Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Joanne Marshall


Background/context: Until recently, the use of Multi-tiered Systems of Support/Response to Intervention (MTSS/RtI) in Iowa has been limited to identifying students who need special education services. In December 2011, the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) released a document announcing the timeline for mandatory implementation of MTSS/RtI in all classrooms in all public Pre-K-12 schools. The IDOE document outlined an initial sequence of steps that schools would follow. The sequence began with providing evidence-based instruction in math and reading for kindergarten through sixth grade. Based on the IDOE timeline, this study examines the early implementation process as it applies to elementary schools.

Purpose: To explore and understand the perceptions and experiences of teachers in one Iowa public elementary school as they worked through initial implementation of multi-tiered systems of support/response to intervention (MTSS/RtI) using Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) guidelines.

Participants/setting: 9 teachers, 1 principal in a small, rural Iowa elementary school.

Intervention: Teachers were given a Pre-Fieldwork Survey, were interviewed pre- and post-implementation over the course of one school year, and were observed in their classrooms. The principal was also interviewed.

Research Design: Qualitative case study

Data Collection and Analysis: Data was collected that related to teacher perception of, and experience with the initial implementation of MTSS/RtI. Data included Pre-fieldwork Survey responses, interviews with faculty at the start and the end of the school year, and observations of classrooms with an instrument designed in accordance with, and based on guidelines from the Response to Intervention: Blueprints for Implementation published by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE, 2008). The data was analyzed using QSR International’s NVivo 10 qualitative data analysis software. In addition, analysis was done to detect patterns for teacher response comparisons and to match patterns with existing research findings (Esterberg, 2002). Next, the researcher coded the one-on-one interview responses and field observation checklists, and finally, analyzed the coded data for patterns.

Findings: Five themes emerged which were interconnected through the literature and in the teachers’ perceptions and experiences of MTSS/RtI implementation. The results of this study demonstrate that teachers are more positive about change when they feel they have been consulted and involved in the process of implementation.

At the beginning of the study in the fall, teachers were aware of MTSS/RtI, but they were not aware that implementation was mandated. At the conclusion of the study in the spring, teachers understood the MTSS/RtI policy and what their responsibility was in relation to the mandate. Understanding teacher perceptions of the change process related to the mandated implementation of MTSS/RtI, and understanding the knowledge and skills needed for implementation of MTSS/RtI should help inform teachers in other Iowa schools who have not yet begun the implementation process.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that informed, empowered teachers are essential in the initial and ongoing stages of MTSS/RtI policy implementation. The analysis also suggests that another key to successful implementation is an administrator with both a vision for implementation and a plan for sharing the vision.


Copyright Owner

Marcy Rose Hahn



File Format


File Size

157 pages