Tier 2 Tier 3 Interventions and Learning Supports' Strategies

    Ah, intervention plans. They are fun, aren’t they? All that data and planning and resources, only to take a look at a student’s progress monitoring scores and realize that those stubborn scores haven’t budged at all. Why? We may scream internally, watching our tediously placed trend lines flat-line. But we worked so hard on this skill! It is a true horror story of education—well, maybe not horror, but the frustration is definitely there.

    Edward Munch, “The Scream” painting

    Edward Munch, “The Scream”

    As the bedrock of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), intervention plans are crucial in aiding all students to master grade-level content. While universal screeners and benchmarks can help identify which students require additional support beyond core instruction, intervention plans are the vehicle that delivers that support. Let’s take a moment to review the essential components of an MTSS intervention plan, then jump into the nitty-gritty of what to do if a plan is showing no growth.

    Foundations of an MTSS Intervention Plan

    An intervention is a program or a set of steps to help students improve in a specific area of need. Interventions can provide support with academic, behavioral, and/or social-emotional needs. The students requiring intervention plans are identified through universal screening data and benchmarks. Additional diagnostic assessments help narrow down which specific skills to target in an intervention plan to help students achieve grade-level mastery.

    Branching Minds - RTI MTSS Intervention CycleMost intervention plans span a period of weeks, with progress monitoring occurring every week or every two weeks depending on a student’s level of need and progress. Progress monitors assess a student’s progress towards the attainment of a SMART goal, which is the guiding foundation of each specific intervention plan. SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) set the standard used to measure progress and determine growth.

    Progress monitors measure a student’s progress in mastering the specific skill of the intervention plan, and these data points are used to determine if a student is on track for reaching their SMART goal within the intervention plan's timeline. Interventions are the strategies, tools, and programs used to aid a student in mastering a skill. Interventions should always be research-based to ensure there is evidence for addressing each student’s specific learning needs.

    ➡️ Related Resource: A Quick Review of MTSS Supports, Interventions, and Accommodations

    Sound like a lot? It really isn’t. When broken down, an intervention plan follows a similar model that teachers use every day to guide their instruction. As teachers, we have established the best practice of defining a standard that we target for our students each day. This standard guides the content and instruction we deliver, and then we incorporate formative assessments to measure student learning at the end of each lesson or unit.

    Intervention plans take that model and narrow it down to a more targeted skill and measurable standard, applying the approach to a smaller group of students or an individual. On a larger scale, keeping track of all of this data can be difficult, but that is where an MTSS software, like Branching Minds, can come in handy and be a big time-saver.

    So, we use screener data to create our SMART goal, select the perfect intervention to target a specific skill, and dive into the schedule of weekly progress monitoring. Now, we start asking ourselves, “How do we know if the plan is working?”

    ➡️ Check out this MTSS Intervention Process Flowchart

    How to Use Progress Monitoring Data to Measure Rate of Improvement

    Progress monitors provide the data points needed to determine if students are showing progress on their intervention plan. These points are about the established goal attained from a SMART goal. Once there are at least three data points, we can begin to calculate the Rate of Improvement (ROI) of an intervention plan. ROI identifies whether a student is responding to instruction and intervention, and can be calculated based on peer expectations of growth, growth required to meet targeted goals, and attained progress monitoring data. Simply put, ROI is the change that we see overtime during an intervention plan. 

    Several types of ROI need to be considered when analyzing intervention performance. 

    • Typical ROI: This is the measured change between benchmarks at a national level. Typical ROI provides a point of reference to understand where a student needs to perform to meet grade-level expectations by the end of a benchmark period. 
    • Target ROI: This is the predicted goal line required to meet a SMART goal within the time frame of an intervention plan. 
    • Attained ROI: This is the realized trend line calculated from a student’s progress monitor data. 

    ➡️ Related Resource: How to use progress monitoring data to guide decision making in an MTSS practice

    By placing this information into one graph, educators can determine if a student is demonstrating success in their intervention plan. While this data can be plotted by hand, Branching Minds provides a visualization tool on our platform that aids educators in understanding ROI and data trends. This makes it easier for teachers to quickly assess if a change needs to be made to an intervention plan. Here are some examples of how ROI can be graphed in an MTSS software program, such as Branching Minds.

     Branching Minds - ROI

    What to Do if an MTSS Intervention Plan is Showing No Progress 

    Panic. I’m just joking, but that always feels like the first response. Between frustration and confusion, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when a student isn’t showing the progress we anticipated. However, when we utilize research-based interventions and standardized progress monitors, we are ensuring that we have the capabilities to quickly assess and pivot to get a plan back on track. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios and see some courses of action we can take: 

    Scenario 1: 70% of 10th-grade students show no progress in their reading intervention plans. 

    In this scenario, a large group of students is not showing progress in their intervention plan, specifically for reading. When so many students are showing no progress, this means we have a problem with something larger than just our interventions. It’s time to take a step back and evaluate our core instruction. By asking ourselves the following questions, we can assess our core instruction:

    • Is our core instruction being implemented with fidelity?
    • Have we used current data to drive our instruction and determine student needs?
    • Are we differentiating our core instruction to target large gaps of knowledge exhibited by most of our students?
    • Are we using our universal screener data to identify these larger gaps of knowledge then adjusting our instruction to fit the needs of our current class?

    ➡️ Related Resource: Selecting the Right Interventions to Boost Accelerated Learning

    Scenario 2: A student is showing some progress, but is not nearly where he needs to be to meet his SMART goal. 

    In this scenario, our student shows that the intervention plan is showing some success, just not at the rate we need to meet that target ROI. In this case, we can determine that the intervention we are using is correct; however, the delivery needs to be adjusted. One first step we can take is to determine if all the intervention time allotted is being used. Has the student been absent? Has the intervention been skipped due to interruptions or holidays? This is where tracking the usage of interventions comes in handy. While you can track intervention usage by hand, the Branching Minds’ platform can keep track of all intervention plans, intervention times, meetings, assessment data, and communication–making a one-stop-shop for easy MTSS fidelity. 

    If the research-based intervention plan has been delivered with fidelity, the student might require a more intensive intervention schedule. We can increase the intervention time and continue to monitor progress data to determine if this helps address the need. Whenever we change an intervention plan (such as increasing interventions), it’s also best to increase the rate at which we monitor progress to quickly assess our data. If this student plan called for progress to be monitored every two weeks, we could begin to monitor him every week to determine if this change was successful. 

    ➡️ Related Resource: Aligning SMART Goals to the Just-Right MTSS Interventions

    Scenario 3: A student has shown no progress in his intervention plan and continues to struggle with core instruction. 

    In this scenario, we’ve flat-lined. We have a student showing no growth (or very little growth), even though we are using research-based interventions and standardized progress monitors. In this situation, it helps to reassess the interventions and skills we are utilizing to ensure that they meet the student's needs. Some questions to ask include: 

    • Does the intervention match the target skill? 
    • Does our diagnostic data clearly show which skill our student needs support in? 
    • Is there a more foundational skill our student is lacking? 

    ➡️ Related Resource: Intervention Planning in MTSS: How to Balance Best Practices and Feasibility

    Moving Forward 

    MTSS intervention plans follow the same philosophy that we utilize during reflective teaching. Reflective teaching allows educators to think about lessons they have observed (or taught) and analyze instructional techniques. Through this reflection, we can self-assess our own instructional practice and consider areas of strength and growth. 

    We are constantly looking at our data to drive decision-making and make proactive adjustments to fit the needs of our students. As teachers, we depend on our assessment data to provide feedback on our instruction and guide us in where we need to reteach or move forward. Intervention plans require the same reflection and feedback. The scenarios above only provide a brief sampling of the variety of situations an educator can encounter during MTSS. However, three actionable steps can pave the way forward. When encountering plans showing no progress, reflect on the following: 

    • Evaluate core instruction 
    • Evaluate interventions 
    • Determine if more support is needed (such as a move to Tier 3) 

    It’s easy to get swallowed up in feelings of frustration and defeat when our students continue to struggle with content even with interventions in place. At times, closing the gap for students can feel like an insurmountable mountain at times, and we don’t know how to take the first steps. However, an intervention plan showing no progress does not mean we have failed; it’s an opportunity to take a step back and consider our processes. 

    In every classroom and every school, time has become our main source of currency. MTSS is an invaluable process to lead students on the pathway to success, but doing it all by hand can be very time-consuming. Branching Minds helps educators gain back their time, by doing the data-tracking for you, allowing everyone a little bit more breathing time and a little less panic time. 

    And remember, there is always a path forward—we just have to be willing to do a bit of detective work along the way.


    On-Demand Webinar
    Best Practices on Interpreting Assessment Data

    Branching Minds Webinar - Best Practices on Interpreting Assessment Data

    A robust system of MTSS relies on a systematic data collection process. The data we use to drive our decision-making is derived from the array of assessments included under the umbrella of MTSS. In this webinar, we break down the role of assessments in MTSS, and how to use assessment data as feedback to interventions and instruction. 

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    Library of Thousands of RTI/MTSS Evidence-Based Interventions 

    Over 2000 evidence-based activities, strategies, tools, apps, and programs

    At Branching Minds, we pride ourselves on having the most robust library of evidence-based K-12 interventions and accommodations of any online platform available to schools. Our library includes over 2000 evidence-based activities, strategies, tools, apps, and programs collected from the most trusted and respected hubs of evidence-based supports, including the Florida Center for Reading Research, What Works Clearinghouse, Evidence for ESSA, Intervention Central, the IRIS Center from Vanderbilt University, and Sanford Harmony. All of the supports have been reviewed by our team of learning scientists and sorted by ESSA guidelines for determining tiers of evidence. The supports include detailed descriptions to help teachers understand what each support is, why to use it, how to use it in alignment with the evidence, what the evidence is, and provide them with any materials necessary to implement the support.

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    Tagged: Tier 2, Tier 3, Interventions and Learning Supports' Strategies

    January 25, 2022

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