Branching Minds MTSS Summit -- December 8th, 2021

Branching Forward: Setting Intentions for MTSS in the New Year. REGISTER NOW

The Power of Strength-Based Instruction

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Equity, Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Meetings, Behavior

All students (and adults) have strengths and weaknesses. In K-12 education, student weaknesses and areas of concern are sometimes more apparent, while strengths can fade into the background. Over the past decade, there has been a movement in education to be more explicit in addressing student strengths and encouraging the use of instructional practices to promote growth in areas that might need improvement. The MTSS framework provides an excellent opportunity for educators to shift their instruction, problem-solving, and planning to include student strengths in addition to areas of needed support. Below we outline the difference between the strengths and deficit lens, how focusing on strengths benefits all key stakeholders in education, and specific guidance on using a strengths-based approach in MTSS.

The Alphabet Soup of Behavior Support in MTSS

Practice Spotlights, Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Behavior

Anyone who works in education knows that teachers, administrators, and other school staff love to use acronyms. But for those new to teaching (as well as parents/guardians/community members), it can be challenging to keep up with the vast amount of different terms. This is especially true in the world of behavior and social-emotional learning, as acronyms sometimes get thrown around without much description or context. Educators need to understand what each acronym stands for and what components it should include to set up effective behavior plans within MTSS. Below, we outline the most commonly used acronyms when addressing student behavior within an MTSS framework, break down what they mean, and how to use them effectively.

Supporting Teacher SEL and Well-Being within an MTSS Framework

Best Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Behavior

School and district leaders are becoming increasingly dedicated to improving their social-emotional learning (SEL) programs and practices for students. But an area of SEL that sometimes gets overlooked is the social-emotional skills and well-being of staff members. We know from research and practice that efforts to promote and improve student SEL will fall short if the teachers and staff members implementing SEL curricula and strategies do not have a good handle on these skills themselves. It is also a good idea for leadership teams to start planning now for how they will support their teachers’ social-emotional needs for the upcoming school year. Here are four areas of teacher SEL to consider and work towards addressing if you plan on making SEL a priority at your school.

How to Measure SEL - 7 Approaches to Consider

Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Behavior

We know from both research and practice that assessing and measuring social-emotional competencies is an important part of promoting social-emotional learning. For a long time, social and emotional skills were seen as something less tangible than academic skills and therefore also viewed as something that couldn’t be accurately measured. After decades of research and collaboration among educators, psychologists, psychometricians, and other practitioners, we now know that social-emotional competencies can be reliably assessed. However, there are many different approaches that schools use to get this type of social-emotional data. Below we outline some of the common approaches for measuring SEL and the pros and cons to consider when planning on implementing Social-Emotional Learning(SEL) surveys, assessments and screeners. 

Aligning Your MTSS Practice with the CASEL Core Competencies

Best Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Behavior

When discussing SEL with educators, CASEL alignment almost always gets brought up. Because so many districts, schools, programs, and assessments have aligned themselves with CASEL’s framework for SEL, educators should have a thorough understanding of what CASEL is and what an alignment with the CASEL five core competencies looks like in practice. Below, we highlight key CASEL resources, components of their SEL framework, what it really means to be “CASEL aligned”, and how that alignment fits into an MTSS model. 

Spotlighting School-Based Interventions that Support Students’ Mental Health and Well-Being

Intervention Spotlight, Best Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Behavior

A few weeks ago, we posted a blog outlining how to support students’ mental health in an MTSS framework. An important part of this work includes using evidence-based programs and practices that effectively promote students’ sense of well-being. This week, we are spotlighting three school-based programs that have extensive research supporting their impact on students’ social, emotional, and academic outcomes. If your district or school is looking to implement a mental health prevention program, we recommend reviewing this list to see if any of the following interventions meet the needs of your students and staff. 

Restorative Practices and How They Fit into MTSS

Intervention Spotlight, Best Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Behavior

When discussing behavior management approaches with schools and districts, the notion of restorative practices is commonly brought up as an effective school-wide solution. There are many benefits to using restorative approaches, but it is important for school leaders to have a deeper understanding of what restorative practices entail and how they should be implemented. Below we outline the key components of a restorative practices approach along with guidelines for implementation and how to avoid common challenges and pitfalls. Finally, we discuss how these approaches actually impact schools and students and how they work within an MTSS framework. 

Supporting Students' Mental Health in an MTSS Framework

Intervention Spotlight, Best Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Behavior

Educators are becoming increasingly aware of the impacts of the global pandemic on their students’ mental health and well-being. We’ve known for a while now the negative impacts that social isolation can have on child development. Prior to the pandemic, research showed that isolation and loneliness were often associated with psychological symptoms across childhood and adolescence. Recently, researchers have started to report findings on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and youth. These research studies show that the social distancing and stay-at-home measures implemented at the beginning of the pandemic resulted in increased reports of depression and anxiety among students. Studies have also shown that these negative impacts are more likely to be amplified for students who were already disadvantaged and marginalized prior to the pandemic (i.e., students of color and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds).

Learning Loss VS Instructional Loss, & Addressing Loss Within MTSS

Best Practices, Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Distance Learning

As more districts are heading back to in-person learning, educators are being tasked with meeting the needs of students who have had a wide range of instructional and learning experiences over the past year. This might seem like even more of an uphill battle than what teachers have already gone through. Yet, there are several approaches that schools and districts can turn to help support this transition. Many of these approaches are key components of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), with which educators are already familiar. Below, we highlight the important distinction between learning and instructional loss as well as outline a few tips for effectively addressing the different skills and needs of students when they return to schools and classrooms. 

Tracking and Supporting Student Attendance in MTSS

Social-Emotional Learning, Behavior

Over the past year, attendance has become a significant issue for many schools and districts. With students learning remotely, in-person, or through a combination of both, it has been difficult for educators to not only keep track of and assess student absenteeism, but also implement effective practices to support strong attendance rates. As more students begin returning to in-person learning, it is critical for schools and districts to revisit their attendance practices and policies and make sure they are using approaches aligned with research and best practices. It is also important to align student attendance with the goals and practices used within a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS). Below, we provide an overview of why attendance is so important, how it should be monitored, and how to effectively address issues with attendance at the school, classroom, and individual student levels.