In order to create an efficient and effective system of MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports), educators need the assistance of technology to help track student progress and identify at-risk students. Gone are the days of tracking students on various Google Sheets and post-it notes.
Without technology specifically designed to support MTSS, educators could spend hours writing down data, analyzing this data, and attempting to track progress monitoring scores and intervention time. When heavy tasks consume this time, educators lose out on valuable time that could be used in planning instruction, facilitating interventions, and building relationships with their students.
Technology has the power to change the landscape of education indefinitely. By including technology in your MTSS practice, educators can streamline how they collect and utilize data to drive decision-making. MTSS Management Platforms, like Branching Minds, are evolved to directly support the many processes and practices of a system of MTSS. These software tools can play a real and meaningful role in the work of supporting all students and increasing educator fidelity to MTSS.
This past spring, Branching Minds held a nationwide competition asking educators to tell their MTSS stories. Many educators submitted stories about how the system of MTSS had led to an increase in student achievement and drastically improved their ability as an educator to support their students. However, two submissions chose to highlight how using an MTSS Management Platform was the key instrument in their MTSS success.
We are sharing these two stories to highlight not only the importance of MTSS, but also the importance of having the proper resources in place to support your system of MTSS.
How Technology Decreased the MTSS Load for a Psychologist
By: Saba Mahmood
The use of an MTSS Management Platform (Branching Minds) has become a vital and necessary tool in my career. As the only psychologist in my school, it is my role and responsibility to oversee the intervention process. Ethically, using a single data point of a child is not fair. One must encompass all parts of the child’s life to provide a full understanding of where a child is. Having a platform specifically for MTSS has allowed me to do that in a fluid and effortless manner.
The platform we use has the ability to sync with third-party sources. Every student’s data can conveniently be placed in one spot. Not only is the data available for viewing, but I can select interventions that best fit the child’s individual needs. This increases the effectiveness of directly targeting a need, and I can better support my students. But this tool didn’t just help me. Teachers didn’t need to ask me as many questions about students because the platform allowed data to be easily accessed. This allows me more time to focus on students.
As a psychologist, statistics and data are my niches. Being able to step back and see an overview of a student's progress is what drives my job. Having an MTSS platform allows me to create easy-to-read graphs about how many students have entered and exited each tiered intervention. This allows educators to focus their attention on what is working and what is not. This feature is essential in monitoring intervention efficacy.
When intervention plans are monitored well, there are greater student outcomes. I have used this graph-making tool numerous times ahead of meetings with team leaders and teachers. Visuals are a universal language. The graphs make it easy for non-statistical staff members to understand the data. It allows my meetings to go by smoothly, and it decreases misunderstandings in interpretation.
All in all, it is no doubt that this past school year has been rough on educators. Teacher burnout is very real. Additionally, teachers are constantly overloaded with resources. It is both a blessing and a curse. When our MTSS platform was first introduced, I had that subconscious thought, “here we go, another tool.”
But new technology can help us improve as educators and service providers. When I first logged onto our platform, I felt at home. Nothing was overly complicated, as it was designed specifically for what I needed. This tool automatically lessened the burden of so many things. The district offered training on the platform, which provided supplemental learning to my own exploration. I wasn’t alone. Other educators were able to grasp the use of the platform very easily.
Having a specific platform to support MTSS has become more than just another tool or resource for me. It is embedded in my everyday practice and will always be my go-to when a student’s name is brought up in a meeting or teachers knock on my door.
About Saba Mahmood
Saba is an Illinois Licensed and Nationally Certified School Psychologist. Saba received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in Psychology, and currently holds her Master’s in Educational Psychology. Saba’s emphasis is on understanding children’s strengths, challenges, and learning differences. She utilizes data from multiple domains to integrate cognitive ability, academic achievement, and psychological functioning. Saba also works with and advocates for diverse, underrepresented populations. In her downtime, Saba enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and canoeing.
You can connect with Saba Mahmood through LinkedIn.
Using Technology To Support MTSS in Literacy Intervention
By: Cristina Pinilla
I am a K-2 Bilingual Literacy Interventionist for Richardson Independent School District. This role comes with many hats–one being monitoring progress for students receiving Tier 3 support every other week.
My district introduced an MTSS management platform to decrease the workload on educators. After extensive and detailed training, I learned how to easily navigate through the MTSS platform to track my tasks and coordinate my workload.
This platform allowed me to increase my MTSS effectively throughout the entire school year 2021-2022. This resource was quite beneficial in targeting student growth and student needs. With our data all in one place, teachers, admin, and staff members could navigate through the data for creating goals, ARD meetings as needed, and creating teaching plans for students.
Some of the top features of an MTSS platform that I found particularly useful include:
The ability to check off attendance: This helped me keep myself on track of how many times the students in the small groups were being serviced. I could leave messages when I couldn’t see a particular student or group or take note of when a group had to be canceled due to testing, field trip, etc.
The ability to show when the student has met the goal assigned: I was able to pick whether the student met the goal early, on time based on the date I chose for the goal to be reached or if the student didn’t meet the goal at all.
When students reached a goal or needed to change the intervention: Having a platform allowed me to make fast changes to the plan when needed without deleting previous data collected.
Using an MTSS platform, I know that the data I was able to collect will be beneficial and used by future teachers working with the students I served. If the students move on to another school within our same district, the teachers and admin at their new school will be able to also pull up their old MTSS data. This definitely will come in handy for me to create my new small groups, help new teachers, and support the ones I will be pulling groups from.
About Cristina Pinilla
Christine Pinilla is a K-2 Bilingual Literacy Interventionist. She has been in education for 18 years and has taught Kindergarten through 4th grade. One thing about teaching/being in education that brings her joy is when students learn how to read.
You can connect with Cristina Pinilla through Twitter.
The Branching Minds platform enables teachers to find streamlined documentation, automate data ingestion from multiple sources, improving the efficiency of preparing for problem-solving meetings. Additionally, the platform provides data visualizations, collaborative input, and holistic student view, improving the quality of the problem-solving conversation during meetings.
Mollie Breese is the Content Manager at Branching Minds. She helps streamline the support library, so schools can identify and access the interventions they need to support student success. She researches the newest strategies, activities, and programs to add to the robust library, providing a wealth of resources for partner schools. Prior to joining Branching Minds, Mollie worked in the classroom as an English teacher, Reading teacher, and ESL instructor. Mollie earned her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Missouri, and her M.A. in English Literature from the University of Glasgow.