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    Instituting MTSS Leadership in MTSS

    You watch your educators hustling at the end of the school day to create sub plans and make copies for tomorrow. You have asked your teachers to leave their classrooms in the hands of an unknown substitute to attend professional development for a new district initiative. Fast forward a few years or even months and you can’t remember what the initiative was, what the expectations were for you as an administrator or your educators, or even how to get ahold of the resources shared. Have you been there? This experience occurs far too often in education as we continue to search for the silver bullet, the initiative to end all initiatives. 

    MTSS Venn diagram - NEW-min-1So much time, money, physical, and emotional investment can be saved by planning for sustainability with your professional development implementation. Fortunately, MTSS itself holds the key — it’s a framework to support all learners. What if we applied that way of thinking to our adult learners as well? 

    Just as a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) systematically provides universal, targeted and intensive instruction for students depending on their needs, providing systematic MTSS learning for educators depending on their needs will have an exponential impact on your MTSS efforts over time.

    To create an MTSS professional development plan that is sustainable and differentiated, district and site leaders will need to consider:

    • Foundational principals
    • Implementation protocols
    • Sustainment practices
    For more information and clarity about MTSS as an operating system, check out The Ultimate Guide to MTSS.

    1. Foundational Principles

    Lead Learners Start the Charge:
    • Initiative Planning: Professional development plans and initiatives are chosen at the district leadership level. Lead learners of MTSS are the first to start the conversation about MTSS in practice. 
    • MTSS as an operating system: Transitioning district operating systems to MTSS starts with clear communication about the definition of MTSS and what it will look like in the district.
    Create Staff Buy-in
    • Acknowledge the full plate of educators: Staff buy-in is built through understanding and reassurance that the expectations of a new initiative meet them where they are and are not just adding another item to their plate.
    • Change Management: Using a change management process to evaluate needs, establish clarity, and build consensus around the work allows for a foundation to be created for sustainable professional development implementation.
    • Implement at a sustainable pace: Ensure that leaders have the background knowledge, data, and clarity needed to start pushing the practice out to educators. 

    → Resource: Download Mobilization Guide for MTSS 

    Assess Needs
    Within the MTSS model, Tier 1 is often referred to as the “differentiated core”. Meaning, the instruction that is provided is whole-class but is data-driven based on the needs of the whole population. To better understand the district’s population, a leader must first know the roles of the various staff on campuses, their time investments, current initiatives, and knowledge of MTSS practice. 

    Questions for Planning:
    • While teachers are often automatically considered for training in a new initiative, which teachers would be the most impactful to start the learning process with? 
    • What other staff roles will need training to support the practice being implemented on campuses? 
    • How can we ensure that the training provides what is needed without wasting time on items the educators already know? 
    After creating the MTSS definitions at the district level, site leaders can provide further insight into how these practices can be integrated into daily efforts on the school campuses. This initial surveying of site-based lead learners tells the professional development planning team what aspects of the system will need to be trained for understanding and improved levels of implementation. Many aspects of MTSS practice may have already been taught to their staff, items like RTI or PBIS have a similar tiered approach to support. Knowing whether efforts like these are occurring on campus can help with the language used in training and the reassurance that their efforts will be recognized and aligned under the MTSS model. 

    Broaden the Scope   
    When planning professional development, leaders often single out the core educators who would be engaging in re-teaching opportunities for student success. A holistic approach acknowledges the diverse roles of staff beyond classroom teachers. All site-based educators will need to be informed about the practice and the way their expertise can support the implementation of the model. Considerations include role type, interaction with students, and necessary tools for success. Addition roles to consider include:
    • Paraprofessionals
    • Interventionists
    • Specials/elective teachers
    • Counselors
    • Administrators
    💡Remember: Administrators need to be the lead learners to ensure that support for the initiative will be ongoing. This involves training designed specifically for administrators or site leads of the MTSS work, with specific resources and applications for their context. 

    2. Implementation Protocols: Professional Development Formats, Scheduling, and Roll-out

    Professional Development Formats 
    In post-pandemic education, we think more broadly about how professional development is best delivered. The availability of virtual training options allows work with educators across campuses without the additional stress of logistics planning for in-person training. However, for practices involving a mindset shift and significant collaboration, in-person training could still be the most effective. Once your district team has clarity around the work for buy-in purposes, has evaluated the need for site-based training, and has considered the types of staff that will participate in various levels of training, you are then ready to consider district-wide training for all educators. 

    💡Professional development can be synchronous or asynchronous. A combination of both synchronous and asynchronous training can be beneficial for districts that are looking to provide information and give educators expected operating procedures for implementation practice. 
    Asynchronous Training:
    • Creates an accessibility that synchronous training cannot. 
    • Can be used to teach all educators about the theory, definitions, and protocols of MTSS practice: tiers of support, the importance of universal screening, data, progress monitoring, and the problem-solving process.
    • Can be accessed at any time and allows site leaders flexibility in providing time for learning.

    ➡️ Learn more about our online PD platform, The MTSS Hub. 

    Synchronous Training: 
    • Allows for deep interaction and instant responses to questions. This can create a quicker consensus and implementation of the practice. 
    • Once foundations of learning have been established, synchronous training can occur virtually or in person. 
    • Synchronous training would focus on the daily protocols for the implementation of the practice, including how students are screened, how educators identify students in need of support, the expectations for plan creation and progress monitoring, and protocols for increasing levels of support. 

    Scheduling and Roll-Out
    Professional development time is always difficult to fit into the calendar as there are often competing initiatives and a desire to limit teachers’ time out of the classrooms. Grouping educators by their needs allows for shorter, more direct learning sessions. For example, after engaging in asynchronous work, counselors or social workers are ready to learn more about their expectations and tools for supporting students with their behavior, social-emotional, and mental health. A session dedicated to these types of educators can be tailored specifically to their expectations within MTSS practice. This will build buy-in as educators see that their time and expertise are respected by the professional development process. 

    → Resource: Download our Adult Learning Toolkit

    Roll-out of MTSS training will often happen over a multi-year period, starting first with leaders and interventionists who are the early adopters of the work. These lead learners can ensure the definitions fit the site’s reality and plan for the integration of MTSS within daily practice. Once the workflow is established, core content teachers, counselors, and paraprofessionals can be trained during the first year of implementation to establish a strong foundation of basic practices and prepare for the addition of more complex MTSS components. 

    Suggested groupings include but are not limited to: 

    • Site administrators and PLC leads
    • Interventionist and special education teachers
    • Core content teachers (can be broken into subjects if the audience is larger, i.e. Math and Science or ELA and Social Studies)
    • Counselors and Social Workers
    • Paraprofessionals and Specials/Elective Teachers
    Site leaders can play a critical role in supporting educators with MTSS practice when 
    they are provided with options for their educators to engage in continuous learning. For example, many districts provide monthly training for site leaders along with resources that they can then take back and roll out to their campus staff, piece by piece. 

    3. Sustainment Practices: Continuous Differentiated Support

    A long-term approach to professional learning is key to MTSS implementation. Staff turn-over and promotion means that there are always educators new to the practice of MTSS or to their role in this framework. As with MTSS for students, consider:
    • What does every staff member need to know about MTSS? 
    • How will we ensure that new staff members are scaffolded into MTSS practice?
    • What differentiation is needed for different roles?
    • Which campuses or staff members need additional help? 

    When implementation of MTSS is expected district or site-wide, providing a platform for accountability can be the next logical step in continuing to support the practice. The Branching Minds platform creates a place where educators, both in and out of the classroom, can document their efforts to support student growth. Having a place where these efforts are tracked and documented allows district leaders to determine what is needed to further support sites and educators. 

    Tier level report-1-1
    behavior incident report copy-1

    This insight helps leaders be targeted in how they support educators with MTSS:    

    • Are more or different interventions needed to better provide effective intervention practice? 
    • Is progress monitoring taking place? 
    • Are interventions being carried out? With fidelity?
    • What are the needs for specific schools, grade levels, and roles
    Refinement in this work is best done when data for these decisions is easily accessible.


    To create a professional development plan that is sustainable, district and site leaders can apply the principles of MTSS to the way they support teachers:
    • Determine what training is needed by everyone to set a foundation of support
    • Differentiate professional development based on role and years of service
    • Develop a plan for teaching new staff about MTSS implementation
    • Use data to determine which staff need additional coaching, resources, or other support. 

    Make your MTSS vision a reality with Branching Minds' best-in-class MTSS platform and professional learning!

    Request a Consultation Today


    "Branching Minds transformed the way we do MTSS completely. We would not be where we are today without it, and we would not have had the good conversations. It has really transformed our district."

    - Pennie Graeber, RTI and At-Risk Coordinator, Waco ISD, Texas


    So, just in the comparison itself with all the other programs that are on the market, Branching Minds honestly is the complete package. You have all of the intervention support and guidance. You have all of the capability of focusing your support library on exactly what you want it to be for your district. The amount of support that Branching Minds offers in itself really gets that ball rolling for the district. It really gives that expert backup and proactive guidance to set your MTSS framework up for success from the beginning.
    — Emma McBride, Multi-Tiered Systems Specialist, Beaumont ISD, TX



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