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    MTSS Practice Instituting MTSS

    At the beginning of the school year, we strategize, collect data, and form our playbook. We work with the teams at our schools to make sure we’re ready to take on any challenge. We prepare and train through high-quality professional development and effective meetings. Once the game of the school year starts, though, we can find that we’re encountering unexpected challenges, and they can start to wear down on us as the year progresses. You may find this is how you’re feeling as we approach midyear.

    We’ve created this midyear MTSS checklist to be your wise and encouraging half-time coach. As John Wooden, famed NCAA coach, said, “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” 

    As we approach the halfway point of the school year, it’s important to take a moment of reflection and adjustment. But where should you spend your focus and energy? If you're feeling a bit uncertain and in need of a game plan, we’re here for you. This MTSS mid-year implementation checklist is your halftime pep talk to help ensure a winning second half!

    Your MTSS Mid-Year Implementation Checklist and Resources:

    Check the health of Tier 1 or core instruction.

    If there is a team-wide problem, it doesn’t make sense to try to fix it by working with individuals or small groups. MTSS is designed to help us evaluate the effectiveness of all of our levels of instruction, starting with Tier 1 or general instruction for all students. As Coach Wooden said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

    These words apply to taking the time to evaluate and shore up Tier 1 instruction. If we’re not providing high-quality instruction to all students that’s meeting most needs, we’re going to be constantly re-doing that instruction in intervention groups at the Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels. Remember: if we spend the time to improve the quality of Tier 1 instruction, we’ll have more resources available to provide targeted support where needed. 

    It can be so tempting to skip this step amid everything going on at the start of the year. There never seems to be time! But, if you are overwhelmed with students needing intervention, it’s likely time to invest some time into improving your core instruction to benefit all students and staff. 

    This guide includes information to help you and your team review core instruction together, along with a Core Instruction Worksheet with reflective questions to help you form hypotheses and action steps to improve Tier 1 instruction. The guide also includes engagement strategies for all instruction, how to incorporate social-emotional and behavioral support into core instruction, along with helpful graphics and videos!

      BONUS: Need a more concrete example of how you can improve your Tier 1 instruction?

    Check out this Success Story: How This School Built A Strong Foundation for Tier 1 Instruction in MTSS! In this resource, you’ll find a roadmap for how to connect your MTSS and Professional Learning Communities (PLC) processes to make sure your teams are accountable for the work they are producing. This article also includes a helpful Professional Learning Community Organizer (PLCO) to help measure the growth of your teams along the way!

    Check-in on Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention groups.

    After you’ve evaluated the health of your core instruction, it’s time to check in on your intervention groups. Midyear is a great time to make sure that you’ve got a system in place to review the progress of your intervention groups every 6 to 8 weeks. Remember: in an effective MTSS implementation, we’re constantly monitoring each level of the system and making changes where needed.

    Why is it important to systematically check in on our groups? We’ll want to review group progress to see who can be exited due to progress, who needs some adjustments, and which new students may need to join a group based on new data or new entry into your building. This is a great time to make sure all of the students who need support have intervention plans and that no one falls through the cracks. 

    downloadable-resource RESOURCE: What To Do When Interventions Aren’t Working  

    For students who aren’t making expected progress, you’ll need to investigate why, so you can create an action plan to increase the likelihood of seeing progress in future sessions. In this resource, you’ll find some helpful questions to guide your team in hypothesizing about why an intervention isn’t working for a particular student as well as suggested steps to take to gather more data on your hypothesis.

    Audit your meeting structure.

    Meetings are the backbone of an effective MTSS implementation.

    • Where do you check the health of Tier 1 as described above? In meetings
    • Where do you review intervention group data and make decisions about the next steps? In meetings 
    • Where do you dig deep to problem solve around individual student needs? In meetings

    MTSS is a system that supports and wraps around your whole staff and student body, and to effectively do this work, you need a consistent and efficient meeting structure.

    brm-mtss-guides RESOURCE: MTSS Meetings Guide and Toolkit

    This toolkit is your one-stop shop for all things related to meetings! You’ll find meeting norms and best practices including: 

    • MTSS meeting agenda template and tips
    • Guidelines for each type of MTSS meeting
    • Worksheet with questions for MTSS data analysis 

    BONUS: Do you appreciate having someone walk you through it?

    Check out this on-demand webinar on Effective Meeting Structures in an MTSS practice.

    Ensure your team meetings have a space designated for meaningful discussions on equity.

    It is up to us to ensure that our most vulnerable students have documented evidence-based interventions and supports, combined with access to high-quality, culturally relevant instructional materials and practices. 

    brm-blog RESOURCE: How MTSS Unveils Disproportionately & Makes a Difference  

    Review the linked article with your team and consider the following quote:

    “It’s vital to be sure that your core instruction supports ALL students; and that all students receive responsive support and interventions.” This is some great fuel for critically important discussion in your teams. To help objective data for your conversations, the article also provides a handy disproportionality calculation to help you monitor equity for specific groups.

    BONUS: Episode 1 of the Schoolin’ Around Podcast
    Want to learn more about equity and MTSS while cleaning the house or taking a walk?

    Check out Episode 1 of the Schoolin' Around Podcast, “MTSS Is Equity With its Work Boots On - A Conversation With Donna Cross,” which can be found on 👉 Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Google Podcasts.


    Find your successes so far, and make sure to celebrate them!

    Every good halftime talk includes lots of encouragement, no matter what the first half may have looked like. This one is no exception. There are always wins to be celebrated along with any areas for growth. Make sure you take time in each meeting to celebrate victories for your staff and students.

    downloadable-resource RESOURCE: Printable Notecards

    One way to celebrate and encourage your staff is to use “Take Notice” cards. Use these cards to make a habit of taking notice of the good things happening in your school and share them with your staff! Don’t be surprised to see your notes tucked into a planner or pinned to a computer screen where the recipients can see them again and again!


    Just as teams regroup, reassess strategies, and adjust their approach during halftime, educators at midyear find themselves in a pivotal moment that helps decide the tone of their second half. Midyear can be a valuable opportunity for reflection, learning from the successes and challenges of the first half, and fine-tuning approaches for a successful second act. 

    We hope our MTSS mid-year implementation checklist served as a sort of halftime playbook, providing the necessary insights and strategies to ensure a strong and purposeful performance in the remaining academic "game." 

    Ready to make your MTSS vision a reality? 🚀

    No matter where you are in your MTSS journey, Branching Minds is here to help make this important work easier and more effective. We are partners each step of the way. Request a personalized demo today! 

    Request a Demo Today





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    Tagged: MTSS Practice, Instituting MTSS

    December 19, 2023

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