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    Instituting MTSS Leadership in MTSS

    Since the early 2000s, school districts across the country have implemented a tiered intervention system like Response to Intervention (RTI). In recent years, many districts have been transitioning their systems to a more holistic Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model. However, like many other areas of K12 funding, how districts choose to fund an RTI or MTSS model can be a complicated question: traditional federal funding streams can be relatively inflexible, but with new funding streams like the CARES Act, passed in March 2020, school districts have greater funding flexibility to implement MTSS.

    CARES Act

    With the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, school districts now have access to funds through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), disbursed to states through the same formula as Title I funding. However, unlike Title I funds, ESSER funds may be used for all students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this funding may be used for any activity authorized by ESEA, IDEA, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Perkins Act (CTE), or the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

    Title I, Part A

    Title I, Part A - one of the largest sources of federal funding for K-12 education - is intended to provide low-income schools with supplemental funding that would not otherwise be used by state or local funds if Title I funds were not available. While these funds can be highly restrictive in school and district budgets, the “exclusion provision” allows a school district in certain cases to provide comparable services with state or local funds to non–Title I students while providing the same services with Title I funds to Title I students. This provision may be helpful in supporting RTI or MTSS implementation across schools and districts.

    Title I funds can be distributed through either school-wide programs or through schools identified needing targeted assistance. While a Title I school-wide program has greater flexibility to use Title I funds for any program - including an RTI or MTSS platform like Branching Minds - that is implemented across the school, schools identified with targeted assistance have more funding restrictions. For example, these schools may use Title I funds for professional development for evidence-based interventions used for at-risk students by general education teachers, but they may not be used for universal screening assessments to determine which students are in need of those interventions.

    IDEA, Part B

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act of 2004 - which provides funding for school districts for students in special education - allows school districts to use no more than 15% of IDEA funds for implementation of a RTI model. This provision permits school districts to use IDEA not just exclusively for students with disabilities, but also for students receiving Early Intervention Services (EIS), which can include students receiving Tier 2 and Tier 3 support.

    Title II, Part A - Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers and Principals

    These funds are designed to improve teacher and leader quality and effectiveness, and in turn increasing student achievement through the use of high-quality, evidence-based professional development. Improving system-level infrastructure is a critical first step to enhancing best practices across any school district’s RTI/MTSS practice. 

    Title IV, Part A: Student Support and Academic Enhancement Grants (SSAEC)

    SSAEC Funds are allocated to states and LEA’s using the same formula as Title I funding. The purpose of these funds is to: 

    1. provide all students with access to a well-rounded education;

    2. improve school conditions for student learning; and

    3. improve the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students.

    Districts must use at least 20% of these funds on efforts to improve student mental and behavioral health, school climate, or school safety, which could include Social Emotional Learning and Improving School Climate, a key aspect of effective MTSS work. 

    Title III - English Language Learners

    While Title III funds may not be used exclusively to support RTI or MTSS, they can be used to provide English Language Learners additional support through a RTI or MTSS model.

    Branching Minds Strengthens MTSS 

    Branching Minds is an organization that helps districts leverage advancements in the learning sciences, academic research, and technology to develop their system-level MTSS practice through a blend of software and services. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Branching Minds team has been focused on enhancing our platform and professional development services to better support our partners in this unique environment - whether they are fully remote, in a hybrid-learning model, or fully in-person. 

    Branching Minds helps educators to understand and support the academic, cognitive, social-emotional and behavioral needs for all students- using a whole-child lens. Branching Minds supports educators to:

    1. Develop more effective collaborative problem-solving at the school, group, and individual student level

    2. Proactively identify who needs support, with what, and why 

    3. Find the right evidence-based interventions and accommodations for each learner or groups of learners

    4. Create intervention plans scaffolded by best practices and monitor daily & weekly progress across academics, behavior, and SEL

    5. Monitor and problem-solve Behavior Incidents at the individual and systems-level

    6. Assess, plan for, and monitor students SEL needs 

    7. Understand systems-level health to enable school leaderships targeted MTSS infrastructure development

    Since the pandemic began, additions to the platform include the ability to filter our library of thousands of evidence-based interventions to match school’s instructional contexts, the ability to log all kinds of family communications in bulk-including video calls and texts, tier movement reports to more quickly triage student need, and a new SEL assessment and hundreds of new SEL interventions to better support all learners during this stressful and too often traumatic time.

    Beyond the platform enhancements, Branching Minds has also developed our Infrastructure Coaching work to provide school districts with the tools and professional development needed to advance their system to the next level, remotely. Branching Minds coaches help school and district leaders to streamline and improve their RTI/MTSS practice at the system-level, helping them to achieve consistent high-fidelity practice, build capacity for educators, and deliver positive outcomes for all students.

    If your school or district is looking to strengthen your MTSS practice, please contact us here.

    *This summary is provided for general educational purposes and the authors cannot guarantee the availability of any of the above to a specific local education agency or other educational institution.

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    Tagged: Instituting MTSS, Leadership in MTSS

    October 28, 2020

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