Branching Minds MTSS Summit -- December 8th, 2021

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Focusing on Strengths Makes us Stronger

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Behavior

The Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework has engaged educators in using data-driven approaches to support students in gaining the skills they need to succeed in academics. More recently, with the emerging growth of social and emotional learning (SEL) coming into focus, schools and districts are aiming to incorporate SEL in the same context to prepare students for lifelong success.

The Power of Strength-Based Instruction

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Equity, Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Meetings, Behavior

All students (and adults) have strengths and weaknesses. In K-12 education, student weaknesses and areas of concern are sometimes more apparent, while strengths can fade into the background. Over the past decade, there has been a movement in education to be more explicit in addressing student strengths and encouraging the use of instructional practices to promote growth in areas that might need improvement. The MTSS framework provides an excellent opportunity for educators to shift their instruction, problem-solving, and planning to include student strengths in addition to areas of needed support. Below we outline the difference between the strengths and deficit lens, how focusing on strengths benefits all key stakeholders in education, and specific guidance on using a strengths-based approach in MTSS.

The Alphabet Soup of Behavior Support in MTSS

Practice Spotlights, Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Behavior

Anyone who works in education knows that teachers, administrators, and other school staff love to use acronyms. But for those new to teaching (as well as parents/guardians/community members), it can be challenging to keep up with the vast amount of different terms. This is especially true in the world of behavior and social-emotional learning, as acronyms sometimes get thrown around without much description or context. Educators need to understand what each acronym stands for and what components it should include to set up effective behavior plans within MTSS. Below, we outline the most commonly used acronyms when addressing student behavior within an MTSS framework, break down what they mean, and how to use them effectively.

Supporting Teacher SEL and Well-Being within an MTSS Framework

Best Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Behavior

School and district leaders are becoming increasingly dedicated to improving their social-emotional learning (SEL) programs and practices for students. But an area of SEL that sometimes gets overlooked is the social-emotional skills and well-being of staff members. We know from research and practice that efforts to promote and improve student SEL will fall short if the teachers and staff members implementing SEL curricula and strategies do not have a good handle on these skills themselves. It is also a good idea for leadership teams to start planning now for how they will support their teachers’ social-emotional needs for the upcoming school year. Here are four areas of teacher SEL to consider and work towards addressing if you plan on making SEL a priority at your school.

How to Measure SEL - 7 Approaches to Consider

Social-Emotional Learning, Assessment, Behavior

We know from both research and practice that assessing and measuring social-emotional competencies is an important part of promoting social-emotional learning. For a long time, social and emotional skills were seen as something less tangible than academic skills and therefore also viewed as something that couldn’t be accurately measured. After decades of research and collaboration among educators, psychologists, psychometricians, and other practitioners, we now know that social-emotional competencies can be reliably assessed. However, there are many different approaches that schools use to get this type of social-emotional data. Below we outline some of the common approaches for measuring SEL and the pros and cons to consider when planning on implementing Social-Emotional Learning(SEL) surveys, assessments and screeners. 

How to Help Students That Are One or More Grade Levels Behind

RTI/MTSS, Distance Learning, Assessment

The impact of remote instruction on students has been discussed a great deal during the past ten months, while our nation’s teachers grapple with the complexities of implementing distance learning. As teachers and students engage daily in e-learning, with some schools pivoting back and forth between a hybrid model of remote and in-person schooling, the topic of what it actually means for students to be at “grade level” has been trending. Prior to COVID-19, students were considered to be on “grade level” if they had mastered the skills and concepts at their expected level of difficulty as measured by formal assessments and district/state standards. 

How to Create a Seamless Data-Driven School Culture Through MTSS

RTI/MTSS, Assessment, Meetings, Data Reporting and Monitoring

I often think about an afternoon many years ago when I took my daughter to our local coffee shop to treat ourselves to a special dessert. She was around four or five years old, and as she stood in front of the enormous display of pies, cakes and puddings, she became overwhelmed and said, “What to choose? There is too much of much!” Too much of much... I found such meaning in those unexpected words and as a result, the phrase has stayed with me throughout the years.  

How to use progress monitoring data to guide decision making in an MTSS practice

RTI/MTSS, Assessment, Progress monitoring, Data Reporting and Monitoring

The purpose of progress monitoring

Effective progress monitoring is critical for a successful MTSS/RTI practice. In addition to universal screening assessments--which are given to all students three times a year--students receiving tier 2 or 3 levels of support should be given a progress monitoring assessment every other week or weekly, respectively. These data allow us to have better visibility into whether or not our support is working for a given student, and more importantly, when it is not so that we can adjust the intervention approach quickly to better meet the needs of that student. Assessments used for progress monitoring should be quick, skill (not content) based, and valid and reliable (i.e., having demonstrated to accurately and consistently measure what they are supposed to be evaluating). The Center for Intensive Intervention has a helpful chart that evaluates and compares these qualities for common progress monitoring assessments. 

Common Issues with Assessment During Distance Learning & How to Address Them

RTI/MTSS, Distance Learning, Assessment

Among many of the COVID-19 and remote learning struggles for educators, understanding students’ assessment data has been one of the most common challenges. Interpreting student scores from universal screeners and benchmarks, and using the data to inform instruction and support, is an essential component of any MTSS framework. Without this information, educators must rely solely on their own observations of students to determine who is keeping up and who is falling behind. And of course, this becomes even more of a struggle when teachers aren’t able to observe and work with their students in person. These types of issues will likely stick around for a while, but as long as we continue to have students learning remotely it is essential to figure out ways to work with the data and information that is available. Below are common concerns that educators have with assessment data from their remote learners and suggestions for how to address them. 

Universal Screener Assessments vs Summative Assessments vs Progress Monitoring Assessments

RTI/MTSS, Assessment

There is often a lot of confusion over the use of assessment data in an effective Response to Intervention (RTI) / Multi Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) practices. Largely because… Each assessment type has a different function…