Good Intentions, Good Enough
In almost 20 years of experience in education, good intention when it comes to intervention or specifically Response to Intervention (RtI) has never wavered or lacked. As educators, we are passionate about our students and we know that with the “perfect prescript” of support all students can grow. However, at times we may find ourselves settling with our intent as “good enough.” We become overwhelmed with the tasks involved in developing, implementing, and following-up with these support plans. As educators these unmet expectations weigh heavily and too often districts find themselves with well-written plans that lack follow-through. So how can we move beyond “good enough” to become “more than enough” - intervening with fidelity and effectiveness?
In 2014 our district completed school reform through the transformation model. During this time we learned many valuable lessons including how to improve teacher and school leader effectiveness; implement comprehensive instructional reform strategies; increase learning time; create community-oriented schools; and provide operational flexibility and sustain support. While true effective effort began to take shape for both our students and staff this new culture also increased our awareness of some ineffective practices. It became apparent to district and school leaders that there was some confusion and a lack of consistency when it came to response to intervention. Also, lacking was a support structure to assist school leaders with comprehensively meeting the needs of all students utilizing all staff. Utilizing the skills we acquired through transformation we continued to work to increase the instructional time and build capacity and in 2016 our district engaged in the statewide scaling up of the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). Transitioning to the MTSS framework has helped our district to promote school improvement from core instruction to intervention. Implementing the following critical components has put us on the path to becoming “more than enough.”
Leadership, Building the Capacity and Infrastructure for Implementation, & Communication and Collaboration:
- Aligning our district strategic plan with the vision for MTSS was essential in providing clarity and implementation to reach our desired outcomes for preparing students for success in college, the workforce, and life; facilitating mastery learning through rigorous curriculum; and creating a culture of mutual respect and accountability focused on teaching and learning in a safe environment.
- The development of a county office position for District MTSS Coordinator to serve as the contact to our state department of public instruction, provide guidance to the District and School MTSS teams, and support the district-wide implementation of MTSS practices, systems, and data.
- The creation of both a District MTSS Plan team, as well as, a District MTSS team was essential for the remaining components to be implemented effectively.
- The District MTSS Plan team is comprised of various District Directors, Coordinators and Instructional Coaches. The role of this team includes but is not limited to: designing implementation plans, providing continuous support through communication and coaching, and working to remove barriers.
- The District MTSS Team is comprised of all members of the District MTSS Plan team, as well as, our Principals and Intervention Leads. The role of the District MTSS team is to serve as a direct link to the schools communicating and engaging school teams in routine professional development and implementation activities.
- School MTSS teams are necessary in order to build and maintain our MTSS systems. The district teams help schools develop processes and procedures for problem-solving around both student outcomes and MTSS implementation data. District teams also support schools in the scheduling, planning, and implementation of instruction and intervention.
- All of these teams include members that are linked to other stakeholder groups throughout the school and/or community. These feedback loops help us adjust our practices in implementation.
Data-Based Problem Solving and Data Evaluation:
- Essential to awareness and sustainment of MTSS implementation our district leadership provides the opportunity for school teams to have extended problem-solving time built into the school schedule. Substitutes are provided so teachers can come out of their classrooms after each scheduled screening or benchmark to problem-solve. This time allows for staff to be able to see the outcomes for students across content areas, grade levels, and tiers.
- Included in our procedures and processes is the adaptation of a problem-solving protocol through utilizing the Team Initiated Problem-Solving (TIPS) questions and capturing our work using and adapting the “Here’s What, Now What, So What” template.
- To support schools in their implementation efforts our District MTSS Plan team members conduct a walkthrough of core instruction in the fall and spring to provide feedback on instruction, curriculum, and environmental factors. Analysis of this data at the school and district level allows us to adjust core differentiation and provide aligned intervention.
- Annually our district and school teams take part in self-assessments. Each school begins the process by engaging in Facilitate Assessment of MTSS-School Level (FAM-S) and from this feedback our District Plan team can identify areas of strengths and write goals to support areas of improvement in our MTSS implementation.
Three-Tiered Instruction and Intervention Model:
- An essential component of our intervention model includes our MTSS School Facilitators. These individuals serve as our intervention contact for each school and they are also a part of our District MTSS Team. In partnership with their Principals and Instructional Coaches, the leads are involved with planning and implementing professional development and providing ongoing support for differentiation and tiered intervention within their school. The group of leads serve as our experts in the area of progress monitoring and they coordinate schedules of intervention for students, facilitate problem-solving team meetings for tier groups, and direct the processes of communicating with parents.
- As our process continues to evolve we have become increasingly aware of the need for tracking supports across all tiers (core, supplemental, and intensive). While platforms such as Google have helped us to organize our data and communications we have a need to streamline the monitoring process of our interventions. Currently, our district has trained a cohort on the Branching Minds platform. This tool partners learning science with education research in order to support effective MTSS implementation. Coming into our work with Branching Minds as a district relatively strong in the implementation areas of problem-solving, data analysis, and evidence-based interventions, we have found the uploading of templates and data for progress monitoring to be most beneficial. Reflecting back on the journey of the process of MTSS implementation we can see where Branching could help in the identification of assessments and interventions that align to student data. Going forward we anticipate that Branching Minds will allow us to evolve our process by providing schools with more choice in differentiation and intervention support, increasing time for teachers to effectively intervene, and ultimately consolidating our real-time data to effectively sustain MTSS.
Authored by: Jennifer Gardner
MTSS District Coordinator at Greene County Public Schools, NC