Fidelity versus Reality: Making it Work on the Flip Side

Let’s talk about fidelity.  There has been a lot of discussion in our district about having fidelity to the interventions we are providing for our “at risk” readers.  Fidelity means “the quality of being faithful and loyal to…” in our case Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI). Teaching  is not a one size fits all endeavour, this is especially true for children who are struggling as Fountas and Pinnell would surely agree.  Our instructional intention has to really meet students’ particular needs.  That said, we also work in a public school where there is a certain measure of freedom and choice but with this also comes boundaries we are obliged to stay within.  In short, there is a fine line between freedom and obligation.  The obligation we feel, is to stay wedded to a very narrow understanding of fidelity. On the flip side, we have to exercise our professional  judgement and have the freedom to find something that is going to work in the reality of the classroom.

We believe in the power of a good conversation.  We belong to a Voxer community (we’ve written about this in previous posts) and there was a lot of great discussion.  We want to highlight two points from our  colleagues Joanne Duncan and  Trevor Bryan:

  • Joanne Duncan (@joanneduncanjo) said, “You’ve got to have fidelity to the children in front of you.”  Agreed.  The next question was; “How do we have fidelity to our students without compromising  the students’ needs  in front of us within the temporal boundaries of a classroom structure?”  We were wrestling with that question when: Trevor Bryan (@trevorabryan ) added this powerful insight:  “The vision can not be to implement the program but the program has to be implemented to fit a vision.”  

We have to go back to our vision: to provide consistency, frequency, duration, and most importantly to keep the focus on our students so we can close the learning gaps. With this knowledge, we came up with a plan.  We analyzed  Appendix D in Fountas and Pinnell’s Red System Guide.  We will follow the suggested sequence but do it with a twist.  It is going to be a shared responsibility between Jenn, as the interventionist and Jill, as the classroom teacher.  Jill’s students are Tier 2 students, that means they are eligible for a 3 day a week intervention.  Our plan is to keep the intervention continuous regardless of the days Jenn pushes in.  Jenn will provide 3 days of intervention and then Jill will continue to provide this intervention for the next 2 days during her guided reading time. In short, one will pick up where the other left off – the teaching will be shared and each will have access to the data.  Our most powerful resource is to lean into each other.

It is striking to us that it always goes back to what is valued, thinking about our values through a fidelity lens is very nuanced.  In fact, there is a  third definition of fidelity which is “the degree to which something matches or copies something else”.  Our goal is not to copy or match someone else’s teaching but to make sure we are faithful to the structure of the intervention.  In doing this, we analyzed LLI’s structure and have come up with a way to provide a greater service for our students. One which may have the potential to become  another option for providing a Tier 2 intervention.  District wide, we need systems in place that allow for coaches to have time to provide professional development and coaching to teachers and at the same time service students.  This could be a viable way to accomplish this goal.  Above all else our greatest resource is the collaboration between teachers and coaches so we can ensure that the needs of our students are met.  

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