Getting Real: Considerations and Self-Assessment for Implementing MTSS

Best Practices, Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Starting with MTSS/RTI, Assessment

Reflective teaching is a practice I believe strongly in utilizing throughout the school year. Throughout my work as a University Supervisor at the National College of Education at National Louis University, I work with graduate teacher candidates to develop their reflective practices. Reflection allows educators to think about lessons they observed (or taught), analyze techniques, self-assess and consider areas of strength and growth. Recently, during my own reflective process, I could not help but think about the significant changes in teaching that have occurred over the last 20 months. 

As educators, we have all come to expect that change is our new norm; especially, after we collectively experienced the transition to remote learning, hybrid learning, and the back-and-forth between the two. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, all teachers at one time or another have experienced a challenging learning curve or a difficult programmatic change. And specifically, in education, it is well known that organizational change historically moved at a snail’s pace in schools and was even more difficult than in other professional settings. 

Best Practices on Interpreting Student Assessment Data in MTSS

Intervention Spotlight, Best Practices, Universal screener, RTI/MTSS, Assessment, Progress monitoring, Data Reporting and Monitoring

I can still hear my students groan every time I announce “pop quiz time!” My countless hours of learning about secondary education had taught me that a solid instructional strategy was rooted in tests, tests, tests. Test the kids before they learn, test the kids while they learn, and test them after they learn. And then again—test the kids the next day, too—just to make sure they remember what we did yesterday. 

As a teacher, I always sought to have some form of assessment embedded throughout every lesson because that was the foundation of good teaching, right? However, I was never taught what to do with the results of all that testing. I had all this great data at my fingertips, but I was drowning in data points, multiple-choice scores, and whether or not spelling should count in a short answer. So how did that help me help my students? 

A robust Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) relies on a systematic data collection process. We are told to ensure that we have a universal screener and progress monitors, but it’s just as vital that we know what to do with our assessment data after we go through the process of gathering it. To make smart, data-driven decisions to support our MTSS process, we need to have a clear understanding of the role of each assessment in an MTSS model. That way, we aren’t all drowning in data, without any idea of where all this data is supposed to take us.

Cue—this handy, dandy assessment table and a breakdown of assessments.

Focusing on Strengths Makes us Stronger

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Assessment, SEL and 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, Assessment, Meetings, SEL and 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, Assessment, SEL and 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, Assessment, SEL and 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

Assessment, SEL and 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.