Who We Are

The New York State Response to Intervention Middle School Demonstration Project (NYS RtI MS DP) is part of the NYS Education Department’s strategy to promote and build school district capacity to implement a systemic, response to intervention process. The NYS RtI MS DP operates off a Memorandum of Understanding between the State University College of New York at Buffalo and NYSED. Located on the campus of Buffalo State College and financially supported by the NYSED, Office of Special Education, the NYS RtI MS DP promotes the development and implementation of high-quality RtI frameworks in middle schools throughout the state.

Mission/Purpose: The purpose of the RTI Middle School Demonstration Project is to promote the development and implementation of high-quality RtI frameworks in middle schools throughout the state.

Facilitate, through the provision of technical assistance and professional development at an annual Summer Institute for the 10 NYSED-selected middle schools to develop RtI frameworks at the middle school level and implement high-quality, sustainable programs.

Evaluate the effectiveness of RtI programs implemented by the 10 NYSED-selected middle schools.  Partner with the NYSED to facilitate and promote the responsive implementation and use of Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) that addresses both academic and behavioral support in NYS middle schools.



Theresa M. Janczak, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator, Project Director; Western Consortium Member

Contact Info: janczak@nysrti.org

Theresa M. Janczak serves as Principal Investigator and Project Director of the New York State Middle School Demonstration Project. In addition to her work with the NYS RtI MS DP, Dr. Janczak is an associate professor in the Exceptional Education Department at the State University College at Buffalo College where she teaches graduate level coursework involving single subject research methodology and effective instructional strategies for students with mild disabilities. Dr. Janczak holds K-12 certification in Special Education and School District Administration and was a former special educator for students with mild disabilities at the primary and middle school levels where she provided explicit and direct literacy instruction to children who struggled with the reading process. Her professional interests over the past twenty years have focused on effective instructional interventions with a focus on literacy for students considered at-risk or mildly disabled. In addition, Dr. Janczak implements a year-long family literacy training program for parents of primary-aged children in high needs schools.

Dane Marco Di Cesare, Ph.D.

Program Coordinator and Data Manager

Contact Info: danedicesadm@buffalostate.edu

Dane Marco Di Cesare serves as the Program Coordinator and Data Manager of the New York State Middle School Demonstration Project. In addition to his work with the NYS RTI MS DP, Dr. Di Cesare is an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Education Department at Brock University in Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Dane Marco Di Cesare has experience teaching a variety of courses at the university level, related to technology (e.g. Digital Practices in Inclusive Classrooms, Special Education & Technology), literacy (e.g. Language & Literacy, Adapting Reading Instruction for Students with Mild Disabilities) and behavior managements/assessment (e.g. Classroom Dynamics).

Holding 7-12 certification in English and Special Education, Dr. Dane Marco Di Cesare was a former educator in the Buffalo Public Schools. His professional interests involve digital literacies, multimodality, and classroom dynamics with a focus on students with high-incidence disabilities. He has conducted a variety of research activities related to tablet use, multimodality, and literacy with students of varying exceptionalities across different grade levels (i.e. preschool, elementary, high school).

NYS RtI MS DP Consortium Members

Ross Esslinger, M.S.Ed.

Contact Info: resslinger@iroquoiscsd.org

Ross Esslinger is currently the Middle School Principal at Iroquois Central School District in Elma, New York where he has implemented a successful RtI model program over the past several years.  Ross has been with the district for over 17 years as he started his career back in 1999.  Ross is a former Physical Education teacher, the Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics, an Assistant Principal and now serves as the Principal of the Middle School.  Ross received his Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from Cortland College (NY) and earned his Master’s Degree from Canisius College in Buffalo NY.  Ross also serves on the Board of Directors at the EMW Boys and Girls Club and supports many student centered events. 

Amy Piper, Ed.S., NCSP

West Consortium Member

Contact Info: apiper@fcsd.wnyric.org

Amy Piper is currently the Elementary Principal at Fredonia Central Schools in Fredonia, NY where she has extensive experience implementing RtI at the elementary and secondary levels. A former Special Ed director, CSE chairperson, and school psychologist for 18 years throughout Ohio and Western New York, Amy is also a former Certified AIMSweb Trainer (CAT). She received her bachelor's in Elementary Education from State University of New York at Fredonia and her Master's and Specialist's Degree in School Psychology from Miami University (OH). Amy received her School Building Leadership (SBL) and School District Leadership (SDL) certification from SUNY Fredonia. Amy has published several articles related to data-based decision making, CBM and RtI and is a chapter review editor for Best Practices in School Psychology--IV and Best Practices in School Psychology--V. Amy has worked with many schools across the country in the implementation of RtI and data-based decision making and was the New York State Administrator of the Year in 2013 (NYSEOP).

Seth Aldrich, Ph.D.

Mid-West Consortium Member

Contact Info: sethfaldrich@gmail.com

Seth Aldrich is a certified bilingual school psychologist, as well as a NY State licensed psychologist.  He works as a school psychologist for the Homer Central School District, and also consults with school districts concerning Response to Intervention (RTI) for academic and behavioral difficulties.  Seth consults with educators to utilize FastBridge as well as other RTI/MTSS assessments for data base decision-making within a tiered problem solving process.  He is a consortium member with the New York State RTI Technical Assistance Center, and works primarily with English language learners (ELLs) as well as family court involved youth in his private practice.  Seth has published articles in school psychology journals, and has presented at many statewide, as well as national conferences on topics such as tiered problem solving, data based decision-making, program evaluation, peer tutoring, school-based intervention teams, and RTI for English language learners. Seth’s most recent publication is the book: RTI for English Language Learners: Understanding, Differentiation and Support.

Tanya Eckert, Ph.D.

Mid-State Consortium Member

Contact Info: taeckert@syr.edu

Tanya L. Eckert is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of Training of the School Psychology Program at Syracuse University. Dr. Eckert’s research interests focus on the assessment and intervention of children with academic skills problem. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 journal articles on these topics as well as giving more than 100 national or regional conference presentations. Dr. Eckert recently served as a Co-PI on an Institute of Education Sciences grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop academic progress monitoring materials that can be used in elementary school settings. Currently, she is a Co-PI on a personnel preparation grant from the Office of Special Education Programs of the US Department of Education.  Dr. Eckert was appointed as a Technical Review Committee member of the National Center Intervention and is an Associate Editor of School Psychology Review. She received her doctorate in school psychology from Lehigh University in 1996.

Lori Strong, Ph.D.

East/Long Island Consortium Member

Contact Info: lmstrongphd@gmail.com

Lori Strong was a practicing general and special educator and reading teacher for over 50 years in the Capital Region’s public schools. She recently retired as a faculty member in the Literacy and Special Education Program at The College of Saint Rose where she prepared literacy specialists and special educators in assessment, research, and instructional design and supervised pre-service specialists in their clinical practicum experience. She provides staff development in area schools and presents regional workshops for the northeast area BOCES. She specializes in diagnosis of literacy problems and interventions for struggling, at-risk, and disabled readers. Dr. Strong is a member of the New York State Education Department P-12, Office of Special Education literacy workgroup. On that workgroup, she serves as the representative for higher education and is an author of the Literacy Quality Indicators recently released by New York State Education Department P-12, Office of Special Education.

Joan Miller, Ph.D.

Mid-Hudson Consortium Member

Contact Info: jmiller@msmc.edu

Dr. Joan M. Miller, a Professor of Education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY, has taught prospective and practicing special educators for over 30 years. She has conducted extensive professional development in urban and suburban settings, most recently as an educational coordinator for the Hudson Valley Regional School Support Center. Her current interests include strategy instruction, content enhancement to support students with learning problems in the general classroom, literacy in the content areas, and curriculum-based measurement.

Katherine Stahl, Ed.D.

New York City/Long Island Consortium Member

Contact Info: kay.stahl@nyu.edu

Katherine A. Dougherty Stahl, EdD, is Clinical Professor of Reading at New York University, where she serves as Director of the NYU Literacy Program, Director of the NYU Literacy Clinic, and teaches graduate courses. In addition to teaching in public elementary school classrooms for over 25 years, Dr. Stahl has extensive experience working with struggling readers in clinical settings. During the last 5 years, she has worked extensively to support schools in NY align RTI and CCSS. Her work focuses on reading acquisition, struggling readers, and comprehension. Dr. Stahl’s books include Reading Assessment in an RTI Framework, Assessment for Reading Instruction (3rd Ed.), Developing Reading Comprehension: Effective Instruction for All Children in Prek-2, and Reading Research at Work: Foundations of Effective Practice. Her articles have appeared in Reading Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, Urban Education, and the Journal of Literacy Research. She has been the recipient of Harvard’s Jeanne Chall Visiting Researcher Award and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development Teaching Excellence Award.

NYS RtI MS DP State Education Department Liaisons

Noel Granger

Supervisor, Program Development and Support Services

Contact Info: noel.granger@nysed.gov

Jason O’Connell

Associate, Program Development and Support Services

Contact Info: jason.oconnell@nysed.gov

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