Dr. Dolores Burton addresses an integrated approach to today’s classrooms


It is my honor to have Dr. Burton with us today on Author Interview Friday.  I rarely have the opportunity to have non-fiction writers here and it is a wonderful change. I know that there have been so many new changes in the school system over the years and although I no longer have children in school, I hear the grumblings from young parents about the school testing programs and the general decline in good teaching. It sounds like you have offered an answer to their concerns.

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Dolores Burton has been an educator for 37 years and consulted on educational matters locally for school districts, nationally and internationally for universities such as Moi University in Kenya. She was recently honored as a Fulbright Senior Scholar and traveled to South Africa to assist the University of Pretoria to create programs for underserved populations.

Dr. Burton recently retired as chair of teacher education and a professor at New York Institute of Technology. She is a former middle and high school mathematics and computer science teacher and school district administrator responsible for the installation of district-wide and county-wide technology implementations and professional development for teachers. She is permanently certified in New York State as a classroom teacher of mathematics, building administrator and school district administrator.

Her first book, The Complete Guide to RtI: An Implementation Toolkit, was published in December 2011 by Corwin Publications and her second book, Mathematics, the Common Core, and RtI: An Integrated Approach to Teaching in Today’s Classrooms, was published in September 2013. She has published in numerous journals and presented in regional, national, and international venues on topics related to; mathematics, STEM, using technology to enhance teaching and learning, differentiated instruction and assessment and using brain based learning strategies to reach all students among other topics. In the early 1980’s she authored 10 modules of software to prepare students for standardized tests in mathematics and was the first author admitted to the Author’s Guild for authoring non-print material.

She has a special interest in using research to close the achievement gap of the traditionally underserved populations; nontraditional learners, English Language Learners, students with special needs, and others at-risk for academic failure.

Before we begin, can you explain what “RTI” actually is or “the Common Core?”

To answer your question, I’ll take a quote from our first book, The Complete Guide to RTI. A change in regulations that govern education in this country took place in 2001 with the legislation, No Child Left Behind. In place of accumulated experience, past practice, expertise, professional judgment, and training as the basis for decision-making, the standard for educational practice would be the scientific method: “systematic, empirical methods . . .  rigorous data analysis . . . observational methods . . . experimental or quasi-experimental designs .”

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tiered approach to identifying and supporting students with learning and behavior needs. Its purpose is to provide high quality, scientifically based instruction in the general education classroom. The RTI process includes ongoing student assessment and monitoring of individual student progress (progress monitoring) that tracks the results of targeted and “tiered” interventions. These interventions are introduced first to all learners (beginning at the elementary school level), and then increased for those who show a need for additional support. This additional support comes from a multi-tiered approach that provides differentiated instruction to develop their skills.

While no single RTI model is universally practiced among all grade levels, generally, the three (sometimes four or five) separate tiers of specific learning strategies offer increasing levels of intensity of instruction to accelerate students’ rates of learning, based on their individual needs.

Common Core refers to the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics that are implemented on a state level for education. The proper name in Florida for the Reading standards is “English Language Arts and Literacy”.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

As a teenager I wanted to be an artist; then I thought about becoming a teacher of mathematics. I chose mathematics because as a math teacher I would not have to write, just work with numbers. I did not think I was a very good writer but knew I was a good math student. My interest in writing began about 15 years ago. Over my professional career, I had written many reports, memos, etc. but had not found my passion. My passion was ignited when I started doing research for my dissertation and learned from my professors ways to create new ideas and knowledge to share about best strategies to use to help children and adults learn new concepts. Around that time, personal computers were being installed in schools and the use of technology for teaching and learning was very exciting to me; like a really challenging jigsaw puzzle. Around the same time word processors were becoming more powerful (thank goodness for spell check!) and suddenly I could write about what I was discovering about using computers in schools to benefit students.

How long did it take to publish your first manuscript?

The process to publish our first book, The Complete Guide to RTI: An Implementation Toolkit, started in the summer of 2008 and continued until the book was published in December of 2011. The book proposal was completed and submitted to the publisher in June 2010. We received the contract from our publisher in August 2010. The book went through a peer review process several times during this period and each time a response to the peer reviewers’ comments needed to be submitted to the publisher. This added to the time between idea and publication.

The book we are discussing today started as an idea while writing the mathematics chapter in The Complete Guide to RTI. Once I started the research for the chapter, I realized to do justice to this topic; it would take more than a 20 page chapter. Hence, Mathematics, the Common Core, and RTI: An Integrated Approach to Teaching in Today’s Classrooms was born!

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? How did you find your publisher?

Both books were published by Corwin Publications, a division of Sage Publications. I found the publisher by identifying books in a similar genre and making a list of their publishers. I attended conferences and met some of the staff of 3 or 4 potential publishers and gave them a one page flyer that described the premise of the book and the titles of the chapters. I focused on Corwin because I liked the conversations with the Corwin editors I met. I guess you can say it felt right. I followed up with a 70 page book proposal (most likely over kill) based on the directions for authors on the Corwin website.

What was the hardest part of the writing process; the outline, the synopsis, query or building the story itself?

The hardest part of the writing process for me was getting over “writers block”. Periodically I would sit down at my computer and stare at the screen. Absolutely no thought would enter my mind regarding whatever topic I was trying to write about. My technique to get over that “mental freeze” was to just start writing even if a page or two made no sense in the context of the book and was eventually discarded. For me, the process of typing on the computer sometimes helps to make my brain think.

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

The most important advice I can think of for new writers is, “Write every day!”. The more you write the better writer you will become. When you are not writing; read. Reading the work of good writers has helped me to analyze my own writing. I have writing buddies that read my work are “critical friends” Before we start the process we agree to not to take the suggestions personally and be honest with each other about how we can make the chapter, article or proposal better. Sometimes my husband becomes my “critical friend” especially when I am trying to judge how clear I have presented an idea.

What is the premise of the book we are promoting today?

Mathematics, the Common Core, and RTI: An Integrated Approach to Teaching in Today’s Classrooms was written to help pre-service and in-service teachers, parents and administrators to create opportunities for all students to be successful in mathematics. We tried to give strategies that are easy to use that will help children in grades 1 through 8 to succeed in the new more rigorous Common Core Mathematics State Standards   and the English Language Arts and Literacy State Standards, whether they are challenged or typical students. There are chapters describing the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and literacy, special strategies for students for whom English is not their first language, students with special needs and a chapter to help parents understand the new Common Core Standards  and resources for them to help their children. The book was released on September 26, 2013 and is available on Amazon.com and Corwin.com.

Burton_Mathematics_the_Common_Core_and_RTI       42181_Burton_Complete_Guide_RTI_72ppiRGB_150pixw (2)

I must apologize for the small copy of the Complete Guide to RTI book.  One thing I am not is a computer wiz and try as I may, this was the best I could do.

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet our appetite?

This is an excerpt from Chapter 1:

The most pervasive mandates in American schools today are the Common Core State Standards (prescribing the content of instruction) and Response to Intervention (prescribing a data-based method of instruction). Most of the resources available to help teachers work with either mandate treat the two as separate entities, without reference to the other. As a result, mathematics educators are calling for some way of working with CCSS and RTI as a single, unified program that they can use in their classes, rather than as separate, isolated mandates. Discussions with teachers reflect John F. Kennedy’s frustration with his advisors when he reportedly complained, “All my economists say, ‘on the one hand . . . on the other.’ Give me a one-handed economist” (quoted in Krugman, 2003, p. 11). Teachers need a single inte­grated approach to mathematics instruction—not two, let alone three or more—that addresses the needs of all their students.

In preparation for this book, we reviewed the growing collection of mate­rial on CCSS and RTI that is available to educators, and as we listened to col­leagues who are introducing the two programs to their schools, it became clear that what they needed was not another handbook telling them what CCSS or RTI is. What they want is, first, a way of untangling the perspectives of the many experts within the fields of the Common Core and RTI. Second, they are asking for help in charting a path through the potential interactions between RTI and the other mandated requirements their schools face, par­ticularly the Common Core, but also the No Child Left Behind legislation, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards, differentiated instruction and universal design, inclusion, parent involvement, and the demands of their local school policies. Teaching mathematics is a more com­plex activity than ever before, and the need for a unified instructional strat­egy to teach all students has never been stronger. There is pressing need for a book that integrates the multiple new requirements into a single, compre­hensible process that can help teachers succeed with the mandates of CCSS and RTI, but more important, to help each of their students achieve success in mathematics. That is our goal.

Where can readers buy your books? 

On Amazon:     http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&field-author=Dolores%20T.%20Burton&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3ADolores%20T.%20Burton

On Corwin.com

http://www.corwin.com/books/Book236037   for The Complete Guide to RTI

http://www.corwin.com/books/Book239522     for Mathematics, the Common Core and RTI

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