Promoting Teacher Understanding About RTI

Teacher support is crucial for the success of the RTI model. After all, if teachers are unable or unwilling to modify their instructional practices to serve as intervention ‘first responders’ in the classroom, struggling students are not likely to receive the high-quality ‘core instruction’ that forms the foundation of the entire RTI model. The reality, however, is that schools often communicate with teachers in a haphazard fashion about RTI. In a typical scenario, for example, a school presents RTI updates at faculty meetings only once per year and attempts to cram a large amount of content into that single training. And much of the RTI information presented to teachers fails to make the case that RTI is a feasible approach to classroom problem-solving, can address common teacher concerns about struggling students, and is likely to lead to better student outcomes.

The result is both predictable and dismal. Teachers who have participated in these infrequent, large-group RTI trainings report feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of RTI information thrust at them and express resentment that they are not allowed sufficient time to share their views or to ask follow-up questions.  
Instead, schools should plan a series of RTI information-sharing sessions with teachers throughout the school year. The process for establishing these teacher-friendly RTI training sessions includes these 3 steps:
  1. Inventory the full range of opportunities available in your school to communicate with teachers about RTI. Along with faculty meetings, for example, schools might take advantage of smaller-group opportunities, such as grade-level, instructional team, or department meetings. Staff development days can also offer the chance for more sustained trainings and group dialog about RTI.
  2.  Each year, define the body of information that teachers in your school should learn about RTI.  Hone the RTI content to be shared with teachers to include only essential information that will answer their most pressing questions and make clear how they can feasibly integrate RTI into their daily classroom practices. Be aware that this step requires discipline; schools often err on the side of including too much in presentations rather than too little.
  3. At the start of each school year, create an RTI professional development plan for the full year. First, divide the RTI information to be presented into smaller presentations that listeners can easily assimilate.  Then, distribute those presentations across the range of available opportunities for teacher contact. Make sure both that no teacher training is overloaded with too much new information and that teachers will have at least several small-group opportunities during the year to ask questions and to share their views about the school’s RTI implementation efforts.
Crafting a flexible RTI presentation plan that is sensitive to teacher needs is one powerful strategy to promote staff understanding and acceptance of RTI. See the attachment at the bottom of the page--Ideas to Build Teacher Understanding and Support for RTI-- for a short checklist of additional methods to promote staff support, such as showing that RTI can help to address chronic concerns about struggling students; soliciting teacher input in the development of the RTI model; and demonstrating that RTI is a comprehensive and efficient problem-solving framework rather than an isolated, stand-alone program.