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Interviews with leaders at NIFDI Partner Schools

One of the most important steps a school that is starting to implement DI can take is to contact school leaders who have been successful with DI. Through this contact, new DI practitioners can learn from the experiences of veteran DI practitioners to ensure that their students are also successful with DI. Over the course of 25 years, NIFDI has had the privilege of partnering with schools across the U.S. and in other countries. (Click here for success stories of NIFDI partners.)Now, NIFDI is launching a series of video interviews with experienced DI leaders that can help inform new practitioners about their experiences working with NIFDI. Below are some short video interviews (lasting about 10 minutes) with instructional leaders who share their experiences working with NIFDI and how it has affected their instructional practices and the performance of their students.

Rhonda Richetta, Principal
City Springs Elementary/Middle School
Baltimore, Maryland
Implementation Type: Schoolwide literacy and math
Partnered with NIFDI in 1996

Rhonda started at City Springs as a teacher, left the school, and then returned as principal. Upon her return, she found that the implementation had deteriorated substantially. Her solution was to contact NIFDI and get her school back to the high quality she knew was possible. When asked how NIFDI helped her as an administrator, she replied, "The assistance in looking at the data and making decisions was really valuable. I couldn't have done it by myself." For teaching staff, she adds, "The most valuable tool for a teacher is a NIFDI coach… side by side, shoulder to shoulder. They model for you, show you, and give you feedback."


Sean McKenzie, Director of Support Services
Bethel School District
Spanaway, Washington.
Implementation Type: Corrective Reading, intervention students in 4 schools
Partnered with NIFDI in 2019

Bethel School District partnered with NIFDI to refresh and upgrade their implementation of the Corrective Reading Program. They had been DI users for some time but weren't getting the results they felt were possible. Along with improved student performance, Sean notes the increase in quality and quantity of communication of staff members. He tells us, "Schools with NIFDI support have more and better discussions about what they are doing and how it impacts individual student achievement." He goes on to say, "The partnership between cert[ified] and para[professional] is tight. They know that their time with students is the most important time they are going to get, and they treat it accordingly."

Finally, he tells us, "Our principals have all agreed that NIFDI support is the single most changing professional development experience they have experienced in their careers."


Nazam Hussain, School Psychologist
Bradford, United Kingdom

Implementation type: Language for Learning and Reading Mastery in 2 Primary Schools.

NIFDI began working in Bradford when Nazam attended the National Direct Instruction Conference in 2019. He was interested in improving the professional development opportunities for teachers beyond what he describes as "one-off presentations that have no effect." He further describes how NIFDI support is the polar opposite. "The thoroughness and robustness of the training was rigorous and professional but sensitive to the individual. The schools like the support, and they are seeing the results."


Robin Shakespeare, Director of Education
Midland Academies Trust
United Kingdom

Implementation type: Research project implementing Connecting Math Concepts in 8 schools and extended professional development of their key DI support personnel.

NIFDI began partnering with the Midlands Academy Trust and the U.K. Direct Instruction hub in 2018. The Education Endowment Fund was calling for research on improving math skills in students in their secondary schools (U.S. equivalent to 7th-9th grade). The staff had been using DI for several years but had not received formal training. Once we began working together, the Midlands leadership quickly realized the benefits of the NIFDI partnership. As Robin describes, "When you work with NIFDI, you work with a group of people who are professional, passionate and challenging–in the best sense of the word." To describe the impact of NIFDI support, Robin says, "I would use the word transformational to characterize our relationship with NIFDI."


Selina Ortiz, Assistant Principal of Instruction
IDEA Edinberg Academy
Edinberg, Texas

Implementation Type: Reading Mastery (Signature and Transformations), DISTAR Arithmetic I and Connecting Math Concepts in Pre-K through grades 2 and Corrective Reading, Essentials for Algebra, DISE, and Expressive Writing in grades 3-8.

Partnered with NIFDI in 2010

Selina Ortiz has been a classroom assistant and teacher and is now an Assistant Principal of Instruction. She appreciates the data-driven nature of NIFDI implementations and how it supports her in her job, and in turn, helps teachers overcome student performance problems. She says, “The teachers have gained so much knowledge behind the data tracking. They love the consistency of end-of-week goals, end-of-month goals… it is so helpful.” Selina also values the strong professional development NIFDI provides. She notes, “The tools and procedures taught in training are applicable to an array of programs. When they present a new program, they pick it up easily.”


Ann Fuentes, Assistant Principal of Instruction
IDEA Mission Academy
Mission, Texas

Implementation Type: Reading Mastery (Signature and Transformations), DISTAR Arithmetic I and Connecting Math Concepts in Pre-K through grades 2 and Corrective Reading, Essentials for Algebra, DISE, and Expressive Writing in grades 3-8.

Partnered with NIFDI in 2010

Ann Fuentes is the Assistant Principal of Instruction at IDEA Mission Academy. One of the things she values in partnering with NIFDI is the strong relational support the NIFDI Implementation Manager (IM) provides. She talks about her school’s implementation manager’s style of giving “small, bitesize level of feedback. This has supported me in improving as a teacher. The IM's build relationships. She is here to help and support. It is a caring, comforting approach.”

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