What is Fidelity of Implementation?
Fidelity of implementation is the delivery of instruction in the way in which it was designed to be delivered. Fidelity must also address the integrity with which screening and progress monitoring procedures are completed and an explicit decision making model is followed. In an RTI model, fidelity is important at both the school level (e.g., implementation of the process) and teacher level (e.g., implementation of scientifically-based core curriculum and progress monitoring).
Why is Fidelity of Implementation Important?
Fidelity of implementation is critical if RTI is to be successful. For an RTI component to be successful in addressing current challenges, that component needs to be implemented with high integrity. When schools adopt new initiatives, curriculums, or assessments in name only, without fidelity to essential program design features, results are often poor. Several studies confirm the importance of fidelity of implementation to maximize program effectiveness. Although these studies examined various interventions, the results suggest that positive student outcomes may be attributed to three related factors:
- Fidelity of implementation of the process (at the school level).
- Degree the selected scientifically-based interventions are supported by data.
- Fidelity of intervention implementation (at the teacher level).
What Would Schools Consider?
Direct and frequent assessment of an intervention for fidelity is considered to be the best practice. When researching the effectiveness of an intervention, it is critical to be able to report the fidelity with which it was implemented so that any resulting gains in student achievement can be accurately attributed to the intervention and the intervention may be replicated. When implementing an intervention, it is critical to know whether it is being implemented as designed, so that if the intervention is initially unsuccessful, schools can take appropriate measures to remedy the deficiency rather than abandoning the entire reform. The ultimate goal of a fidelity system is to ensure that both the school process of RTI and the classroom instruction at various tiers are implemented and delivered as intended. This goal must be balanced with the school’s existing resources.