No matter how effective a solution, without fidelity of implementation that solution will not be successful. Fidelity of implementation, sometimes referred to as “Intervention Integrity” simply means that the intervention is carried out in the way it was designed. Researchers emphasize the importance of fidelity at all tiers of intervention and throughout all essential components of the RTI system. If an intervention has a research base supporting, for example, a particular duration, frequency, length of session, etc., then the intervention should be conducted as it was in the research studies in order to meet the “fidelity” criterion.
Intervention Integrity is important because failure to implement with fidelity can result in a number of undesired or unintended outcomes. For example, failure to implement with fidelity may unintentionally impede the progress of the student through the intervention. It may also falsely implicate the student’s learning ability—rather than the implementation of the intervention—in his or her failure to progress. In addition, placements, decisions, and outcomes of an RTI program as a whole cannot be supported unless fidelity of implementation is clearly documented.
The Role of Leadership in Fidelity
Administrators and teacher leaders can help ensure fidelity of implementation by emphasizing it in professional development sessions introducing the intervention. Most compelling among arguments for fidelity are statistics demonstrating past successes using the intervention with integrity. Research shows that once educators begin seeing results on their own, the need for providing them with awards, recognitions or other incentives to implement the program with fidelity is diminishes. Just the fact that students are making progress is generally an intrinsic motivator.
Leaders should ensure successes are celebrated and must also provide support to teachers and administrators who are falling short of the expected results of the intervention. One way is to share strategies and best practices for the effective use of time and resources necessary to implement the intervention within the school day.
How Ascend Math Documents Fidelity
The automaticity of Ascend’s progress monitoring and reporting facilitates administrators’ and teachers’ ability to implement with fidelity and to document the implementation. School staff are able to retrieve and analyze hours worked and levels gained by individual students, classes and other groupings, grade levels, and schools, and administrators are able to easily review whole-school progress.
Ascend Math Results
This documentation of fidelity produces results. Ascend Math has been successfully implemented with consistent results in a variety of use models. As mentioned in Part Five of this series, some schools use Ascend as the cornerstone of a second math elective. Others use the program in regularly scheduled math labs or in block periods. Ascend has tracked and documented the success of students using any of these instructional configurations.
In a middle school in which students use Ascend as a second math elective 67 percent of sixth graders, 56 percent of seventh graders, and 75 percent of eighth graders gained a full grade level progress in a single quarter. In a high school in which students use Ascend in math labs approximately four hours per week, numerous students progressed through two grade levels and some students progressed through three within a single school year. In another middle school in which students use Ascend in block periods approximately two to three hours per week, 41 percent of students completed two or more levels within a single school year, and 45 students using Ascend reached their grade level. See more results here.