at his school. The new school psychologist assigned to his school lacked a thorough understanding of RTI. Although


82 she had clinical experience, she had to learn how to write school evaluation reports. According to the principal, the fragmentation at the district level complicated the psychologist's ability to learn the job. Additionally, the new district coordinator for school psychologists lacked experience in district leadership. This scenario explained the teachers' complaints about the lack of communicati on from the school psychologist. It confirmed the ir thinking that the psychologist was also struggling with her role in th e RTI process M any challenges, inclu ding a lack of school and district leadership, led to the frustration and uncertainty the teachers divulged during the research. Systemic change requires that all components of the system work together, however, this was not happening at the time of this research. There was a lack of leadership exposed at three levels in the system: the teacher team, the school administration, and the district admi nist ration. However, the teacher team's lack of leadership was a direct result of leadership deficiencies at the school and district levels. S ome one at the district level needed the foresight to realize the complexity of RTI implementation would conflict with the norm of site based decision making A ll components within the larger system need ed a collaborative focus to support RTI implementation in the schools Therefore, one of the most crucial findings from this research wa s that effective planning within and between the various departments at the district level was necessary to lay the groundwork for RTI implement ation. A lack of stability in top district leadership also contributed to the challenges th at year. In the fall, the school board informed the superintendent that his contract would not be renewed. Although his contract ended June 30, 2011, an interim superintendent took over his position in the spring shortly before this research began. The Chi ef


83 Instructional Officer and Chief Operations Officer who the exiting superintendent hired immediately upon his arrival to the district also left shortly after his departure The turnover in top district leadership during the second year of RTI impleme ntation created greater chaos in a system that was already struggling to find equilibrium after implementing major change. All of these events were happening in the months immediately preceding and during this research. The principal informed me that the s tress levels of staff across the district increased with concerns about job stability. Nearly everyone in a leadership position was apprehensi ve about reassign ment or demot ions. Th e repercussions from the lack of fluidity in top leadership led me to concl ude that districts c ould best support schools, teachers, and students by making necessary changes in key leadership positions before implementing major change initiatives such as RTI. When asked how much the turmoil at the top level of district leadership affected RTI in his school setting, the principal reported that the divide between RTI and special education personnel was a greater problem than the superintendent's leaving. The inconsistencies stemming from the lack of ownership for RTI by special educ ation had a domino effect on people throughout the system, including teachers and students. On the other hand, when the superintendent left the district, there was a less significant impact on teachers In fact, during the focus group interviews the teachers never even mentioned the fact that the district was searching for a new superintendent. School systems, like people, can learn from their mistakes, but the costs can be high for all stakeholders, especially the students. T he outcomes from st andardized testing reflected the impact of the challenges on student learning. While the research


84 site maintained its "C" rating from the state of Florida, the district as a whole moved from an "A" down to a "B" rating this school year. Site Based Challen ges In addition to the obstacles stemming from district leadership, the principal faced the impending retirement of two key people on his leadership team that spring It was troubling to me that the teachers only mentioned the RTI facili tator one or two t imes and they never mentioned their school counselor It concerned me that the teachers did not view the ir school counselor as someone who could support them with RTI I later made the connection that the counselor and RTI facilitator already had one foot out the door by the time of my research in the spring. The teachers had mentioned the RT I facilitator was providing tier 3 interventions When I inquired about this the principal informed me that t he RTI facilitator was also a part time ESE teacher When I asked about th is person's role th e principal informed me that since this person held a doctorate degree he was all owed to experiment with some new interventions. However, the principal also reported that plan backfired at times when teachers were info rmed that they did not have exactly what they needed to complete an evaluation for a student's special education determination. Howell et al. (2008) suggested the importance of admi nistrators monitor ing the fidelity of RTI and intervention implementation so I followed up with the principal on this topic. He explained that he monitored the fidelity of the interventions by reviewing the data the teachers produced and he noted that the teachers needed to demonstrate they were collecting data and putting it into graph form. He added that they me t every 5 weeks to monitor progress and look at how students are doing that are going through


85 the RTI process. He stated that in these meetings, the RTI team offered suggestions to teachers to increase the likelihood of student learning gains. Burns and Ysseldyke (2005) noted it was essential to determine the extent to which treatments were implemented and whether they were implemented with fidelity. Th e principal could not have determined fidelity of implementation b y reviewing progress monitoring data and discussing student s in meetings. One way administrators monitor the fidelity of implementation is with f requent classroom walkthroughs However, other researchers advocated for more research to determine how to asse ss fidelity of implementation in actual practice ( A rd oin et al., 2005; Burns & Ysseldyke, 2005; I keda et. al., 2003). When asked how he improved as a leader since RTI implementation, the principal informed me that he got more involved in school processes this year He stated that it requir ed him to get "in the trenches more frequently. Some of his thought s about his own growth in the RTI framework are revealed in the following excerpt. Principal. It's gotten me more invol ved in a lot of pieces of the sc hool processes that I might have relied on other people to do, you know, like LEA people Dealing with ESE I fi nd myself getting more involved and learning more abou t the process, because this all ties in with RTI I'm um, learnin g more about data collection, more than I already knew, and learning more just about individual kids more detailed wise because I'm more involved when I'm working with the teachers and trying to find ou t what works and what doesn't work T hen just being abl e to share suc cesses that one teacher had with another teacher who might be in the same situation a year late Thi he was in the trenches and more involved was contrary to what the teachers had experienced feeling very alone this year The teachers in the study repeatedly conveyed a lack of support from leadership. In the interview, the principal mentioned that his job requires a lot of juggling O ne way or another, his priorities led to the teacher participants lac king process knowledge and the training and support they needed for implementing RTI.


86 When asked how he provided support for his teachers, the principal explained that he spent a large share of his Title 1 money on additional staff. Yet, the teachers spec ifically wanted more instructional staff, because non instructional staff could not provide interventions. The nee d for more instructional staff was one more obstacle to making the RTI system work in Title 1 schools. If the principal h ire d an additional t eacher to provide interventions, he would have to eliminate two non instructional positions. Non instructional staff members are valuable resources to the school staff because most are bilingual. They also provide stability in the school because most of th em live in the community and they do not have the same degree of turnover as instructional staff. Replacing two non instructional staff members with one teacher might require buy in from the entire school faculty and lead to a rivalry between instructional and non instructional staff. Before taking this step, the principal would have to weigh the loss of two non instructional staff members and the potential of systemic chaos with the benefits of hiring another instructional staff member. The pr incipal was aware that teachers wanted better support and specific answers to their questions. He explained that he came up with an RTI flowchart for training at the beginning of the school year, but teachers struggled with all the gray areas where things did not fit into the flowchart. He also said teachers are used to having specific directions spelled out for them, as in the former CAST process (Child and Ad olescent Study Team) that they used to identify students for special education services before RTI. As opposed to this former linear process, in RTI teachers were now required to make instructional decisions based on student data, monitor student progress, and make further decisions about intervening based on the progress monitoring data.


87 Planning for the Third Year of RTI The principal plan ned to provide additio nal support for his teachers the following school year His plan indicated he recognized the value of teachers learning from each other and that he was interested in the school's growth as a learning community. Principal. And one thing we're going to do this year is take teachers that are having success wi th something and opening a me eting with it and sharing it with everybody, you kno it from other teachers, they will be more likely to use it. By the spring of the year when this research took place, the district revealed a plan to eliminate th e existing RTI facilitator positions in a few of the Title 1 schools and the ESE specialist positions, which were part time at every school in the district Th e ESE specialists who were monitoring the compliance of s pecial education laws in schools were given the option of interviewing for the new position, Intervention Support Specialist (ISS ) assigned full time to every school across the district. In many instances, including the research site, the specialist wor king part time at a school was rehired as the IS S for the following year T he teachers and principal at the re search site were excited and held high hopes that this person could provide the support and knowledge they needed to implement RTI more effectively. According to the pri ncipal, the creation of this position result ed from a directive that the special educ ation department take over respons ibility of RTI The new position provided an avenue for consisten t information to flow between the district office and the schools which was lacking at the time of the research The new ISS position and the inclusion of RTI into the district specia l educ ation department were viewed as key strategies to resolve the problems that arose in the first two years of implementing RTI across the district. Additionally, there were hopes that the new superintendent would bring stability and strong leadershi p to the district.


88 Despite the challenges that arose during the first two years of RTI implementation, the principal and teachers ended the school year with con fidence that the impending changes would lessen the challenges of implementing RTI the following school y ear. Generating a Grounded Theory After analyzing relationships in the data following the coding process and categoriz ing data into themes, I initially concluded that "coping" was a major theme. The largest majority of codes from the data arose from a lack of leadership support and teachers coping with feelings of frustration, confusion and uncertainty. The three categories of leadership support the teachers wanted were described in detail earlier; professional development, direct leadership support, a nd tangible resources. Examining relationships and synthesizing the data to make meaning, I concluded these three categories of unmet teacher needs were the direct result of a lack of proactive leadership voice at the school and district level. These chall enges led to teachers cop ing with feelings of frustration and confusion uncertainty about process es roles and data based decision making and concern for s tudents who did not make progress while receiving inter ventions. After categorizing the data, the broader category encompassing all the teachers' struggles and frustrations was labeled, "coping with the effects of leadership challenges at the school and district level." The largest majority of data, over 100 coding entries, pertained to the frustrations and struggles the teachers were coping with. Consequently, coping with the effects of leadership challenges became the core theme. In this research, the teachers used four different coping strategies : collab orating, questioning, initiat ing professional development, and observing other teachers. Since the four coping strategies led to teacher learning, they were equivalent with learning


89 strategies. Thus, another process oriented theme that emerged from the research was "usin g coping strat egies to learn." As noted earlier teachers engaged in a continuous cycle of learning as they used these strategies to comprehend new knowledge they constructed about RTI. Figure 4 2 depicts the process of RTI implementation that arose from the research fi ndings. Each component of the diagram is discussed in detail in the following section unless it was presented in the earlier findings.


90 Figure 4 2 The process of RTI implementation


91 Coping With the Effects of Leadership Challenges at School and District Levels Coping emerged as a major theme early in the data analysis It remained the primary theme throughout the data analysis process. The coding initially revealed that the teacher participants experienced frustration and were trying to manage a variety of issues. The teachers exp ressed frustration and confusion because of their u ncertainty about processes, roles and data based decision making. The uncertainty stemmed from not knowing how to impl ement the RTI process in their grade level and in their school setting. The teachers described an uncertainty about their own roles and believed most staff members experienced the same. As I wrote in this memo "T here is so much confusion and frustration a bout RTI processes and roles; it seems that e ffective school and district leadership could have resolved these issues long before this research took place ." In both team meetings where I conducted observations of the team analyzing data, I observed that t he participants were coping with uncertainty in their collaborative data analysis processes a prerequisite skill necessary for data based decision making. It troubled the tea chers that some s tudents continued to struggle because the interventions were not leading to learning gains. This lack of student progress might have act ually stemmed from the teachers analyz e data and mak e data based instructional decisions. In addition to be ing frustrated with the issues noted above, the participants were coping with feelings of frustration and confusion because of their own unmet needs and the lack of professional development, tangible resources and direct support from leadership at the school. In response to a question about how the implementation o f RTI affects teacher stress levels, Ms. Jones noted other effects of the stress


92 Ms. Jones: I t s definitely one more thing on your list, it adds to your frustration. It affects how you are, and it affects your teaching I t definitely has affected the teachers, so it affects everything else Early in the research, "not knowing" was a general theme related to the teachers' feelings of frustration and confusion. For example, the team claimed to know nothing about finding and using research based inter ventions required by the IDEA law of 2004 that endorsed RTI Another example of the preliminary category of "not knowing" came out in the second focus group interview. Several teachers surprised me at this time by sharing that they did not even know how to initiate an RTI meeting outside of their team Ms. Jones : I also don't know how to take a child to an RTI meeting Ms Davis: I don't know eithe r Ms. Moore : I don't know either. I think we are supposed to email someone, but I am not even sure how to get the ball rolling T hese statements revealed that the participants were struggling with a most basic component of the RTI process. This dialogue also ex emplifies the level of stress the teachers were experiencing The teachers could have easily r esolved the problem by reviewing emails or handout s from the beginning of the school year. A t the time of their sharing this weakness, it seemed as if the teachers goal was to convey the significance of their stress levels. Moreover, this dialogue indica tes the level of trust and openness the participants displayed by the second focus group interview. Th eir disclosures revealed a sense of vulnerabi lity and a high level of trust that validated my acceptance into their culture I would not have confessed to an outside observer/researcher that I lacked such basic knowledge unless I had developed a high level of trust or unless I was feeling extremely stressed. As a caveat though, biases from my own personal experiences could influence this perception


93 Eventu ally, the constant comparative method of data a nalysis led to replacing the category of "not knowing" with two different subcategories; coping with process uncertainty and coping with role uncertainty. The teachers expressed much more uncertainty about RTI processes than roles, as the number of coding entries for the former far exceeded the number for the latter. While the teachers seemed to have a solid underst anding of RTI, they struggled with how to follow the RTI process within their school. The process for RTI decisi on making is challenging because there is not a linear decision making model hen it appears the process is leading towards an evaluation, different criteria are required to qualify for the various programs that comprise special education There we re at least fourteen different programs serving students with special needs such as specific learning disab led language impaired, or other health impaired and each requir es explicit info rmation and a unique data set to determine eligibility Therefore, processes related to RTI as a replacement for the discrepancy model of special education qualification can be complex. However, basic school processes for RTI implementation as a prevention / intervention model still could have provided some structure the teachers desired. The teacher team expressed uncertainty about roles several times during the focus group interviews. Th ey felt shortchanged that the math coach had worked almost exclusive ly with the intermediate grades up to this point in the school year despite implementing a new math curriculum across the school and district The teachers believed this occurred because of the importance the Florida Comprehensive


94 Achievement Test (FCAT) scores have on the school grade However, the problem left them frustrated and concerned about their students who were struggling in math. In particular, the teachers were concerned about how to help students who experienced a significant number of absenc es catch up on math lessons. Fortunately, during th is study the math coach followed up on their r equest to service this team's students. In fact, during t he first observation of a data analysis meeting teachers were selecting which students would receive interventions by the math coach. The participants express ed that some people they formerly turn ed to for support were now referring them to someone else, claiming they weren't an "RTI expert ." The search for specific support added to the participants' observations that role changes complicated RTI, and it heightened their frustration and confusion. When I observed the team a nalyzing data to determine which students would receive math interve ntions, I observed great uncertainty. The frequency of questioning the participants engaged in exposed their uncertainties about data analysis and collaborative data based decision making. I noted the team leader's absence might have caused extensive uncer tainty and questioning during the first observation. Yet the same levels of uncertainty and questioning were evident in the next observation when the team leader was present. During the second observation, the team us ed student cards containing a vari ety o f data to create heterogeneous student groups for next year's teachers. I left both meetings feeling perplexed as I tried to grasp the realities of their situation and understand the reason for such uncertainty with data based decision making.


95 The chal lenges the teachers faced suggested weaknesses in leadership at both the school and district level s It was evident the system did not support the teachers in their endeavors to implement RTI successfully because they lacked professional development, admin istrative support and direction, and tangible resources. As a result, they were faced with role and process uncertainty, using trial and error to make data based decisions, coping with feelings of frustration and confusion, and concerns about students who continued to struggle. This led to the conclusion that the core theme that best encompassed the teachers' experiences was, "coping with the effects of leadership challenges at the school and district level." Figur e 4 3 depicts this major theme and the subc ategories discussed above. Figure 4 3 Coping with the effects of leadership challenges at school and district levels Using Coping Strategies to Learn For several weeks during the research, I believed that the frequency of questioning reveal ed a teacher deficiency However, I had kept in mind a warning by many experts in qualitative research, which Charmaz (2010) stated most succinctly; "We also must guard against forcing our preconceptions onto the da ta we code p. 67 ). After ongoing reflection and data analysis, I noted that the teachers primarily used questioning when they were analyzing data collaboratively to make decisions about students. I finally recalled earlier statements made by the teachers that revealed no one on the team felt proficient in data analysis Coping with the Effects of Leadership Challenges at the School and District Level Role Uncertainty Process Uncertainty Trial and Error Data Based Decision Making Frustration Confusion Struggling Students


96 Repeated use of the constant comparative method (CCM) of data analysis led me t o understan d that the participants posed questions to cop e with their uncertainties surrounding collaborative data based decision making. I noted in a memo tha t the participants used questioning to learn interdependently in the team setting ; "I finally had an ah ha moment about all the questioning they are coping with their uncertainties by using questioning to learn from each other. I had been looking at questioning only as a deficiency all this time!" Because of this realization, I concluded that the coping strategy of asking questions was equivalent with a learning strategy Through ongoing data analysis, co llaboration emerged as another theme of coping strateg ies that led to teacher learning There were three subcategories of collaboration: collaborating for student success, collaborating to make team decisions, and collaborating to learn. All three categories had similar frequencies of coding entries which led me to conclude that no single purpose for collaborating was more import ant than another T wo other themes of coping strategies that emerged in this study were i nitiating self learning oppor tunities and observing other teachers These two strategies were important to the teachers, but employed less frequently than collaboration and questioning. I noted that the first two coping strategies involved team interaction and the second two involved independent action. Additionally, I observed that the individual steps teachers took to learn frequently led to team learning through the collaborative processes the participants engaged in. When the teachers spoke of the learning opportunities they could initiate on their own they expressed a belief that professional development should occur during


97 contract hours unless there w as compensat ion Technology based professional development was prevalent in this district, which promoted online training for tea chers' use while relaxing in the comfort of their homes However, t he teachers did not have the motivation or energy to engage in online learning opportunities from their home after a long day of work. T he teachers continued their own learning in other ways. T hree of the teachers were working on their m aster's degrees in c urriculum and i nstruction, and one teacher took classes for gifted endorsement and attend ed the progress monitoring and data analysis training offered at the district. Ms. Jones also s poke about the importance of initiat ing professional development Ms. Jones: L ike some thi ngs, I think you have to find it on your own i n a way [short pause as she looks around the group] like I purposely went to that summer training on my own to get more information. Despite a strong belief that o bserving other teachers provided extremely valuable learning opportunit ies, there were seldom occasions for them to employ this learning strategy T hree of the p articipants mentioned the value of prio r opportunities to observe other teachers. One stated that she learned the most from her experience as a n inclusion teacher, and a second teacher noted the value of participating in clinical rounds at another school. A third teache r reported learn ing a bout a strategy at a clinical ed ucation refresher course to make use of substitute teachers during their "planning time" since they do not need this time to plan. During this time the substitute could cover a class to free up a teacher who wanted to observe someone else teaching. T he team stressed the importance o f observing other teachers as a means of learning and this had the potential to help them better cope with the cha lle nges they faced


98 These coping strategies explained how the teachers dealt with t he effects of leadership challenges and how they continued to learn about teaching in the RTI framework. The coding for the data for each of the four coping strategies that led to teacher learning are in Appendix F. Figure 4 4 depicts theses coping/learnin g strategies found in the research and discussed above. Figure 4 4 Coping s trategies l eading to t eacher l earning Despite the fact that the teachers employed trial and error methods while implement ing RTI, there was evidence that they were learning. They openly shared new knowledge gained independently with their team. Additionally, by the last focus group interview, the participants showed excite ment about changes they planned to implement in their team the following year. Many of these changes were the result of things they had shared and discussed in the focus group interviews For example, the team planned to us e protocols to give direction and structure to their team meetings. They plann ed to share stude nts across the grade level next year, an idea proposed by Ms. Brown in the first focus group meeting. The teachers also planned to enter Progress Monitoring Plans and formative assessment data into DW in the team setting rather than individually. They full y understood the value of collaborative learning because of Collaborating To make decisions, plan To learn from each other For student success. Asking Questions From own team From other teams (Lit Lab) From Admin/ Leadership Initiating self learning PD during paid hours PD online after hrs no pay PD evening, summers no pay Observing Other Teachers Believed to be extremely valuable for teacher growth. Few opportunities


99 their own team experiences having learned how to work together within the RTI framework. The core theme, "coping with the effects of leadership challenges at the school and district lev el" best reflects the findings about the teachers' experiences. Applying the core theme to generate a theory for implementing RTI, the grounded theory that best describ ed the teacher experiences in this study was "teachers cope with the effects of leadersh ip challenges in implement ing change ."

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100 CHAPTE R 5 DISCUSSION The purpose of this research was to describe the experiences of a first grade teacher team implementing response to intervention (RTI) in order to elucidate practical, authentic recommendations for school leaders that would inform future practices for school, district, or statewide RTI implementation and sustainability. The discussion is presented in the following subsections : (1) summary of the findings, (2) connections with prior research, ( 3 ) practical i mplications of the findings, ( 4 ) suggestions for further research and (5) conclusion. Summary of Findings The research revealed that the teachers were coping with the effects of leadership chal lenges at the school and district levels. The teachers lack ed professional development, direct support and follow up from school leaders, and tangible resources. As a result, t hey coped with feelings of frustration and confusion, and uncertainty about proc esses, roles and collaborative data based decision making They were also frustrated with the ongoing learning problems of some students receiving interventions. To cope with these challenges, the teachers used collaboration and questioning to learn inte rdependently in the team setting. They also coped and learned independently by initiat ing professional development and observ ing other teachers This independent learning f requently led to interdependent learning among the team. As t he teachers learned by employing the four coping strategies, (collaboration, question ing, initiating self learning and observing other teachers ) they engaged in a cycle, return ing to use the strategies to develop better understanding of constructed knowle dge The combination of all learning ultimately l ed to individual and team growth

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101 There were two unexpected findings in the researc h. Early in the research the teachers reported that RTI had a positive effect on teacher motivation, a disparity from the challenges and frustrations the y experienced implementing it This may have stemmed from the other unanticipated finding, that neither the te achers nor the principal reported buy in was a problem at their school. The teachers had bought into the vision and approach the principal presented to his faculty, that RTI provides the framework for what great teachers have tried to do for many generations. Several research findings highlighted new tasks or practices the teachers needed for RTI implement ation. T he participants were already familiar with many practices needed for RTI such as differentiation. However, they noted that their ability to differentiate instruction improved because of data analysis in the RTI framework. Many of the new teacher practices identified the study ( listed below ) pertained to data analysis 1. Analyze data to differentiate and scaffold core instruction in order to accelerate the learning of all students 2. Analyze data to determine how to share students across the grade level. 3. An alyze data to determine how to group students for Tier 2 interventions and identify which students w ould receive Tier 3 interventions. 4. Regroup students receiving interventions outside the classroom to make room for migrant students who arrive later in th e school year. 5. Develop effective PMPs, aligning the formative assessment used to monitor progress with the identified problem and intervention implemented. 6. Use DW to record progress monitoring data and generate graphs compar ing data with other student s receiving the same intervention. 7. Implement interventions with fidelity.

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102 8. Implement time management strategies, including the use of protocols or agendas for team meetings. 9. Distribute roles among the team, such as timekeeper, taskmaster, and record keeper to identify items needing follow up and document decisions r eached by the team. The research uncovered other practices that would have assisted the teachers. G rade level sets of data, as opposed to classroom sets of data, would have eased analysis and decision making when the teachers were creating intervention groups. The teachers would have also benefitted from asking their school leaders for c larification of c riteria or processes to use before meeting to m a ke team decisions about students Simple guidelines showing what data to use to make different types of decisions also would have assisted the teachers in their endeavors. The teachers wanted to take ownersh ip of intervention selection for students in tier 2 or 3 by learning about the interventions available in their school In PS/RTI, i t is important to select interventions aimed at resolving the specific learning problem Since learning gains are the typica l response when interventions accurately address the learning problem, training in intervention selection could have alleviated some of the teachers' frustrations surrounding students who were not responding to interventions. S ite based staff development b y the literacy team would have given t eachers the tools they needed for intervention selection T he teachers were also conscientious about implementing interventions with fidelity. Howell et al. (2008) noted the importance of administration monitoring the fidelity of interventions, yet the teachers felt accountable without even knowing this. The participants were concerned specifically that their time constraints would affect the fidelity of intervention implementation. In addition the teachers frequently expressed

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103 that a lack of time to perform all the ir teach ing duties was one of their greatest challeng es Previous studies have also shown that time is one of the major problems teachers fac e as they implement RTI (Carney et al. 2008 ; Mahdavi et al., 2009). Earlier research on RTI validated the teachers' concerns about select ing appropriate research based interventions and fidelity of intervention implementation. Howell et al. (2008) noted that the success of RTI was dependent on active coaching and progres s monitoring of the implementation process by administrators Torgeson (2009) cautioned that if schools experiment with early interventions that are not powerful enough, the RTI instructional model could actually delay the provision of special educa tion services. T eachers in this study took more time than necessary to make data based decisions collaboratively because they us ed trial and error to analyze data. Collaborative data analysis l ead ing to expert decision making by a team requires a differen t skill set than individual decision making for one's own class. The team might have ma de better decisions without having to make changes later if they had participated in procedural training for data based decision making. However, without further train ing, it was evident the team would have difficulty using data to plan how to shar e students a cross the grade level next year as they intended There were several key findings for how school and district leaders can best support teachers in the implementat ion of RTI. This study confirmed earlier findings that i nitial and ongoing professional development is cr itical (Burns et al., 2005; Howell et al 2008; Buffum et al. 2009 ) P lanning for professional development did not include assessing what teachers a lready knew and what they need ed to know to implement

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104 RTI T he principal of the research site acknowledged the initial district RTI training was beneficial, but ongoing professional development across the district fell short of meeting teacher needs. Addit ionally, t he teachers wanted more training opportunities during contracted hours and compensation for evening or summer trainings mandated by the district. Direct support from leadership was the primary need expressed by the teachers in this study. The findings revealed that the teachers wanted four different kinds of direct support from their school leaders. First, they wanted more instructional staff to provide interventions. Large numbers of students at risk led to more students needing interventions, and an additional teacher to provide interventions would have better serve d the students. The teachers also wanted specific directions or processes in place for implementing PS/ RTI This was challenging for the principal s ince he noted there was in consistent information coming from the district office at the time of the research. T he teachers stated a need for increased administrative presence in their classrooms They also want ed follow up from school leaders in the form of question ing them about specific students with learning or behavioral problems This could have led to important dialogue between teachers and leaders that the teachers needed to increase their capacity The t eachers believed they were more accountable for student learning gains in the RTI framework and they wanted administration to help them be accountable. Some of the teachers in the study actually perceived that they were carrying the burden of accountabilit y on their own shoulders even though increas i ngly principal s are being held accountable for student learning gains

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105 The participants expressed a need for tang ible resources to guide them with RTI implementation. The principal had created a flowchart at the beginning of the year, and the district developed one mid year. One of the flowchar t s did not cover the gray areas of RTI, and the other was deemed too complicated, so the teachers did not use either There were other resources that would have assisted the teachers, such as a list of interventions available at the school a nd the district offices but that was not available In summary, the findings revealed the school leaders needed to support teachers in PS/RTI implementation by provid ing ongoing profe ssional develo pment during contract hours, tangible resources such as flowcharts and lists of intervention tools, and direct support focused on accountability for student learning. Specifically, t he teachers wanted additional instructional staff to provide interventions, specific directions or processes in place, and increased presence in the classroom followed by dialogue about struggling students. The costs were high for teachers because ineffective planning and a lack of proacti v e leadership did not lay a foundation of consistency and structure that was needed for implementing RTI. Fortunately, district leaders responded to pleas from teachers and administrators that they needed increased consistency across the district. During the time of th is study th e district mandated that the special education department be come responsible for RTI. They created a new position, an Intervention Support Specialist (ISS) to improve communication between the district and schools in the third year of implementing RTI. It was believed the person in this position would provide the increased support that school staff needed for RTI. The ISS was also designated to be a link between regular education and special education, ensuring the

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106 fidelity of RTI implementation while monit oring the compliance of special education laws in each school. The steps the district was planning for the third year of RTI implementation demonstrate d the need for leadership to respond to needs that arise during implementation and provided hope for the teachers that things would improve. Buffum et al. (2009) noted, "Once a school makes student learning its fundamental mission, it manifests a sense of professional and moral urgency to do whatever it takes to ensure that all students succeed" (p. 62). I n this study, a lack of professional and moral urgency (leadership) from school and district administration not only affected the teachers, it also affected the students. Connections with Prior Research A majority of previous research examined the e fficacy (outco mes) of RTI as opposed to this study that investigated teachers' experiences of implementing RTI. Dexter et al. (2008) called for research to examine the necessary components for developing and sustaining an RTI program. By ex ploring the authentic experiences of a teacher team as they implemented RTI, the findings revealed detailed information about three necessary components : professional development, direct support and tangible resources The research also identified new teacher practices necess it ated by RTI The findings concu r red with prior research that PLC's provide a solid foundation for RTI implementation (Buffum et al 2009 ; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007). In this study, PLCs w ere already in place because the district had promoted them five years ea rlier T he inception of PLCs in elementary schools had already led to common planning time for teachers in each grade level The teachers on this t eam noted that everyone on the team participated and contributed as equal partners Each teacher posted lesson plan s for one subject area

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107 that served as a basic framework for all teachers on the team. They collaborated to create common homework and assessments across the grade level, to improve instruction and teaching strategies, and to make team de cisions. There was congruence between w hat the teachers verbalized about the strengths of their team and what I observed during my focus group interviews Yet no one on the team emerged as a leader engaging in distributed leadership across the school. Whil e the teacher team had become a learning community, it appeared that a school wide learning community had not yet evolved. E ffective communication and collaborative skills are necessary for authentic PLC's (Buffum et al., 2009), and it was evident the teac hers in this study had these skills. The teachers had created trusting relationships that allowed both individuals and the learning community t o develop and evolve. In fact, the participants who had been on the team the longest were surprised to hear how t he two newest team members felt valued, listened to, and that they were important members of the team. O ne participant even reported that she declined the principal 's request to change grade levels the following year because of her positive experiences wit h this team. Prior research has shown that distributed leadership i s necessary for successful RTI implementation (Buffum et al 2009; Howell et al., 2008). In this study, leadership was not distributed across the school, as evidenced by teachers having to continuously search for answers. The teachers struggled and learned by trial and error without knowledge that was critical for the success of RTI. Consequently, many students' learning problems were not resolved by the interventions they received

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108 Phillip s ( 2004 ) observed a paradigm shift as teachers engaged in profess ional development every day among teams of teachers who share responsibility for high level I observe d that teachers took responsibility for student learning as they engaged in collaborative practices consistent with Phillips' description of everyday professional development. T he learning communit y became the primary support for teachers as they grew and developed through their collaborative efforts. However, i nformal learning through collaboration with the team was no t enough for successful RTI implementation because the teachers lack ed leadership support and a fundamental knowledge of interventions, data analysis, and data based decision making. Th e findings also resonated with Knotek's (2003) ethnographic research examining the efficacy of the social process. The social milieu of the teams he studied fostered objectivity and rigor, yet, "sometimes the social process made the team more reflexive and less reflective" (Knotek, 2003, p. 11). T he teachers in this research admitted at times they l os t focus o f the objectives of team meeting s and they expressed a desire to become more efficient with the use of their limited time together I found o nly o ne other qualitative study that concluded teachers need training in data analysis and data ba sed decision making in the RTI framework. Jacobs (2008) noted, "Ongoing professional development is necessary so that teachers and aides are sufficiently trained in using instructional techniques and also feel confident about collecting and analyzing data important to the decision making aspects of RTI" (p. 169). Since earlier RTI studies primarily used psychologists with extensive training in data analysis to experim ent with the RTI process, the need for teacher training in data

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109 analysis and decision making may have gone unnoticed. Given the reality of implementing RTI in schools across this district, teacher teams were responsible for intervention selection, progress monitoring, and data based decision making, rather than school psychologists. Historically, teachers have received little or no training in any of these areas in their pre service education. Finally, the core theme that emerged from the findings "coping with the effects of leadership challenges at the school and district levels" suggests the importance of systems theory in the RTI framework Howell et al. (2008) noted that RTI entails educational redesign at all lev els, and he went on to state, RTI requires state of the art instruction, leadership, and risk taking to ensure that the initiative takes hold, demonstrates success, and is sustained" (p 114). T he findings in this study revealed that i neffective planning and inconsistent district l eadership created system wide challenges for school employees, who resorted to learning by trial and error within their o wn schools or teams. Without leadership at the school and district level s collaborating to plan effectively for RTI implementation and sustainab ility the entire system suffered Practical Implications of the Finding s A rdoin et al. (2005) noted that few studies have operationalized the process to provide practitioners w ith support when incorporating RTI within normal school hours. Therefo re, one aim of this qualitative study was to elucidate practical, authentic recommendations for school leaders that would inform future practices for RTI implementation and sustainability. As noted earlier, t he findings su pport the importance of having PL Cs in place before implementing RTI. In this study t he teacher team created a safe learning community where they openly expressed thoughts, feelings, confusion and questions.

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110 Their PLC provided the opportunity for collaborati ve learning as teachers coped with frustration and confusion, uncertainty, and students who continued to struggle. Thus, the first implication of the findings is that schools or districts must have laid the foundation for RTI by having high functioning learning communities in place to help teachers cope with the systemic change of RTI implementation. There are several other practical implications of the findings that relate specifically to district and school leadership's role in RTI implementation. Many of practical implications relate to professional development 1. RTI requires long term school and district planning and resources to provide initial and ongoing professional development related to RTI implemen tation. 2. S taff developers and trainers need to consider the b est strateg ies and methodologies for teaching the procedural knowledge required for RTI. 3. Teachers need social, contextual and situational learning opportunities to reach a level of proficiency in collaborative data based decision making before i mplementing RTI. 4. Pr ofessional development needs to be consistent across the district and occur during teacher contract hours unless compensation is provided for evening or summer trainings. 5. Teachers need increased levels of support from administration when implementing RTI including more presenc e in the classroom and follow up on the progress of specific students. 6. Teachers experienced an overwhelming sense of accountability with the implementation of RTI, and they need to know that their leaders share in the "burden of acc ountability." 7. Teachers want structure in their schools during times of change, and school administrators needed consistency from the district leaders to create a structural foundation for change. 8. Consistency in top leadership and consistency between distr ict departments are crucial for effective RTI implementation and sustainability. Districts should consider mak ing anticipated changes in top leadership occur prior to implementing RTI.

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111 One of the most important implication s of the findings is that effectiv e school and district leaders are necessary for RTI implementation across a district The principal implementing RTI needs to model an urgent pursuit of professional knowledge that will lead to student success, and relate with staff in ways that best support them School leaders also need t o increase the leadership capacity of key individuals to increase school wide learning and shared leadership. Additionally, school leaders need to monitor the fidelity of RTI implementation by having a frequent prese nce in classrooms during core instruction and intervention time. Returning once again to the analogy of implementing RTI with a plane that is being built as it fl ies, the plane will not leave the ground and remain airborne without effective leader s pilot in g the plane. Suggestions for Future Research As a framework requiring systemic change, RTI requires extensive professional development, effective leadership, and ongoing administrative support at school and district levels. Future research could compare h ow different districts offer ed PD to support RTI implementation Some districts may have phase d in staff development learning opportunities over an extended period rather than investing in extensive PD before implementation. S urvey research could explore if there are any non financial incentives that would motivate teachers to participate in staff development opportunities i n the evenings, on weekends or during the summer. Quantitative research could identify whether different trainings were necessary for teachers working in different types of schools, such as Title 1 and no n Title 1 public schools, charter schools and private schools. Another study could explore if the kinds of support teachers in this study needed was prevalent in other scho ols or di stricts. M ixed methods research could explore the

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112 effects of various kinds of support teachers received as they implemented RTI For example, what kind of support might help teachers retain confidence in their teaching ability despite uncertainties with ro les and proce sses during the early years of RTI? Are there any kinds of support that teachers react ed negatively to in RTI implementation, such as having strict procedures to follow before discussing a child at a school RTI meeting? Finding answers to thes e, or similar questions will lead to school leaders who are better equipped to support teachers in RTI implementation. Research could explore different relationship s between PLCs and RTI implementation. For example, are there components of RTI that migh t lead to building a stronger school wide learning community, where collaboration is prevalent not only within teacher teams but across the organization? Is there relationship between a weak PLC during RTI implementation and a te acher s decision to leave the profession ? O ther suggestion s for future research stemmed from the finding that RTI made the participants in this study want to be better teachers A quantitative analysis could examine the impact of RTI on teachers based on their years of service. Fo r example, a comparative analysis could determine if the number of years teaching affected teachers' motivation for continuous learning in the RTI framework. Similar research could also e xplore if the implementation of RTI had any e ffect on the stages of t eacher development found in earlier research. A nother study could explore whether the implementation of RTI leads to a greater number of teachers leaving the profession before five years or a greater number of veteran teachers retiring early to pursue othe r careers

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113 Future research should also distinguish the leadership elements that are necessary at school and district levels for successful RTI implementation. Howell et al. (2008) stated the most critical element to RTI success is instructional leadership from the principal, superintendent, and administrative staff. Therefore, more research is needed to reveal specifically how leadership can best support RTI implementation and sustainability. Finally, the most practical research to follow this study woul d be to test the grounded theory that "teachers cope with leadership challenges at the school and district level when implementing change initiatives." If the grounded theory proved applicable to other grade levels and school settings, a comparative study could then test the applicability of the theory to other types of organizations. Conclusion Many of the findings in this study validated earlier research conclusions (Hollenbeck, 2007; Phillips 2004 ; Stecker, 2007), su ch as the need s for PLCs to lay a foundation for RTI the need for extensive and ongoing professional development, and leadership support to implement and sustain RTI Yet, other findings in this research raised new questions deserving of future research so that school and district lead ers can better operationalize RTI implementation Th e findings showed that a lack leadership from district and school administrators hindered the process of RTI implementation. L eadership challenges at the district level led to a lack of consistency and structure that school staff needed to implement RTI A lack of fluidity in top district leadership, particularly the superintendent's exit that coincided with the research, likely affected RTI implementation across the district However, w ithout quantitative research measures, the real impact of this variable on the

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114 research findings will remain unknown. Regardless of the reasons, the outcome for this district in terms of student le arning was that it moved from an "A" grade to a "B" grade in the state of Florida's ranking system this school year. The grounded theory developed in this study was that teachers cope with the effects of leadership challenges at the school and district le vel when implementing change initiatives This theory acknowledge s that leadership actions have consequences felt throughout the district. Problems in district leadership create d a domino effect whereby principals, teachers, and students were all affected. Lacking leadership support the teachers in this study bec ame frustrated and confused, sometimes leading to a sense of failure in their role as educators. Teachers cannot create shared knowledge that will lead to improved teacher practices and instruction without strong support from leadership. Many of the practical recommendations for school and district leaders implementing RTI related to professional development (PD) Long term district planning for PD is essential for RTI implementation and to be eff ectively planned it must include a ssessments of teacher knowledge Planning should also explore ways to schedul e trainings to maximize teacher attendance Without t his fundamental knowledge of research based interventions, data analysis, and data based decision making, RTI implementation fell short of meeting the needs of the teachers and the students. S chool leaders must be responsive to teachers' needs for support and professional development and take steps to increase teacher capacity and build leadership capacity in their teachers so distributed or shared leadership supports schoolwide RTI implementation. Shared leadership will also be

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115 important for sustaining RTI as new teachers enter the system and work amidst teachers with extensive RTI experience. Th e findings contributed to the knowledge base of RTI from a teacher team's perspective and revealed the kinds of support teachers needed at this site during RTI impleme ntation. The in depth findings regarding the teachers' experiences in this study are intended to guide school and district leaders in supporting the "front line service providers" who share accountability for the learning of all students. The conclusions o f this research confirmed earlier findings t hat stressed the importance of administrative support and leadership when implementing RTI (Hollenbeck, 2007; Howell et al 2008, Lau et al., 2006; Mahdavi et al., 2009; Santangelo, 2009). Despite frustrations a nd challenges with implement ation, RTI it still holds much promise as a means of prevention and early intervention to improve the learning of all students.

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116 APPENDIX A AN EVOLUTION: FROM ISOL ATION TO TEACHER LEA DERS IN RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION TEACHERS AS LEADERS Teachers work collaboratively; Teachers as experts; use assessments research based Response to Intervention all t eachers are leaders interventions, and data analysis to IDEA of 2004 and share responsibility for individualize instructio n. the learning of all students and staff. To facilitate a democratic Distributed/ Shared Leadership To facilitate student learning; process in organizations that 2000/NCLB teachers as professionals are held more accountable for with expert knowledge that student learning. contributes to the greater good of organizational learning To create a culture that Professional Learning Community To ensure learning supports change. 1990 s occurs at all levels within the organization as it evolves. To improve pre service and Collaboration Used for educational and in servic e teacher development 1970s 1990 s placement decisions for in a larger political context. students with disabilities. Teachers working in Isolation From one room schoolhouses and into the 1970 s

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117 APPENDIX B INFORMED CONSENTS Informed Consent for Teachers Participating in the Study Protocol Title: A Teacher Team's Perceptions of Implementing School Wide Response to Intervention, a Systematic Approach to Improving the Learning of All Students Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study Pu rpose of the research study: The purpose of this study is to develop a theory of the Problem Solving Response to Intervention (RTI) approach. RTI, which was mandated by the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), is a systemat ic, school wide, collaborative process in which data based decision making is used to design instruction and individualized interventions for all students. In the RTI process, all school resources are integrated to provide early interventions and accelerat e the learning of students functioning below grade level, whether or not they have been identified as having a learning disability. A nswers to the following questions were sought in this research study: 1. How does RTI affect teacher learning? 2. What ne w tasks and practices are required of teachers with RTI implementation? 3. How can school and district leaders best support teachers in the implementation of the RTI problem solving approach? What you will be asked to do in the study: Y ou will be asked to share your demographics as a teacher, including how many years of teaching experience, how long you have worked with this team and/ or this grade level, your highest degree earned, and the extent of your training for RTI. You will be as ked to participate in and be audiotape recorded as a team, in three focus group interviews, one in each month of April, May and June. You will be asked to be observed and audio recorded in two RTI problem solving team meetings following the first and secon d focus group meetings respectively. The questions will pertain to your team's perceptions of the implementation of the RTI process in your school and district. You will be asked to review information gathered and conclusions drawn from qualitative methods in order to affirm that the findings from the study are accurate from your perspective. Time required: A maximum of 4 hours of focus group meetings to be held at your convenience, and two hours of observations while performing your job as a problem solving team. One additional hour will be needed in August or September of 2011 for reviewing the conclusions drawn from th e study and affirming the accuracy of the findings from your perspective. Risks and Benefits: Your participation will contribute to the knowledge base of how schools and districts should approach full scale RTI implementation, the teachers' changing role within systemic change, and how instructional leaders can support teachers during reform efforts such as RTI. There are no known risks for participating in this research.

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118 Compensation: There is no compensation for participating in this research. Confi dentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your name will not be reported to any personnel of the Collier County Public Schools or the University of Florida, and your name will not be used in any report. Your school name will also be changed to protect your identity in any reports. All recordings will be maintained in a locked file cabinet in the home office of the primary researcher (Michele Meyer) and will be erased and destroyed within one year of completion of th e written dissertation. Voluntary participation: Your participat ion in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without cons equence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Michele M. Meyer EdS, Pinecrest Elementary School Counselor, meyermi@collier.k12.fl; Phone 239 671 3405. Dr. Linda Behar Horenstein, College of Education, 1212 Norman Hall, Gaine sville, FL, 32611 Phone 352 273 4330 Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: IRB02 Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 2250; phone 352 392 0433 Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: ___________________________________________ Date: ___________ Principal Investigator: ___________________________________ Date: __________

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119 Informed Consent for School Leadership Participating in the Study Protocol Title: A Teacher Team's Perceptions of Implementing School Wide Response to Intervention, a Systematic Approach to Improving the Learning of All Students Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study Purpose of the research study: The purpose of this study is to develop a theory of the Problem Solving Response to Interven tion (RTI) approach. RTI, which was mandated by the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), is a systematic, school wide, collaborative process in which data based decision making is used to design instruction and individualiz ed interventions for all students. In the RTI process, all school resources are integrated to provide early interventions and accelerate the learning of students functioning below grade level, whether or not they have been identified as having a learning d isability. A nswers to the following questions were sought in this research study: 1. How does RTI affect teacher learning? 2. What new tasks and practices are required of teachers with RTI implementation? 3. How can school and district leaders best supp ort teachers in the implementation of the RTI problem solving process? What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to share your experiences of implementing RTI school wide in an individual interview that is recorded Yo u will be asked to share artifacts pertaining to RTI implementation, processes, and professional development. Time required: A maximum of 1 hour for an interview to be held at your convenience, and two hours of review of the findings to access the accuracy from your perspective. Risks and Benefits: Your participation will contribute to the knowledge base of how schools and districts should approach full scale RTI implementation, the teachers' changing role within systemic change, and how inst ructional leaders can support teachers during reform efforts such as RTI. There are no known risks for participating in this research. Compensation: There is no compensation for participating in this research. Confidentiality: Your identity will be ke pt confidential to the extent provided by law. Your name will not be reported to any personnel of the Collier County Public Schools or the University of Florida, and your name will not be used in any report. Your school name will also be changed to protect your identity in any reports. All recordings will be maintained in a locked file cabinet in the home office of the primary researcher (Michele Meyer) and will be erased and destroyed within one year of completion of the written dissertation. Voluntary pa rticipation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating.

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120 Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you h ave questions about the study: Michele M. Meyer EdS, Pinecrest Elementary School Counselor, meyermi@collier.k12.fl; Phone 239 671 3405. Dr. Linda Behar Horenstein, College of Education, 1212 Norman Hall, Gainesville, FL, 32611 Phone 352 273 4330 Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: IRB02 Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 2250; phone 352 392 0433. Agreement: I have read the proced ure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: ___________________________________________ Date: ___________ Principal Investigator: ___________________________________ Date: __________

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121 Informed Consent for Teachers Participating in the Focus Group Pilot Study Protocol Title: A Teacher Team's Perceptions of Implementing School Wide Response to Intervention, a Systematic Approach to Improving the Learning of All Students Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study Purpose of the research study: The purpose of this pilot study is to inform the researcher of the quality of the first set of questions to be used in the official focus group interviews with teachers at another school, thus providing the researcher with an opportunity to improve on the questions. The purpose of the research study is to develop a theory of the Problem Solving Response to In tervention (RTI) approach. RT, which was mandated by the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), is a systematic, school wide, collaborative process in which data based decision making is used to design instruction and individ ualized interventions for all students. In the RTI process, all school resources are integrated to provide early interventions and accelerate the learning of students functioning below grade level, whether or not they have been identified as having a learn ing disability. A nswers to the following questions were sought in this research study: 1. How does RTI affect teacher learning? 2. What new tasks and practices are required of teachers with RTI implementation? 3. How can school and district leaders best support teachers in the implementation of the RTI problem solving approach? What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to participate in and be audiotape recorded in one focus group interview. You will be asked to soli cit your advice on the quality of questions asked and to suggest if different questions might be more beneficial to the research. Time required: A minimum of 1 hour of a focus group interview to be held at your convenience after school. A maximum of 30 minutes to share your reflections, thoughts and ideas about the questions used. Risks and Benefits: Your participation will contribute to the overall quality of the research study, which is being conducted to increase the knowledge base of how schools and districts should approach full scale RTI implementation, the teachers' changing role within systemic change, and how instructional leaders can support teacher s during reform efforts such as RTI. There are no known risks for participating in this research. Compensation: There is no compensation for participating in this research. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provide d by law. Your name will not be reported to any personnel of the Collier County Public Schools or the University of Florida, and your name will not be used in any report. Your school name will also be changed to protect your identity in any reports. All re cordings will be maintained in a locked

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122 file cabinet in the home office of the primary researcher (Michele Meyer) and will be erased and destroyed within one year of completion of the written dissertation. Voluntary participation: Your participation in t his study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Michele M. Meyer EdS, Pinecrest Elementary School Counselor, meyermi@collier.k12.fl; Phone 239 671 3405. Dr. Linda Behar Horenstein, College of Education, 1212 Norman Hall, Gainesville, FL, 32611 Phone 352 273 4330 Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: IRB02 Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 2250; phone 352 392 0433. Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agr ee to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: ___________________________________________ Date: ___________ Principal Investigator: ___________________________________ Date: __________

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123 APPENDIX C TEACHER DEMOGRAPHICS QUESTIONAIRRE Name: _________ ______________________ ________ Male or Female (Circle one) Total number of years teaching? _______ Number of years in CCPS. _________ Number of years at this school ? __________ Number of years in this grade? _________ Other grade levels you have taught: _________________ __ Degrees held: ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ Are you currently pursuing another degree, and if so what is it? _______________________________ _______________________________________ __________________________________________ ____________________________ Certifications held: ______________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________ ___________________ ____________________________________________ __________________________ ESOL (ELL) Endorsed? Yes or No (please circle one) Please describe any RTI professional development you have had in the last two years, that was provided by the sc hool or the district: ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________ ____________________________________________________________ Please describe any RTI professional development you have had outside of this school district: ______________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________ _____ _______________________

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124 APPENDIX D INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Questions for First Focus Group Interview of RTI Team 1. Describe the RTI process in your school. 2. How has your teaching changed since the im plementation of RTI? Describe specific skills you have learned or improved, and how those skills have impacted your teaching 3. How have the learning experiences that you provide students changed since the implementation of RTI? 4. What tasks does your team need to accomplish collaboratively in RTI? 5. What resources, if any, have accompanied the implementation of RTI ? How have they impacted your teaching or the activities/ learning experiences that you provide for students? 6. How does school leade rship and other school staff support you in the RTI problem solving process and in providing interventions for students in need? Questions for Second Focus Group Interview of RTI Team Note: Proposed questions may change because of information drawn fro m the first focus group and the first problem solving meeting observation. 1. Can you describe any school structures or processes that support your RTI team? 2. In terms of being a professional learning community, can you identify how your team has deve loped over time and since the implementation of RTI last year?

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125 3. Can you describe any struggles or frustrations you have had in learning and implementing RTI? 4. Describe the ways that district personnel support your team with the RTI process or interve ntions related to RTI. 5. Describe a situation(s) when the team sought the help of school or district personnel to solve a problem. 6. Describe any professional development you have had this year regarding RTI that has made a positive impact on your ability to help students learn. Questions for Third Focus Group Interview of RTI Team Note: These proposed questions may change because of information drawn from the first focus group and the first problem solving meeting observation. 1. Describe how the RTI process has improved at your school since last year. 2. Does a team leader need ne w or different skills in order to lead the team since RTI has been implemented? If so, please describe the skills needed. 3. Can you describe how your team could become more effective as a problem solving team? 4. What kind of support do you envision you r team might need to overcome any limitations and increase your effectiveness as collaborating teachers? 5. Describe how the leadership is distributed amongst your team, and describe any specific roles each of you have as a team member. 6. Can you identif y and describe any school structures, processes, or aspects of culture that support or hinder the effectiveness of the team?

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126 7. What changes do you believe are still needed in your team, school, and district in order for RTI to be sustained? Questions fo r Individual Interview with Principal or Designee 1. What do you believe teachers' greatest struggles have been with the implementation of RTI? 2. Describe what professional development you have offered teachers at your school to facilitate teacher learnin g of RTI. 3. In what other ways do you support teachers in the implementation of RTI? 4. If you monitor the fidelity of intervention implementation, how is it accomplished, and by whom? 5. Describe your role as a change agent with the implementation of R TI at your school. 6. Describe your greatest accomplishment in the implementation of RTI. 7. What has been your greatest hurdle or frustration while implementing RTI? 8. How do you believe you have grown as a school leader since the implementation of RTI? 9. What still needs to happen at your school for the successful implementation of RTI, and how do you envision it will it happen? 10. What support will you as a school leader need from the district for RTI to be sustained over time? Please provide me with documentation/ artifacts that describe the RTI process, teacher expectations, such as non negotiables, and professional development provided to teachers.

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127 APPENDIX E ARTIFACTS Artifact 1 : Response to Intervention Problem Solving Discussion Guide

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129 Artifact 2: Email A nnouncing R esponse to Intervention Professional D evelopment

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130 Artifact 3. Professional D e velopment A nnouncement 1

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131 Artifact 4: Professional Development A nnouncemen t 2

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137 LIST OF REFERENCES Ardoin, S. P., Witt, J. C., Connell, J. E., & Koenig, J. L. (2005). Application of a three tiered response to intervention model for instructional planning, decision making, and the identification of children in need of services. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 23 (4), 362 380 doi: 10.1177/0 73428290502300405. Barth, R. S. (2001 ). Learning by h eart San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Batsche, G., Elliott, J., Graden, J. L., Grimes, J., Kovaleski, J F., Prasse, D., Schrag, J., & Tilly, W. D. (2006). Response to intervention: Policy considerations and implementation. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Bogdan, R. & Biklen S.K. (2007). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods Needham Heights, MA: Pearson/Al lyn and Bacon Bradley, R., Danielson, L., & Doolittle, J. (2007). Responsivenes s to intervention: 1997 2007. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39 (5), 8 12. Retrieved from Education Full Text Buffum, A., Mattos, M. & Weber, C. (2009). Pyramid response to intervention: RTI, professional learning communities, and how to respond when kids don't learn Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. Burns, M. K. & Ysseldyke, J. E. (2005) C omparison of exis ting response to intervention models to identify and answer implementation questions. The California School Psychologist, 10 (1), 9 20. Carney, K. J. & Stiefel, G. S. (2008). Long term results of a problem solving approach to response to intervention: Discussion and implications. Learning Disabilities, 6 (2), 61 75. Carter, P. (2007). Factors affecting the e ngagement of e xperienced t eachers in schools. Retrieved from Deakin Research Online, Deakin University Australia; Castillo, J.M., Batsche, G.M., Curtis, M.J., Stockslager, K., March, A., and Minch, D. (2010). PS/RtI: Evaluation Tool, Technical Assist ance Manua l Charmaz, K. (2002). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In J. F. Grubium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 675 694). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Charmaz, K. (2010) Constructing grounded theory: A pract ical guide through qualitative analysis. London, UK : Sage.

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138 Cochran Smith, M., & Lytle, S L. (2001). Beyond certainty: T aking an inquiry stance on practice. In A. Lieberman & L. Miller (Eds.), Teachers caught in the action: Professional development that matters (pp. 45 58). New York NY : Teachers College Press. Co rbin, J. & Strauss, A. (2008 ). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand. Oaks, CA: Sage. Creswell, J. E. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approach (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Creswell, J. E. (2008 ). Educational research: Planning, c onducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd ed.). Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Dangel, J., Dooley, C., Swars, S., Truscott, D ., Sm ith, S., & Williams, B. (2009). Professional d evelopment s chools: A study of change from the universit y perspective. Action in Teacher Education 30 (4), 3 17. Retrieved from Education Full Text database Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2008). Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials (3rd e d.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Dexter, D. D., Hughes, C. A ., & Farmer, T. W. (2008). Responsiveness to i ntervention: A review of field studies and implications for rural special education. Rural Spe cial Education Quarterly, 27 ( 4), 3 90. DuFour, R. (2004). What is a "professional learning community"? Educational Leadership, 61 ( 8), 6 11 DuFour, R. DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (Eds.). (2005). On common ground: The power of professional learning communities. New York, NY: Solution Tree Press. Flick, U. (2002). An introduction to qualitative research (2nd ed.). London UK : Sage Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. (2007). A Model for implementing responsiveness to intervention Teaching Exceptional Children 39 (5 ), 14 20. Retrieved from Education Full Text. Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., & Compton, D. L. (2004). Ident ifying reading disabilities by responsiveness to instruction: Specifying measures and criteria. Learn ing Disability Qua rterly, 27, 216 227 Garmston, R., & Wellman, B. (200 8 ). T he adaptive school: a sourcebook for developing collaborative groups ( 2nd ed. ). Norwood, MA: Christopher Gordon.

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139 Gerber, P., & Popp, P. (2000). Making collaborat ive teaching more effective for academically able students: recommendations f or implementation and training. Learning Disability Quarterly 23 (3), 229 36. doi: 10.2307/1511166 Glesne, C. (2006). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction (3rd ed.) Boston: Pearson Education Inc. Gresham, F. (2001). Responsiveness to intervention: An alternative to the identification of learning disabilities. Paper presented at the 2001 L earning Disabilities Summit: Building a Foundation for the Future Retrieved from (no longer available online) Grimes, J. & Kurns, S. (2003, December). An intervention based system for addressing NCLB and IDEA expectations: A multiple tiered model to ensure every child learns Paper presented at the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities Responsiveness to Intervention Symposium, Kansas City, MO. Retrieved fro m Hall, W. (2006). Leadership development: The critical elem ent in sustaining the cultural changes of a professional learning c ommunity. National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal 24 (1), 44 49. Harris, A. (2008 ). Distributed leadership: Developing tomorrow's leaders. New York, NY: Routledge. Hawken, L., Vincent, C. & Schumann, J. (2008). Respo nse to intervention for social behavior. E Journal of Emotional & Behavioral Disorders 16 (4), 213 225. Retrieved from Hollenbeck, A. F. (2007). From IDEA to implementatio n: A discussion of foundational and future responsiveness to intervention research. Learning Disabilities Resear ch & Practice 22 (2), 137 146. doi:10 .1111/j.1540 5826.2007.00238.x Howell, R., Patton, S. & Deiotte, M. (2008). Understanding response to intervention: A practical guide to systemic implementation. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. Hoyd, S. M. (Ed.). (2004). Learning together, leading toge ther: Changing schools through professional learning communities. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Ikeda, M. J., Rahn Blakeslee, A., Niebling, B. C., G ustafson, J. K., Allison, R., & Stumme, J. (20 07). The Heartland Area Education Agency problem solving approach: An overview and lessons learned. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. VanDerHeyden (Eds.), Handbook of response to intervention: The science and practice of assessment and intervention (pp. 255 268). New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media LLC. Retrieved from Springer Link. d oi: 10.1007/978 0 387 49053 3_24

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140 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. ( 2004). P.L. 108 446, 118 Stat. 2647. Retrieved from Jacobs, C. N. (2008). An examination of response to i ntervention as a framework for school improvement: Educat ors' perspectives regarding RTI i mplementation Retrieved from USC Digital Library: m1380.html?x=1340593970998 Kaasila, R. & Lauriala, A. (2010). Towards a collabor ative, interactionist model of teacher change. Journal of Teaching and Teacher Education, 26 (4), 854 862 doi:10.1016/j.tate.2009.10.023 2007). A new paradigm: Responsiveness to intervention Teaching Exceptional Children, 39 (5), 6 7. Retrieved from Education Full Text. Katzenmeyer, M. & Moller, G. (2001). Awakening the sleeping giant: Helping teachers develop as leaders. Thousa nd Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Kimmel, M. A. (2008). The successes and challenges of RTI: A case study of the impact of RTI implementation Retrieved from USC Digital Library: m1061.html?x=1340594135376 Knotek, S. (2003). Bias in problem solving and the so cial pr ocess of student study teams: A quali tative investigation of two SST s. The Journal of Special Education 37 (1), 2 14. doi: 10.1177/00224669030370010101 Krueger and Casey (2009). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research (4th ed.). Thousand Oa ks, CA: Sage. Lau, M. W., Seiler, M. D., Muysken, P., Canter, A. Vanke uren, B., & Marston, D. (2006). Perspectives on the use of the problem solving model from the viewpoint of a school psychologist, administrator, and teac her from a large Midwest urban school district Psychology in the Schools, 43 (1), 117 127. doi:10.1002/pits.20135 Levine, T. H. & Marcus, A. S. ( 2010). How the structure and focus of teachers' collaborative activities facilitate and constrain teacher learning. E Journal o f Teaching and Teacher Education 26 (3), 389 398. Retrieved from Mah davi, J. N. & Beebe Frankenberger, M. E. (2009). Pioneering RTI systems that work: Social validity, collaboration, and context. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42 (2), 64 72. Accessed online at Wilson Web.

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141 Marsto n, D., Muyskens, P., Lau, M., & Canter, A. (2003). Pro blem solving model for decision making with high incidence disabilitie s: The Minneapolis experience. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 1 8, 187 200. doi: 10.1111/1540 5826.00074 Mastropi eri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (2005). Feasibility and consequences of response to intervention: Examination of the issues and scientific evidence as a model for the identification of individuals with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38 525 531. McCook, J. E. (2006). The RTI guide: Developing an d implementing a model in your schools Horsham, PA: LRP M cKenzie R.G (2009). A national survey of pre service preparation for collaboration. Teacher Education and Special Education, 32 (4). doi: 10.1177/0888406409346241 Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. M. (1994 ). An expand ed sourcebook: Qualitative dat a a nalysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage National Association of State Directors of Spe cial Education. (2006). National Association of School Psychologists (2006) New roles in response to intervention: C reating success for schools and children Retrieved from ifactsheets.aspx National Association of School Psychologists (2006). The role of the school psychologist in the RTI process. Retrieved from National Joint Committee on Learning Disabili ties. (2005). Responsiveness to intervention and learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 28, 249 260 Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sa ge. Phillips, J. (2003). Powerful learning: Creating learni ng communities in urban school reform. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 18 (3), 240 258. Reynolds, C. R. & Shaywitz, S. F. (2009). Response to intervention: Ready or not? From wait to fail to watch them fail. School Psychology Quarterly, 24 (2), 130 145. R ichards, C., Pavri, S., Golez, F., Canges, R. & Murphy, J. (2007). Response to intervention: Building the capacity of teachers to serve students with learning difficult ies Issues in Teacher Education, 16 (2), 55 65 Retrieved from Eric Full Text at Sailor, W. (2009). Making RTI work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

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142 Salas, E., Sims, D. E., & Burke, C. S. (2005). Is there a "big five" in teamwork? E Journal of S mall Group Research 36 (5), 555 599. doi: 10.1177/1046496405277134 Saldana, J. (2009) The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London UK : Sage Santangelo, T. (2009) Collaborative problem solving effectivel y implemented, but not sustained: A case for aligning the sun, the moon, and the stars. Exceptional Children, 75 (2), 185 209. Scribner, J. P., Sawyer, R. K., Watson, S. T., & Myers, V. L. (2007). Teacher teams and distributed leadership: A study of group discourse and collaboration. Educational Administration Quarterly 43 (1), 67 100. doi: 10.1177/0013161X06293631 Shores, C. (2009). A comprehensive RTI model: Integrating behavioral a nd academic interventions. Thousand Oaks, CA : Corwin Press. Spillane, J. P., Halverson, R. & Diamond, J. B. (2004). Towards a theory of leadership practice: A distributed leadership perspective Journal of Curriculum Studies, 36 (1), 3 34. Stecker, P. M. (2007). Tertiary services: Using pro gress monitoring with intensive services. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39 (5), 51 57. Strahan, D (2003). General p atterns and particular pictures : Lessons learned from reports from "beating the odds" schools. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 18 (4), 296 305. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier. Strauss, A.L. & Glaser, B.G (1967) Discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research, Chicago, IL: AVC. Sugai, G. (2007 December ). RTI: Reasons, practices, systems and considerations [PowerPoint slides ]. K eynote address at Response to In tervention Summit, Washington, DC. R etrieved from Torgeson, J. K. (2009). The response to interven tion instructional model: Some outcomes from a large scale implementation in reading first schools. Child Development Perspectives, 3 (1), 38 40. Ubben, G. C., Hughes, L. W., & Norris, C. J. (2007). The pri ncipal: Creative leadership for excelle nce in schools. Boston, MA: Pearson Education. VanDerHeyden, A. M., Witt, J. C., & Gilbertson, D. (2007). A multi year evaluation of the effects of a response to intervention (RTI) model on identifi cation of children for special education. Journal of Schoo l Psychology, 45, 22 5 2 56. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2006.11.004

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143 Vaughn, S., Linan Thompson, S., & Hickman, P. (2003) Response to instruction as a means of identifying students with reading/learning disabilities. Exceptional Children, 69, 391 409. Retrieved from Wilson Web. Vescio, V., Ross, D., & Adams, A. (2008). A revie w of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning Teaching andTeacher Education, 23 (1). doi:10.1016/j.tate.2007.01.004 Wheelan, S. A. (2005). Faculty groups: From frustration to collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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144 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Michele Marie (Edgar) Meyer received a B achelor of Arts degree in 1980 from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, with a double major in business finance and e conomics S he completed coursework to receive Florida teacher certification in elementary education in 1993 h aving rediscovered her passion for learning while helping her three children learn to read. Fo llowing up on a promise to her e conomics professor in her bachelor's program that she would one day get her m aster's degree, Michele received a M aster of Arts deg ree in c ounseling e ducation in 1998 from the University of South Florida. Michele's passion for analytical thinking coupled with her desire to help people culminated in extensive opportunities to help others as a school and community counselor. When Mich ele's third child went off to college, she continue d her education again when the school district and the U niversity of F lorida announced the opportunity t o be in this distance learning e d ucational l eadership cohort Michele received her S pecialist in E duc ation degree in 2009 and her Doctor of Education degree ( Ed.D. ) in educational leadership in 2012. She looks forward to exploring new ways to contribute to the field of education