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    MTSS Practice Instituting MTSS

    Meetings are meant to be an engine of productivity in the workplace, but let’s face it—you must have been in one of these meeting situations at least once:

    • Wondering why you are in a particular meeting and checking your inbox or doing work while checked out entirely from the conversation;
    • Struggling to keep your eyes open as the conversation droned on and on in the room about something so unrelated to your work;
    • Found yourself stuck in a meeting where it wasn’t clear what was being decided;
    • The meeting gets off on a side tangent, and you spend the entire time talking about something that doesn’t move the work forward;
    •  You have something to say but are unsure whether it’s the right time or place;
    • All of the above!

    Meetings constitute a large part of our work and an essential part of the work of educators as they come together to make decisions that in most cases impact students’ life and future. And to be honest and realistic, nobody wants to sit in boring, unproductive, and poorly facilitated meetings—your time as a professional and, most notably, as an educator is way too valuable for that! 

    Meetings facts:

    While there isn’t a standardized way to count this, this estimate is based upon some data and extrapolation, and these statistics are staggering:

    • In the US alone, approximately 55 million meetings happen every single day
    • If you’re a manager, on average, you’re probably meeting 12 times/week
    • If you’re an individual contributor, on average, you’re probably meeting eight times/week
    Source: Lucimeetings

    School and district teams need to take a systematic approach to run team meetings as in the business world. 

    So let’s unpack meetings, their best practices, and how to apply them in the MTSS context.

    Meeting Lifecycle

    There are only three phases of any meeting’s lifecycle:

    • Before the meeting:
      • Planning an agenda
      • Scheduling a meeting
      • Researching attendees (when applicable)
      • Preparing presentation or discussion material
      • Assigning pre-meeting homework when applicable (reviewing data, reading documents, etc.)
    • During the meeting:
      • Preparing to join a meeting (dialing into a zoom call, planning a commute, or meeting room transfer for in-person)
      • Deciding action items, respective owners, and timelines
      • Taking brief meeting notes
    • After the meeting:
      • Writing detailed meeting notes
      • Sharing notes with attendees and colleagues who were not part of the meeting
      • Entering information into some system of record for tracking purposes
      • Completing your action items
      • Following up on others’ action items

    Meeting Norms & Best Practices

    Meeting norms can be subjective and vary from one organization to another and from one team to another, but the foundations remain the same.

    At Branching Minds, we crafted our meeting expectations from input provided by the entire team after participating in a survey assessing our meeting culture and a series of workshops on how to make our meetings better. Those meeting norms are designed to help us achieve greater productivity while allowing us to live our values best. 

    Our meetings at Branching Minds are expected to be:

    • Inclusive - every attendee has a voice
    • A Shared Experience - everyone has an active role and is contributing
    • Productive - we get in with a purpose, we get out with action steps toward that purpose
    • Responsive - the meeting structure evolves based on the needs of the team
    Although we have designed our norms for us, they do not differ much from the standard norms applicable in any team.

    Here is the comprehensive list of norms for showing up in meetings to consider:

    Before the meeting:

    During the meeting:

    After the meeting:

    • Do your homework before the meeting! Check the agenda before the meeting, address any required actions or preparation needed (e.g., readings, data review, drafting docs, etc.) 
    • Show up and start on time. 

    If you are the meeting caller and/or facilitator:

    • Make sure there is a purpose for the meeting and that the goal is clear
    • Send an agenda early on to allow people to prepare
    • Assign roles: including a note-taker, a timekeeper, and a facilitator.
    • Stay engaged, rather than doing other things unrelated to the meeting 
    • As a participant, you are expected to be engaged and participate. Ask questions actively, and request clarification. Do not assume!
    • Stay on topic, and avoid tangential conversations 
    • If the host's camera is on, everyone's camera is on
    • Keep your cameras and audio on 

    If you are the meeting caller and/or facilitator:

    • Prioritize items 
    • Stick to the agenda
    • Promote and model ostentatious listening*
    • Make sure all voices are heard (a good practice is to start your meeting with a check-in question)
    • Create a safe space that promotes creativity and where people feel safe enough to speak 
    • Before the end of the meeting, confirm that everyone got what they needed and that their actions are clear
    • End the meeting with a check-out - short feedback on the meeting and a sacred space for each person to share. It will allow seed improvement for the next meeting.
    • Follow up on action steps after the meeting: Define action steps, assign work to specific individuals, and hold each other accountable (e.g., using Asana and scheduling due dates).
    • Follow-through: Send meeting notes or a recap of decisions and action items, when appropriate.

    If you are the meeting caller and/or facilitator:

    • Sum up the meeting with notes and action items. 
    • Make sure these notes are accessible to everyone who attended the meeting. 

    *Ostentatious listening is when team members demonstrate they are actively listening by repeating what has just been said, and making eye contact. Watch this video by Charles Duhigg, starting 01:28, about the characteristics of perfect teams.

    Applying Meeting Norms Within an MTSS Framework

    While the initial perception is that adopting an MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support) practice adds additional meetings, it actually refocuses meetings—we don’t meet just for the sake of meeting; we meet with a clear structure. As MTSS meets the needs of the entire student body, these processes ensure that no student “falls through the cracks.”

    ➡️ Related Resource: Communication Planning for MTSS

    In an effective MTSS or RTI model, there are different meeting processes, structures and objectives that allow effective problem-solving at the school, grade/content team, and individual student level. These meetings have different functions and agendas, as follow:

    The School Leadership Meeting

    This meeting is conducted three times a year, similar to a universal screener. The goal of this meeting is to understand the school-wide health and wellness around MTSS. The School Leadership team reviews school-level data (assessment scores, tier demographic distributions, tier movement and referral rates, etc.) to answer the question, "Is this a healthy school?"

    The Grade/Content Team Community Meeting

    This meeting happens monthly, during a dedicated grade team meeting time. This meeting aims to discuss and problem-solve for students the teachers are concerned about because they aren't making sufficient progress, typically students' recieving Tier 2 support, and to check in on students' receiving Tier 3 support. Grade/Content teams create/review these students' intervention plans and refer students for a Student Check-in Meeting if needed.

    The Individual Student Support Meeting

    This meeting provides the time and space for individualized deep dive problem-solving for students not making sufficient progress when supported by the Grade/Content Team Community Meeting.

    ➡️ Related Resource: MTSS Resources for School Leadership






    Evaluate school-wide health and wellness of MTSS practice

    Monitor progress of students' receiving Tier 2 support and look for trends in support needs at the system, teacher, or student level

    Deeper dive problem-solving for students not making sufficient progress, and to create/revise Intervention Plans


    1 hour, 3x per year (post-universal screeners)

    1 planning period a month

    Weekly or bi-weekly ½ or full-day meetings (depending on the number of students needing Tier 3 support)


    • Principal
    • Data specialists (e.g., AP or counselor)
    • Student 
    • Service/instructional service representative
    • Special Ed representative/ teacher
    • Grade-level rep (large schools) OR Gen Ed teacher rep (small schools)
    • All teachers and specialists who are working with students receiving Tier 2 support in that grade or content area.
    • MTSS lead (principal, AP, or school psych)
    • Intervention specialist(s)
    • Rotating gen ed teacher of the student being discussed


    • Examine the percent of students adequately served by the core
    • Examine equity of core instruction (across demographics, grades, and classrooms)
    • Evaluate student body growth and tier movement
    • Evaluate equity of student growth and tier movement
    • Evaluate quality of intervention delivery 
    • Plan for improved support

    First meeting after screener

    • Review tiers and students that will receive tiered support
    • Create groups and plans for students participating in Tier 2 support
    • Schedule student problem-solving meetings for students participating in Tier 3 support

    Follow-up meetings

    • Review progress of groups receiving Tier 2 support
    • Look for trends in student growth
    • Make course corrections to promote growth (e.g., provide support to teachers, change strategy)
    • Schedule individual problem-solving for students if necessary
    • Teacher presents data
    • Team evaluates individual student progress
    • Team analyzes and identifies problems
    • Team creates intervention plan to support student

    **Should avg 4-5 students in a ½ day, or 8-10 students in a full day

    Get a downloadable version of this chart
    The MTSS Meetings Guide & Toolkit



    Example of How to Apply Standard Meeting Norms in an MTSS Meeting

    Before the meeting

    During the meeting

    After the meeting

    • The facilitator is responsible for identifying whether a meeting is needed, ensuring that the meeting has been scheduled and that participants have been invited and are available to attend, identifying participant roles, and reviewing and preparing meeting materials (e.g., agenda, participant guide, student summary information)
    • Key roles to be assigned:
      • Facilitator: Explains the purpose of the meeting and keeps the participants on task 
      • Referring teacher: Completes pre-meeting student summary form, describes the student, and shares student data during the meeting
      • Scribe: Takes informal notes and tracks brainstorming ideas in a visible space
      • Timekeeper: Times each section of the meeting and helps the team adhere to the allotted time
      • Note-taker: Takes formal notes for documentation using a template
    • Ensure that the team includes members who know the student, have expertise in data analysis, have expertise in content, and have authority to make decisions.
    • Collecting and sharing student information and data 
    • During the meeting, the facilitator explains the purpose of the meeting and keeps the participants on task.
    • Introduce the meeting and review its purpose
    • Describe the student and share data
    • Ask clarifying questions to create a hypothesis
    • Promote and model ostentatious listening as participants take turns to talk or share
    • Review evidence-based strategies for intensification
    • Prioritize and plan
    • Wrap-up and establish next steps

    After the meeting, the facilitator will follow up on the next steps identified during the meeting. 

    The next steps are as follows: 

    • Ensuring the follow-up meeting is scheduled
    • Confirming the plan has been documented and shared with relevant educators and team members
    • Confirming information has been shared with parent(s) 
    • Checking in with the referring teacher regarding the intervention implementation and data collection

    Meetings are critical for educators to get together and collaborate to help students succeed, and many people spend most of their time in them. However, at the same time, many feel that the meetings they attend are ineffective and a waste of their time because of lack of structure, unclear purpose, poor facilitation, absence of data and lack of preparation, etc. Creating effective meetings by utilizing agendas, meeting roles, and many of the norms and tactics we listed above can ensure that something frequently done can also bring significant value.


    The National Center on Intensive Intervention - Intensive Intervention Meeting Facilitator's Guide

    The National Center on Intensive Intervention - Implementation & Intervention Data Teaming Tools


    The New York Times - What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

    Let us help you build the right team!

    Branching Minds offers a variety of professional learning opportunities for states, districts, and schools to ensure instructional leaders, specialists, coaches, and teachers are able to implement RTI/MTSS as well as the BRM platform with fidelity and maximizes educators’ efforts to accelerate learning for all students.

    Learn More About the Infrastructure Coaching Series

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    Tagged: MTSS Practice, Instituting MTSS

    November 23, 2021

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