Team-based decision-making, driven by data analysis and collective expertise, is at the heart of MTSS practice. As school psychologist, author, and researcher Gary Shaffer aptly expressed, "It's about supporting the students, but it's also about empowering adults to make decisions together."
School psychologists are uniquely positioned to drive the implementation of MTSS. In a recent episode of our Schoolin’ Around Podcast, Gary Schaffer highlighted the pivotal role of school psychologists.
According to NASP (National Association of School Psychologists), school psychologists provide an array of services covering academics, behavior, mental health, data analysis, and more. However, they often find themselves limited to special education evaluations, limiting their involvement in preventive services like early intervention and consultation that could mitigate many problems in the first place.
Let's delve into how school psychologists can lead the charge in MTSS implementation.
Referent Power: The Secret to MTSS Buy-In
School psychologists possess a unique form of influence in schools. Referent power, rather than direct or legitimate power such as the principal’s, is earned through the respect, empathy, and practical help school psychologists provide for their colleagues and is crucial for lasting change. "You could have all the legitimate power you want, but without earning the respect of your staff and demonstrating empathy for their concerns, it's unlikely you'll gain their wholehearted commitment to MTSS."
Leveraging the Expertise of School Psychologists
School psychologists undergo training in data analysis, consultation, mental health, learning, and behavior. However, they often spend a significant portion of their time conducting student evaluations and administrative duties, limiting their broader contributions.
To truly transform a school with MTSS, an expansion of the school psychologist role is key. "You really have to harness the capabilities of school psychologists...inquire about how they can contribute beyond special education assessments."
School Psychologists can support MTSS implementation by:
Serving on campus and district-level MTSS leadership teams
Offering training in social-emotional assessments and curriculum
Spearheading Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) efforts
Informing data collection and analysis efforts
Providing consultation and coaching for teachers and teams in MTSS implementation
The Power of Each Stakeholder
School psychologists lead by example, utilizing referent power to inspire trust and gain commitment from their colleagues. Their wealth of expertise and active participation in MTSS teams significantly contribute to the success of this transformative system. "MTSS is a powerful mechanism to transform education." And school psychologists are the champions you need to drive that transformation!
Larissa Napolitan is the Digital Content Creator for Branching Minds and the host of Branching Minds' podcast "Schoolin' Around." As a former middle school English teacher and instructional coach, she has over 13 years of experience building systems for improvement, training and coaching teachers in new technology and instructional methods, and leading efforts to build curriculum and literacy initiatives. She holds Masters's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Education Administration from Emporia State University. Not only is she passionate about using her experience and academic knowledge, but loves to use her writing and voice to make a broader impact on education, teachers, and students.