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    MTSS Practice MTSS Basics

    Although educators meet frequently to discuss student needs, teacher supports, and interventions, how often is there a discussion around implementing those supports with fidelity? Our goal is to serve the needs of our students. However, without fidelity monitoring in a Multi-Tied System of Supports (MTSS), we don’t know if the student actually received the high-quality instruction or intervention that we planned! There is often a big difference between a plan on paper and what happens in the day-to-day life of a school. A consistent plan to monitor and improve the quality of your intervention implementation could be the missing ingredient in your students’ success!

    Fidelity Monitoring: A Critical MTSS Practice

    Fidelity is a measure of how consistently the critical components of MTSS are implemented in the school setting, including core instruction, interventions, and assessments. The American Institute of Research states that fidelity of implementation is a crucial school infrastructure and support mechanism to ensure the effectiveness of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports. (American Institutes of Research, 2022) This blog will address the fidelity of one part of an MTSS — intervention implementation, including instruction and assessment. 

    Fidelity is concerned with the following critical questions around intervention implementation: 

    • Program specificity: How explicitly is this intervention defined, and does it impact your students?
    • Quality of delivery: How well are the assessment, instruction, and intervention given? Are good teaching practices evident?
    • Exposure/Duration: How frequently are students receiving the intervention, and how long is the intervention?
    • Student engagement: Are they present and engaged in this intervention?

    Consider the following all-too-common scenario: 

    A student is struggling in class, needing support in one or more areas. Several teachers bring this student up in a team meeting. Assessment and performance data are requested from teachers and collected for the discussion. The team meets and creates an intervention plan for this student. The interventionist or teacher implements the plan for a few weeks or months, but the student does not make sufficient progress. 

    The big question is…WHY? It could be that: 

    • The team selected the wrong intervention. 
    • The student was frequently absent or had behavioral issues that prevented them from participating in the intervention.
    • The interventionist did not provide one or more critical features of the intervention, perhaps due to a lack of training, resources, or time.
    • The progress monitoring practice did not reflect student progress accurately.

    It is easy to assume that the first option is the reason that a student isn’t making progress, when, in fact, the other options could be in play but are not visible to the team. 

    What Does Fidelity Monitoring Look Like at the School Level?

    When considering interventions and support for students, measuring fidelity means gathering data to check implementation and assessment. Best practice is to have a regular system of observation and feedback for those who provide interventions and assessments. A colleague or supervisor who is trained to use a fidelity rubric can provide much-needed support for teachers and interventionists — something that can be part of the duties of the Student Support Team (SST) and MTSS team members. Fidelity monitoring can also include self-evaluation using reflection or video. A few questions to consider when thinking about the intervention fidelity for your students are the following:

    1. Are grade-level teams and MTSS leadership regularly checking and discussing fidelity of implementation and progress monitoring?
    2. What is the current process for monitoring fidelity and differentiation within core instruction and intervention?
    3. What are the formative assessment techniques that are embedded within lesson design? Are they effective?
    4. How are we supporting staff members who are struggling with fidelity of implementation?

    MTSS Implementation Fidelity Reference Guide


    Even with the best intentions, it can be challenging to keep up with fidelity monitoring. It can feel “optional” somehow, even though it is absolutely critical to the success of an MTSS. Here are a few tips to help: 

    Tips for Measuring and Improving Fidelity for Educators and Leaders:

    • Utilize a fidelity of implementation rubric whenever possible. This goes for academic, behavior, and social-emotional learning and assessment. 
    • Use direct observation along with self-reporting of fidelity. A different pair of eyes will often catch something that the teacher or interventionist is unaware of (because they are busy teaching!)
    • Measure fidelity in a variety of ways and across several settings and times of year. 
    • Provide adequate training and follow-up to ensure that interventions and assessments are used as intended. 


    Branching Minds is built to provide visibility into the entire intervention process, including whether intervention plans are in place for students in need, if those intervention plans are actually being implemented, and if the student is responding. 

    • The Student Overview page allows you to see whether student plans are in place, which are overdue, how many minutes of planned intervention have taken place, along with notes on student engagement. 
    • The Manage Staff tab will allow you to see whether staff members are keeping up with their intervention load. It could be that you have staff members with many incompletes on their To-Do list — this could be because the staff member is overwhelmed with intervention needs, that they're not keeping up with documentation, or there's some other reason that intervention is not taking place. Regardless, the staff member needs support.
    • Progress Monitoring gives immediate visual feedback about student progress, preventing weeks or months of lost time if an intervention plan is not working for any reason.


    Without a system to check fidelity, we can't be sure that our students are receiving the best possible instruction and intervention. MTSS is about more than compliance and documentation — utilizing a fidelity rubric, direct observation, and regular training and follow-up, we can help ensure that we are providing the high-quality support that our students deserve.  

    Branching Minds is designed to improve the fidelity of MTSS practice! Request a demo today to see how the Branching Minds MTSS platform can support your school in providing high-quality intervention that actually works. 

    Key Takeaways:

    • Fidelity monitoring is crucial to ensure the effectiveness of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) in schools, including core instruction, interventions, and assessments.
    • Fidelity is concerned with program specificity, quality of delivery, exposure/duration, and student engagement.
    • Fidelity monitoring can be achieved through regular observation and feedback, self-evaluation, and the use of fidelity rubrics and progress monitoring tools.




    American Institutes for Research. (N.D.). MTSS Infrastructure and Support Mechanisms Series. Retrieved October 28, 2022, From https://mtss4success.org


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    Tagged: MTSS Practice, MTSS Basics

    September 26, 2023

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