Policy implementation as situated dialogue
Sailors, Amanda Smith
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Education policy implementation is a complex endeavor, and successful implementation often depends upon the local context and the people involved in implementation. Policies are often adapted to fit the local context. The term “Response to Intervention” refers not only to a theoretical framework for early intervention and prevention of academic and behavior problems, but also to the inclusion of a provision in IDEA 2004 for states to use a process of Response to Intervention as part of eligibility for special education services. While the research literature has explored components of a successful RTI framework, as well as whether or not the implementation of an RTI framework can improve student achievement, little attention has been given to the factors that influence the successful implementation of an RTI framework at the district level. The purpose of this study was to engage in a dialogue around RTI implementation in a local school system in an effort to understand how the system has worked to implement an RTI framework that is adapted to the local context. In this case study of RTI implementation in Cannon County, interview transcripts, organizational documents, and entries in a researcher journal were analyzed, using a philosophical hermeneutic lens, in order to ascertain how the reconstruction of one school system’s implementation of the theoretical RTI framework can help us to understand the conditions for its adaptation. The findings, constructed partly as a creative nonfiction dialogue and partly as a thick description, reveal that implementation of the RTI framework was helped by the district’s efforts to break from the previous intervention process, a focus on how RTI impacts instruction for all students, an effort to implement the framework with fidelity by establishing processes and procedures, and by the work of formal and informal leaders. RTI implementation was hindered by resource barriers related to personnel, intervention materials, scheduling, and funding. Implementation at the secondary level was more problematic than at the elementary level. Implications for the implementation of RTI, as well as other curriculum reform policies, are discussed.