Saturday, June 30, 2018

Discussing Change Models, Diagnostic Instruments, and Specific Change Interventions, Part 1

The synthesis between selected change models, identification of appropriate diagnostic instruments, and utilization of specific change interventions should allow a leader to effectively intervene, facilitate, and support change.  Intervention Theory (Argyris, 1970) posits, “to intervene is to enter into an ongoing system of relationship, to come between or among persons, groups or objects for the purpose of helping them” (p. 115).  This understanding allows the effective change leader to seek to clearly understand the problem and need for change.  While the rationale and motivation often ranges from helping followers make their own decisions about the kind of help they need to coercing followers to do what the change leader determines is necessary for them to do, the change leader should assist “any system become more effective in problem solving, decision making, and decision implementation in such a way that the system can continue to be increasingly effective in these activities and have a decreasing need for the change leader thereafter” (p. 117). 

A basic condition of Intervention Theory (Argyris, 1970) is the need for valid information because “without valid information, it would be difficult for the client/individual to learn and for the interventionists to help” (p. 118).  A second basic condition assumes the intervention should be designed and executed to promote discreteness and autonomy, which promotes the necessity for free, informed choice.  Lastly, Argyris believed commitment to the learning and change processes must be more than temporary but rather “durable in the sense that it can be transferred to relationships in and out of their immediate sphere of influence” (p. 118).  As a result, a leader proficient with change models, diagnostic instruments, and specific change interventions would be more capable of promoting these conditions. 

When planning to identify either a change model or succession plan, consideration of an ecological perspective, supportive of the interconnectedness of stakeholders and organizations, exhibits prudence and wisdom.  Six components posited by Lester and Parnell (2002) should be considered when developing a subsequent change implementation plan, especially for a family business.  The effective change leader creates a compelling vision, provides continuous communications, creates a climate of selfless effort, provides the appropriate top-down support and role modeling, and relates the needed change both to the future and to the past.  Throughout the process, the effective change leader needs to engage the major stakeholders involved in the change.

Regardless if a transformative or a gradual change is being considered, understanding the role of stakeholder groups is crucial.  Stakeholders include customers, employees, their unions, employees, the organization’s shareholders, its partners, community groups, regulatory bodies, and the competition.  Chapman (2002) notes engagement with stakeholder groups around the opportunities and goals of the change process can yield mutually beneficial results.  Minimally it can help build trust because to establish trust channels for communication and dialogue throughout the change process need to be realized.  Clear communication and greater trust often produces more openness and support for the change process.

After analyzing a multitude of change management efforts, Kotter (1995) proposed an eight-step process model for effectively guiding organizations through major changes.  This well-known model focuses on both initiating and implementing change at a strategic level.  Kotter posits the eight activities are jointly necessary while individually insufficient to bring about and sustain change.  For those seeking an alternative to change models, Connell’s Prezi (2011) graphically illustrated and exemplified the Mento, Jones, and Dimdorfer’s (2002) 12-step framework for change: 

Step 1: The idea and its context

Step 2: Define the change initiative

Step 3: Evaluate the climate for change

Step 4: Develop a change plan

Step 5: Find and cultivate a sponsor

Step 6: Prepare your target audience, the recipients of change

Step 7: Create the cultural fit —Making the change last

Step 8: Develop and choose a change leader team

Step 9: Create small wins for motivation

Step 10: Constantly and strategically communicate the change

Step 11: Measure progress of the change effort

Step 12: Integrate lessons learned

 The 12-step framework implements many tenets of previous change models.  Yet, Mento, et al., (2002) note “the 12-steps are not to be regarded only sequentially, but also as an integrated, iterative process to enable change” (p. 58).  As such, it is a normative change model. 

A normative model is prescriptive.  As such it evaluates alternative solutions to the question, "What is going on?" A normative model either suggests what needs to be done or identifies how things should be operationalized based on a prescribed standard or approach.  By contrast, descriptive models only describe proposed solutions without actually evaluating them.

French, Bell, Jr., and Zawacki (2005) researched the management of change and effectiveness of instruments available for identifying and diagnosing problems.  They cite seven basic methods for collecting information initially explicated by Fordyce and Weil (1979).  The methods were rank ordered by degree of confrontation:
  1. questionnaires 
  2. interviewing,
  3. sensing,
  4. polling,
  5. collages,
  6. drawings, and
  7. physical representation of organizations.

 By their general nature, questionnaires are relatively impersonal since respondents remain confidential.  By contrast, physical representation is highly confronting.  French et al., (2005) suggest “the more confronting the method, the richer the response and the stronger the impulse to change” (p. 162).

                As we are learning, the process of change requires a thoughtful, systemic approach.  While the researched change models, assessment tools, and change interventions identified and discussed herein are widely utilized, there are others yet to be explored and evaluated. During part 2 of this discussion next month, we will review benchmarking, the balanced scorecard, and dialogue.  Benchmarking allows identification of best practices that can then be adopted, implemented, or replicated.  The balanced scorecard and dialogue are two of the most utilized intervention models.

To cite:
Anderson, C.J. (June 30, 2018) Discussing change models, diagnostic instruments, and specific change
       interventions, part 1. [Web log post] Retrieved from

Argyris, C. (1970). Intervention theory and method: A behavioral science view. Reading, Mass.:
Chapman, J. A. (2002). A framework for transformational change in organizations. Leadership
        & Organizational Development Journal, 23(1), 16-25.
French, W., L., Bell, Jr., C., H., Zawacki, R., A. (2005). Organization development and   
        transformation: Managing effective change (6th ed.). NYC: McGraw-Hill
Kotter, J.P., (1995) Leading change: Eight ways organizational transformations fail. Harvard Business
       Review 73(2), 59-67.
Lester, D. L., & Parnell, J. A. (2002). Aligning factors for successful organizational renewal.
         Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 23(2), 60-67.
Mento, A. J., Jones, R. M., & Dimdorfer, W. (2002). A change management process: Grounded in
       both theory and practice. Journal of Change Management, 3(1), 45–59.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Developing a Collaborative Learning Culture

Let’s discuss strategies for promoting collaborative teams, especially professional learning communities.  In the endeavor to develop and sustain a collaborative learning culture, effective leaders should seek to mitigate informational overload.  Effective leaders know that reducing stress and fear optimizes organizational learning and success. 
An effective school collaboratively reaches consensus on the mission, core values, and beliefs (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011).  Thereafter, collective inquiry is effective for building shared knowledge.  This process, “in turn, allows them to make more informed (and therefore better) decisions, and increases the likelihood they will arrive at consensus” (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008, p. 17).  Despite the benefits of a collaborative professional learning community (PLC), the authors were “convinced educators would benefit from both greater clarity regarding the PLC concept and specific strategies for implementing the concept” (p. 15).
Effective communication promotes collaboration, thereby optimizing the learning organization’s ability to reach consensus.  Schmoker (1999) posited teams outperform individual efforts, therefore, "learning not only occurs in teams but endures" (p. 12).  An effective learning organization utilizes the following three beliefs to optimize teams and the PLC concept:
1.       the team believes strongly in each member's capacity to develop practical solutions to everyday teaching and learning problems;
2.       there is a belief that regardless of a school's social or economic circumstances, improvement can and will occur;
3.       the team arrives at each meeting anticipating that informed trial and error will inevitably lead to better teaching and hence to higher learning (Schmoker, 1999, p.20).
Educators benefit in a number of ways from working together to identify a clear, shared vision, developing a collaborative culture focusing on learning, engaging in collective inquiry, remaining action oriented, committing to continuous improvement, and being results oriented (Dufour et al., 2008).  Those six elements of an effective PLC promote learning by doing.  As with many processes developed for sustaining success, the six elements work most effectively if treated as an interdependent, cyclical process. 
To be successful, the PLC requires “reculturing the traditional culture of schools and districts” (Dufour et al., 2008, p. 6).  This shift needs to be systemic and not merely structural, embedding sustained improvements in “the assumptions, beliefs, values, expectations, and habits that constitute the norm for that organization” (p. 90).  A skillful educational leader begins developing an effective collaborative culture by understanding the interdependency of the improvement process rather than merely undertaking elemental processes for change.  A skillful educational leader and empowered educators trust in non-negotiable goals (NNGs) and values while embracing both school-based and teacher autonomy. 
An effective leader can create a defined collaborative culture to optimize structured organizational learning by utilizing strategies that encourage high levels of effectiveness.  The first pursuit in this endeavor is to mitigate learning overload.  Information overload prevents stakeholders from realizing progress and achievement of stated goals (Nguyen, 2011; Reason, 2010).  Citing Kennedy (2006) and Franklin (2005), Reason (2010) notes, “We can’t alter the brain to hold more information, but we can change our approach to learning in ways that reduce overwhelm and prepare us to deal with institutional challenges more effectively” (p. 99).  Every stakeholder’s reticular activating system (RAS) impacts his or her attention and motivation.  Therefore, the RAS influences how efficiently staff addresses the organizational focal points.  The effective leader recognizes this and seeks to “clearly identify the learning focal points that matter” (p. 100) as a way to mitigate stressors that overwhelms one’s perception and attention to organizational focal points. 
Learning organizations are expected to attend to what Vygotsky called scientific concepts (Blunden, 2009; Tudge & Scrimsher, 2003).  Scientific concepts are psychological tools such as language, formulas, memory techniques, concepts, rules, symbols, and signs.  Properly designed class instruction utilizes and learns these psychological tools, thereby reducing learning overload by optimizing metacognition (Bohlin et al., 2008)
In the pursuit of defining a learning culture, effective leaders also seek to optimize structured organizational learning by utilizing a proven system for promoting change.  The following eight-step protocol (Reason, 2010), promotes success while reducing learning overload:

Step One: Acknowledging Learning Limits
Step Two: Lightening the Learning Load
Step Three: Identifying Learning Focal Points
Step Four: Establishing Emotional Relevance
Step Five: Establishing Inquiry
Step Six: Identifying Essential Goals and Outcomes
Step Seven: Making the Focal Points Public
Step Eight: Funneling New Ideas Into Current Focal Points (pp. 103-112)
The identification of learning focal points, empowering questions, and must-have outcomes won’t reduce all the confusion in an organization” (Reason, 2010, p. 112).  However, the above protocol optimizes the learning organization’s ability to prioritize elements essential for promoting student learning and sustaining success.  Clarity and focus mitigates fear and stress, thereby improving the organization’s culture of learning while reducing learning overload. 
The improvement to the collaborative learning culture begins with recognizing promotion of student learning in schools that are loosely-coupled by design must be tightly-coupled in relation to non-negotiable goals (NNGs).  Beginning with district leadership, a culture based on “defined autonomy” (Marzano & Waters, 2010, p. 8) communicates NNGs to both the internal and external stakeholders.  Otherwise, change can be either slow, inconsistent, or nonexistent.
An effective educational leader confidently handles the conveyance of more autonomy or degrees of freedom.  Therefore, novice principals or leaders at struggling schools need more guidance and direction from district-level leaders.  An effective leader recognizes when and how staff can work autonomously and collaboratively, thereby developing or removing staff as necessary, which promotes the culture of high expectations within the school (Eck & Goodwin, 2010).
Purpose driven inquiry (Reason, 2010) can be utilized with either small groups or the entire school.  Reason presented a six-step protocol useful for small and systemic projects alike:

Step One: Identifying the Question and Knowing Why We Ask It
Step Two: Igniting Collective Curiosity
Step Three: Defining Strategic Action
Step Four: Defining Accountability
Step Five: Making the Agenda Public
Step Six: Maintaining Engagement (pp. 78-86)
Establishment of non-negotiable goals (NNGs) are a product of earlier collaboration.  Intentional invitations promote staff empowerment (Purkey & Novak, 2016).  Determination to collaborate, time to meet, willingness to ask serious questions, creation of an action plan, and always meeting with an agenda, promotes collaborative communication aligned to the established NNGs.  Therefore, Reason’s (2010) six-step protocol for purpose driven inquiry mitigates learning overload while encouraging collaborative learning organizations to focus upon sustained improvement, efficient learning, and sustained success. 
Effective accountability requirements hastened the emergence of professional learning communities (PLC).  Marzano and Waters (2009) believe, a PLC “suggests a group of people sharing and critically interrogating their practice in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning oriented, growth-promoting way; operating as a collective enterprise” (p. 56).  The PLC and undertaken action research addresses the need to develop and sustain a systemic culture of continuous improvement that promotes positive learning (DuFour, et al., 2008; Rentfro, 2007). 
Positive change can be the outcome of innovative thinking, willingness, humility, collaboration, and a collective vision grounded in a clearly-defined mission.  Unintended consequences, which often fall into the pool labeled “negative change,” typically ignore the characteristics connected with positive change.  In conclusion, leaders interested in promoting a collaborative learning culture must embrace this reality: It is not enough to want to change or need to change, to become enculturated within an organization, stakeholders must experience positive change.
To cite:
Anderson, C.J. (May 31, 2018) Developing a collaborative learning culture [Web log post] Retrieved

Bohlin, L., Durwin, C., & Reese-Weber, M. (2008). Ed psych: Modules. NY: McGraw-Hill.
DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at
                work: New insights for improving schools. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Eck, J., & Goodwin, B. (2010). Autonomy for school leaders. School Administrator, 67(1),
Lezotte, L. W., & Snyder, K. M. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the
                correlates. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Marzano, R. & Waters, T.(2009). District leadership that works. Bloomington, IN: Solution
                Tree Press
Purkey, W. W., & Novak, J.M. (2016). Fundamentals of invitational education (2nd ed). The International
Alliance for Invitational Education. Retrieved from:
Reason, C. (2010). Leading a learning organization: The science of working with others. Bloomington, IN:
Solution Tree Press.
Schmoker, J, (1999) The Key to Continuous School Improvement (2nd ed.) Arlington, VA:
Tudge, J., & Scrimsher, S. (2003). Lev S. Vygotsky on education: A cultural-historical,
                interpersonal, and individual approach to development. In B. J. Zimmerman &
D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Educational psychology: A century of contributions
(pp. 207–228) Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Discussing How Economics, Racial Inclusion, Social Equity, and Executive Power Influence School Reforms

From a moral perspective, the variables of economics, racial inclusion, and social equity, speak to core American inalienable rights whereby all men are created equal.  These rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Truly, we the people could not be true to our democratic principles unless we use Executive power and legislative mandates to maintain these principles and ensure opportunity gaps are mitigated. 

From an educational perspective, the variables of economics, racial inclusion, and social equity are undeniable factors that can mitigate efforts to promote learning for all.  Beginning in 2009, Race to the Top competitive grants exercised the Executive branch’s power and encouraged legislative mandates be brought to bear to promote social justice and equity in quality goals.  The Great Recession provided the need and opportunity because, at the time, diverse states were not exhibiting the same effort toward achieving social justice or equity in quality goals.  This increased the need for the federal Department of Education to utilize its funding streams to influence implementation of mandates designed to ensure the learning for all mission. 

Executive power can be maximized through the federal Department of Education.  Beginning ten years after the initial 1959 questioning of federal aid to public schools, Berke, Bailey, Campbell, and Sacks (1971) conducted an eighteen-month study of the pattern of how federal aid to education was allocated.  As a result, the authors reported the “story in general is grossly disappointing” (p. 52).  Major findings were:

“(1) in most urbanized areas, there is a crisis in educational finance, yet school districts in rural areas received more federal aid per pupil; (2) there was no compensatory relationship between federal aid and assessed property valuation; (3) because of the impact of Title I, districts with lower income and higher proportions of nonwhite pupils received more aid than those with lower proportions; (4) amounts of aid received varied markedly and erratically in individual school districts; (5) the failure to concentrate funds on most needy students has resulted in fragmented programs or new equipment; and (6) amounts of aid are too small in view of the existing problems” (p. 53).

            During the ensuing four decades, education has become increasingly politicized while the findings identified by Berke et al (1971) remain pervasive.  Based on ignored or politicized conditions, the lack of equity in quality continues.  This results in the continued inability of public education to close the achievement gap and increase the quality of equitable education, especially when compared to other industrialized nations. 

In the United States, two main philosophies have emerged:  One group advocates that federal aid for public schools should be increased.  They argue that since current funding systems for schools, such as dependency on local property taxes, do not provide just and equitable compensation for public schools.  Federal Aid, they contend, would provide the equity in quality required for effective schools.

By contrast, opponents to Federal Aid for public schools, led by the Cato Institute, advocate for the privatization of schools with funding coming from sources outside of the tax base.  The Cato Institute “argues that schools cannot cater to their constituents when government institutions run and fund them” (Fitzpatrick, 2010).

Clarity over the role of Federal Aid in public education is more important than ever.  Since the premise of equity in quality is grounded in civil rights and social justice, the role of the Federal government in assuring this policy should be clear.  Therefore, the focus of any debate should be less on “whether” and more on “how” to optimize the role of Federal Aid to optimize reform of public education in pursuit of social justice and equity in quality goals.

To cite:

Anderson, C.J. April 30, 2018) Discussing how economics, racial inclusion, social equity, and executive
             power influence school reform [Web log post] Retrieved from

Berke, J.L., Bailey, Campbell, and Sacks, (1971) Federal Aid to Public Education: who
Fielding, L., Kerr, N., & Rosier, P. (2007). Annual growth for all students, catch-up growth for
those who are behind. New York: Foundation Press.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Building Effective Parental Partnerships to Help Close the Opportunity Gap

Building effective partnerships with parents requires utilization of diverse communication strategies.  Productive partnership is an outcome of teachers and parents engaging in a collaborative exchange of ideas that is more than simply sharing assessment and instruction information (Shapley & Case, 2004).  Diverse communication strategies requires knowledge of two-way compared to one-way communication strategies (Barbour and Barbour, 2001; Berger, 2000; Townsend, 2009).  While one-way communication strategies such as newsletters, school handbooks, and progress reports, help to keep parents informed about school activities and policies, effective partnership with parents requires proficiency with two-way communication strategies. 
The reality that problems exist for families, regardless of their socioeconomic status (SES), is indisputable.  A social justice mindset recognizes social conditions creating an opportunity gap are leading indicators in education and must be addressed if we ever want to truly mitigate the trailing indicator known as the achievement gap.  Mehlinger (1995) posits, “If America’s poor children could be provided the same conditions for growing up, including the same quality of schools, as those afforded to middle-class suburban youth, we would have no crisis (in education) at all” (p. 27). 
Results of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) international average distribution of literacy skills identify the opportunity gap rather than an achievement gap as the major factor to be considered in educational reform.  PIAAC results show the United States had a larger comparative percentage of adults performing at both the top and bottom of the distribution.  Thirteen percent of U.S. adults age 16-65 performed at the highest proficiency level (4/5) on the PIAAC literacy scale.  This was higher than the international average of 12 percent.  Yet, 18 percent of U.S. adults performed at the lowest level of the PIAAC literacy scale (at or below Level 1), which was higher than the international average of 16 percent.
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) defines literacy as the use of “printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential.”  Average scores on the PIAAC literacy scale for adults age 16 to 65 ranged from 250 in Italy to 296 in Japan.  The U.S. average score was 270.  Compared with the U.S. average score, the average scores in 12 countries were higher.  In 5 countries they were lower.  In other 5 countries they were not significantly different.
            The Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s (1965) and its subsequent reauthorizations (NCLB, 2001; ESSA, 2010) emphasized closing the achievement gap.  The PIAAC results (2012/2014) indicate a statistical significant change compared to the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL, 2003-08).  However, PIAAC results were not significantly different than the score on the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS, 1994-98).  Metrics, including those mentioned above have sought to quantify gaps in achievement.  However, perhaps it is more crucial to examine the qualitative experiences found in diverse populations that lead to an opportunity gap.
            The seven correlates of Effective Schools Research (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011) address the leading indicators of learning.  Schools that interdependently implement Effective Schools Research optimize the learning for all mission regardless of SES factors.  Since we all desire to make a difference for our future students, it is time to embrace the reality that the most effective way to mitigate the adverse impact of a lack of opportunity is to ensure public schools are culturally responsive, capable of emotional nurturance, AND staffed by highly qualified educators prepared to deliver the curricula.  Maslow (1959) initially referred to basic needs as “deficiency needs” that must be satisfied BEFORE growth can occur (p.125). The essential basic needs of anyone in a classroom: love and belonging, can be addressed by implementation of effective differentiation and Response for (Reading) Interventions, which mitigates failure. The results of educational failure in early childhood education includes:
  • Dropping out in later years at 3-4 times greater rates is correlated with children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school (National Adult Literacy Survey, (2001) NCES, U.S. Department of Education). 
  • More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level.  This is far below the level needed to earn a living wage (National Institute for Literacy, Fast Facts on Literacy, 2001).
  • Approximately 50 percent of the nation's unemployed youth, age 16-21, are functional illiterate.  Given this they have virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs  (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
  • Illiteracy is a variable in 75% of those on welfare, 85% of unwed mothers and 68% of those arrested are illiterate.  About 60% of America's prison inmates are illiterate (Washington Literacy Council).
  • Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure."  Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
            The link between reading failure in the early elementary grades and failure in society is profound.  Sixty-six percent (66%) of students who cannot proficiently read by the end of 4th grade will become involved in jail or on welfare.  More than five million U.S. children (7%) had a parent who lived with them go to jail or prison.  This proportion is higher among black, poor, and rural children.  This creates a cycle that only a social justice mindset can begin to mitigate.  To promote the common good, highly qualified, culturally responsive teachers must willingly exhibit emotional awareness to nurture effective partnerships with students and their parents. 
Some teachers may seem naturally comfortable building partnership with parents with little apparent effort.  However, the reality is they more likely mastered emotional intelligence skills and are aware of personal needs in relation to social dynamics.  These teachers exhibit genuine interest in the parents’ point of view.  They exhibit effective communication strategies and willing use two-way communication skills for building parental partnerships. 
Most prospective teachers need to develop these skills for building effective parent partnership.  Awareness of a need is insufficient to ensure implementation of effective practice.  Simulations and multimedia case studies can build the teacher candidate’s self-efficacy.  Research by Walker and Dotger (2011) identifies the advantages of such a process for optimizing this essential correlate of Effective Schools Research.  
Teacher preparation programs need to offer this type of professional development.  Otherwise, teacher candidates will continue to enter the classroom ill-prepared for embracing and optimizing the home-school correlate.  Twenty-first century tools such as avatar simulations and multimedia case studies can supplement Clinically Rich Teacher Preparation Programs.
A better relationship between teachers and parents results in more dialogue, improved school climate, and increased student achievement (Purkey & Novak, 2016).  Knowing this, effective leaders plan for teachers’ professional development needs and encourage utilization of action research to improve instruction and classroom assessment (Marzano & Waters, 2009) as well as optimal home-school relationships.   

To cite:

Anderson, C.J. (March 30, 2018) Building effective parental partnerships to help close the opportunity gap
[Web log post] Retrieved from


Anderson, C.J. (2016). A correlational study examining demonstrated emotional
                intelligence and perceptions of school climate. ProQuest 1771637101
Barbour, C. & Barbour, N. H. (2001). Families, schools and communities: Building partnerships
for educating children. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Berger, E. H. (2000). Parents as partners in education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill
Prentice Hall.
Lezotte, L. W., & Snyder, K. M. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the
            correlates. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Marzano, R. & Waters, T. (2009).  District leadership that works. Bloomington, IN: Solution
                Tree Press
Purkey, W. W., & Novak, J. M. (2016). Fundamentals of invitational education. (2nd Ed). International
Alliance for Invitational Education. Retrieved from:
Shapley, K.L. & Case, B.J. (2004) Building partnerships with parents. Retrieved from
Walker, J.M.T., & Dotger, B. (2012). Because wisdom can’t be told: Using comparison of
                simulated parent-teacher conferences to support prospective educators’ interpersonal skill
                development. Journal of Teacher Education 63 (1): 62-75. Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Aligning Effective Response to Intervention Programs to Formative Assessment Processes

Response to Intervention (RTI) provides a comprehensive service delivery system designed to prevent academic problems, detect problems that do occur early, and intervene quickly to reduce the adverse consequences of learning or behavioral problems.  One main purpose of RTI is to provide a coordinated system of effective and efficient instruction and intervention for all students in the schools.  Another primary purpose of RTI is to diagnose specific learning disabilities (SLD) when students do not sufficiently respond to provided instruction and intervention (Baker, Fien, Baker, 2010).
Do Response to Intervention (RTI) processes provide the most effective opportunity to institutionalize formative assessment as a process for optimizing learning?  Basic information about state planning and implementation of the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach within six Southeast Region states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, as well as three local education agencies were examined by Sawyer, Holland, and Detgen, (2008).  Results of the study found four main reasons why these states adopted RTI.  These included:
  1. To address disproportionality;
  2. To promote overall student achievement;
  3. To better integrate general and special education; and
  4. To inform, or possibly determine, special education eligibility for students with learning disabilities.

 The authors further identified a diversity of approaches for implementation of RTI that included leadership efforts, different strategies for implementation, and collaboration between state education departments or external partners. The study empirically compared the states' experiences and concerns.  Thus, variables such as funding options, state planning practices, fidelity in implementation, identification of effective mathematics or behavior interventions, and secondary school implementation were examined. Efficacy in data collection and analysis was conspicuously absent.
A qualitative case study conducted by Dimick (2009) of administrators and teachers of a mid-sized, urban K-8 school examined views and knowledge about RTI.  Results of the surveys, interviews and focus groups indicated that RTI components and critical elements may be improved during implementation.  Specifically, results identified the value of increased leadership, training, communication, and teacher buy-in. 
Implementation of RTI offers a system of coordinated services that provides instructional and behavioral interventions to at-risk students at earlier points in time while possibly identifying students with SLD at earlier ages.  The result can be mitigation of the adverse impact of the disability or actual prevention for students developing disabilities (Stecker, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2008).  Other researchers (Deno, Reschly, Lembke, Magnusson, Callender, Windram, & Stachel, 2009) identified the benefits of a school-wide progress monitoring system developed in partnership between university personnel working with an urban elementary school’s teachers and administration to develop and implement RTI. 
Universal screening has become accepted as part of an effective RTI process.  Progress monitoring has also been accepted as an inherent part of RTI.  However, have districts, school leaders, and teacher preparation programs made the need for alignment between RTI programs and formative assessment processes sufficiently clear?
Historical and organizational perspectives provide plausible explanations for problems related to the practice of formative assessment (Dorn, 2010).  Is the practice of formative assessment for instructional and intervention decisions poorly understood because definitions are ambiguous, adoption is inconsistent, and prognosis for future use is questionable?  If so, how might a top-down approach ensure the needed professional development to align RTI programs and formative assessment processes?  System change leading to clear alignment between RTI programs and formative assessment processes should include identification of  school-level personnel to coordinate the collection of formative-assessment data as part of progress monitoring analysis and reporting in relation to RTI processes. This endeavor must also involve teacher preparation programs providing sufficient opportunities for teacher candidates and educational leaders to practice embedding formative assessment processes within progress monitoring expectations as part of an effective RTI program. 

To cite:

Anderson, C.J. (February 28, 2018) Aligning effective response to intervention programs to formative assessment
                processes.  [Web log post] Retrieved from

Baker, S., Fien, H., & Baker, D. (2010). Robust reading instruction in the early grades: Conceptual and practical issues in the integration and evaluation of tier 1 and tier 2 instructional supports. Focus on Exceptional Children, 42(9), 1. Retrieved from
Deno, S. L., Reschly, A. L., Lembke, E. S., Magnusson, D., Callender, S. A., Windram, H., & Stachel, N. (2009). Developing A school-wide progress-monitoring system. Psychology in the Schools, 46(1), 44-55. Retrieved from
Dimick, K. (2009). Response to intervention research to practice: Exploring a school in transition---a case study. (M.S., California State University, Long Beach). , 142. Retrieved from
Dorn, S. (2010). The political dilemmas of formative assessment. Exceptional Children, 76(3), 325. Retrieved from
Sawyer, R., Holland, D., & Detgen, A., (2008). State policies and procedures and selected local implementation practices in response to intervention in the six southeast region states. issues & answers. REL 2008-no. 063.Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast. Retrieved from
Stecker, P., Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. (2008). Progress monitoring as essential practice within response to intervention. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 27(4), 10. Retrieved from