How to Respond to an MTSS Intervention Plan Showing No Growth

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

Ah, intervention plans. They are fun, aren’t they? All that data and planning and resources, only to take a look at a student’s progress monitoring scores and realize that those stubborn scores haven’t budged at all. Why? We may scream internally, watching our tediously placed trend lines flat-line. But we worked so hard on this skill! It is a true horror story of education—well, maybe not horror, but the frustration is definitely there.

Edward Munch, “The Scream”

As the bedrock of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), intervention plans are crucial in aiding all students to master grade-level content. While universal screeners and benchmarks can help identify which students require additional support beyond core instruction, intervention plans are the vehicle that delivers that support. Let’s take a moment to review the essential components of an MTSS intervention plan, then jump into the nitty-gritty of what to do if a plan is showing no growth.

How to Create an Equitable Tier 1 in MTSS Through Accelerated Core Instruction

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Equity, SEL and Behavior

As lifelong educators, my co-author and I have experienced a combined 50, yes 50 years in education! Spring semesters, planning, reviewing middle-of-year data, and targeting support before the final bell rings for summer. No matter what role we have held, including teacher, administrator, instructional coach, our instinctual goal was to ensure at least one year’s growth for every student.

With COVID-19 and all of its impacts still looming, we again find ourselves faced with an end-of-year deadline and, as always, evaluating student growth. Longstanding academic inequities continue to creep into our schools and classrooms as many students fall further and further behind meeting grade-level standards. 

And who’s most at-risk for falling behind? Recent data suggests that our underperforming students are racially and ethnically diverse, are from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and have individualized education programs (IEPs) (Methodology Studies - Achievement Gaps | NAEP). With the best intentions, after a thorough middle-of-year data review, our initial instinct is to group students to focus on remediating foundational skills only to risk excluding them from grade-level content instruction. 

➡️ Related Resource: Best Practices on Interpreting Student Assessment Data in MTSS

What if, instead of focusing on growth for every student (which potentially may be grade levels below), we focus on grade-level proficiency or bust for every student? Instead of focusing on identifying the gaps and moving backward to fill them, we accelerate our core instruction by strategically curating the grade-level standards-based instruction. That way, the student can spend time and attention on identified targeted skills to prepare for upcoming learning. Student outcomes change when accelerated instruction replaces traditional remediation strategies alone.

With traditional remediation, students identified as needing additional support typically receive intervention for skill gaps that may have little or nothing to do with the current, on-grade level material and/or instruction. While it is certainly important to "backfill" for learning gaps, when that remediation is not closely aligned to what the student needs right now to be successful with current grade-level material, the student will only slip further behind. In contrast, acceleration provides immediate access to end-of-year expectations by strategically identifying prior years’ learning and learning gaps, AND providing just-in-time support along the way.

➡️ Related Resource: Selecting the Right Interventions to Boost Accelerated Learning

Considering our classrooms’ significant and diverse needs in 2022 and beyond, we can layer the strategies and principles of accelerated instruction as an equitable multi-tiered systems solution that ensures our Tier 1 core instruction is fluid, dynamic, responsive, and matches our diverse students’ needs. But, before we can jump into how to accelerate, let’s answer the first question that comes to mind…what exactly is differentiated core Tier 1 instruction, and what is acceleration?

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.

Top 22 Resources to Help Your School Successfully Implement MTSS in 2022

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

Happy New Year! A new semester has begun and with it comes the possibilities for positive change. Getting ready for a new semester is crucial, but it can also be a complicated undertaking, especially with the complexities of a pandemic. As 2022 begins, we wanted to share 22 MTSS resources with you so you can start out the second half of the school year strong and prepared

There’s something here for everyone: whether you’re a classroom teacher, a school admin, a district leader, or an MTSS coordinator; if you’re exploring what MTSS is; if you’re working on developing an MTSS team, selecting an MTSS tool, aligning your MTSS implementation with the rest of the initiatives at your district, or simply strengthening communication and collaboration.

We’ve divided the resources into MTSS Best Practices, Accelerated Learning, Structure and Leadership in MTSS, and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). We hope you find them helpful!

5 Questions to Ask to Ensure Your School is Proactively Protecting Student Data

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Progress monitoring, Data Reporting and Monitoring

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a research-based framework that helps educators identify academic, behavioral, and social-emotional strengths and needs to provide differentiated support for the entire student body based upon their needs. Data is central to the MTSS framework. MTSS utilizes data-based decision making, which includes data analysis and systematic problem-solving through team meetings to make decisions about instruction, intervention, implementation, and whether the support provided to students is working or if additional intervention is needed.

MTSS Teams use data from multiple assessments—such as formative and summative assessments—to plan tiered instruction that is strategized to meet students’ needs. MTSS Teams use the assessment data to engage in strategic problem-solving to identify student needs and plan for intervention and progress monitoring. Assessments can also be used to evaluate school-wide outcomes, make efficient decisions based on those outcomes, and use this data to inform an MTSS action plan.

Best Practices for Meetings and How to Apply Them to MTSS

Best Practices, Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Meetings, Culture

Meetings are meant to be an engine of productivity in the workplace, but let’s face it—you must have been in one of these meeting situations at least once:

  • Wondering why you are in a particular meeting and checking your inbox or doing work while checked out entirely from the conversation;
  • Struggling to keep your eyes open as the conversation droned on and on in the room about something so unrelated to your work;
  • Found yourself stuck in a meeting where it wasn’t clear what was being decided;
  • The meeting gets off on a side tangent, and you spend the entire time talking about something that doesn’t move the work forward;
  •  You have something to say but are unsure whether it’s the right time or place;
  • All of the above!

Meetings constitute a large part of our work and an essential part of the work of educators as they come together to make decisions that in most cases impact students’ life and future. And to be honest and realistic, nobody wants to sit in boring, unproductive, and poorly facilitated meetings—your time as a professional and, most notably, as an educator is way too valuable for that! 

Meetings facts:

While there isn’t a standardized way to count this, this estimate is based upon some data and extrapolation, and these statistics are staggering:

  • In the US alone, approximately 55 million meetings happen every single day
  • If you’re a manager, on average, you’re probably meeting 12 times/week
  • If you’re an individual contributor, on average, you’re probably meeting eight times/week
Source: Lucimeetings

School and district teams need to take a systematic approach to run team meetings as in the business world. 

So let’s unpack meetings, their best practices, and how to apply them in the MTSS context.

Meeting Lifecycle

There are only three phases of any meeting’s lifecycle:

  • Before the meeting:
    • Planning an agenda
    • Scheduling a meeting
    • Researching attendees (when applicable)
    • Preparing presentation or discussion material
    • Assigning pre-meeting homework when applicable (reviewing data, reading documents, etc.)
  • During the meeting:
    • Preparing to join a meeting (dialing into a zoom call, planning a commute, or meeting room transfer for in-person)
    • Deciding action items, respective owners, and timelines
    • Taking brief meeting notes
  • After the meeting:
    • Writing detailed meeting notes
    • Sharing notes with attendees and colleagues who were not part of the meeting
    • Entering information into some system of record for tracking purposes
    • Completing your action items
    • Following up on others’ action items

Meeting Norms & Best Practices

Meeting norms can be subjective and vary from one organization to another and from one team to another, but the foundations remain the same.

At Branching Minds, we crafted our meeting expectations from input provided by the entire team after participating in a survey assessing our meeting culture and a series of workshops on how to make our meetings better. Those meeting norms are designed to help us achieve greater productivity while allowing us to live our values best. 

Our meetings at Branching Minds are expected to be:

  • Inclusive - every attendee has a voice
  • A Shared Experience - everyone has an active role and is contributing
  • Productive - we get in with a purpose, we get out with action steps toward that purpose
  • Responsive - the meeting structure evolves based on the needs of the team
Although we have designed our norms for us, they do not differ much from the standard norms applicable in any team.

Here is the comprehensive list of norms for showing up in meetings to consider:

Before the meeting:

During the meeting:

After the meeting:

  • Do your homework before the meeting! Check the agenda before the meeting, address any required actions or preparation needed (e.g., readings, data review, drafting docs, etc.) 
  • Show up and start on time. 

If you are the meeting caller and/or facilitator:

  • Make sure there is a purpose for the meeting and that the goal is clear
  • Send an agenda early on to allow people to prepare
  • Assign roles: including a note-taker, a timekeeper, and a facilitator.
  • Stay engaged, rather than doing other things unrelated to the meeting 
  • As a participant, you are expected to be engaged and participate. Ask questions actively, and request clarification. Do not assume!
  •  
  • Stay on topic, and avoid tangential conversations 
  • If the host's camera is on, everyone's camera is on
  • Keep your cameras and audio on 

If you are the meeting caller and/or facilitator:

  • Prioritize items 
  • Stick to the agenda
  • Promote and model ostentatious listening*
  • Make sure all voices are heard (a good practice is to start your meeting with a check-in question)
  • Create a safe space that promotes creativity and where people feel safe enough to speak 
  • Before the end of the meeting, confirm that everyone got what they needed and that their actions are clear
  • End the meeting with a check-out - short feedback on the meeting and a sacred space for each person to share. It will allow seed improvement for the next meeting.
  • Follow up on action steps after the meeting: Define action steps, assign work to specific individuals, and hold each other accountable (e.g., using Asana and scheduling due dates).
  • Follow-through: Send meeting notes or a recap of decisions and action items, when appropriate.

If you are the meeting caller and/or facilitator:

  • Sum up the meeting with notes and action items. 
  • Make sure these notes are accessible to everyone who attended the meeting. 


*Ostentatious listening is when team members demonstrate they are actively listening by repeating what has just been said, and making eye contact. Watch this video by Charles Duhigg, starting 01:28, about the characteristics of perfect teams.

Applying Meeting Norms Within an MTSS Framework

While the initial perception is that adopting an MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support) practice adds additional meetings, it actually refocuses meetings—we don’t meet just for the sake of meeting; we meet with a clear structure. As MTSS meets the needs of the entire student body, these processes ensure that no student “falls through the cracks.”

➡️ Related Resource: Communication Planning for MTSS

In an effective MTSS or RTI model, there are different meeting processes, structures and objectives that allow effective problem-solving at the school, grade/content team, and individual student level. These meetings have different functions and agendas, as follow:

The School Leadership Meeting

This meeting is conducted three times a year, similar to a universal screener. The goal of this meeting is to understand the school-wide health and wellness around MTSS. The School Leadership team reviews school-level data (assessment scores, tier demographic distributions, tier movement and referral rates, etc.) to answer the question, "Is this a healthy school?"

The Grade/Content Team Community Meeting

This meeting happens monthly, during a dedicated grade team meeting time. This meeting aims to discuss and problem-solve for students the teachers are concerned about because they aren't making sufficient progress, typically students' recieving Tier 2 support, and to check in on students' receiving Tier 3 support. Grade/Content teams create/review these students' intervention plans and refer students for a Student Check-in Meeting if needed.

The Individual Student Support Meeting

This meeting provides the time and space for individualized deep dive problem-solving for students not making sufficient progress when supported by the Grade/Content Team Community Meeting.

➡️ Related Resource: MTSS Resources for School Leadership

MEETING TYPE

SCHOOL-LEVEL MTSS MEETING

GRADE/CONTENT TEAM MTSS MEETING

INDIVIDUAL PROBLEM-SOLVING MTSS MEETING

GOAL

Evaluate school-wide health and wellness of MTSS practice

Monitor progress of students' receiving Tier 2 support and look for trends in support needs at the system, teacher, or student level

Deeper dive problem-solving for students not making sufficient progress, and to create/revise Intervention Plans

DURATION/ FREQUENCY

1 hour, 3x per year (post-universal screeners)

1 planning period a month

Weekly or bi-weekly ½ or full-day meetings (depending on the number of students needing Tier 3 support)

ATTENDANCE

  • Principal
  • Data specialists (e.g., AP or counselor)
  • Student 
  • Service/instructional service representative
  • Special Ed representative/ teacher
  • Grade-level rep (large schools) OR Gen Ed teacher rep (small schools)
  • All teachers and specialists who are working with students receiving Tier 2 support in that grade or content area.
  • MTSS lead (principal, AP, or school psych)
  • Intervention specialist(s)
  • Rotating gen ed teacher of the student being discussed

AGENDA

  • Examine the percent of students adequately served by the core
  • Examine equity of core instruction (across demographics, grades, and classrooms)
  • Evaluate student body growth and tier movement
  • Evaluate equity of student growth and tier movement
  • Evaluate quality of intervention delivery 
  • Plan for improved support

First meeting after screener

  • Review tiers and students that will receive tiered support
  • Create groups and plans for students participating in Tier 2 support
  • Schedule student problem-solving meetings for students participating in Tier 3 support

Follow-up meetings

  • Review progress of groups receiving Tier 2 support
  • Look for trends in student growth
  • Make course corrections to promote growth (e.g., provide support to teachers, change strategy)
  • Schedule individual problem-solving for students if necessary
  • Teacher presents data
  • Team evaluates individual student progress
  • Team analyzes and identifies problems
  • Team creates intervention plan to support student

**Should avg 4-5 students in a ½ day, or 8-10 students in a full day

Get a downloadable version of this chart
The MTSS Meetings Guide
⬇️⬇️⬇️

 

Example of How to Apply Standard Meeting Norms in an MTSS Meeting

Before the meeting

During the meeting

After the meeting

  • The facilitator is responsible for identifying whether a meeting is needed, ensuring that the meeting has been scheduled and that participants have been invited and are available to attend, identifying participant roles, and reviewing and preparing meeting materials (e.g., agenda, participant guide, student summary information)
  • Key roles to be assigned:
    • Facilitator: Explains the purpose of the meeting and keeps the participants on task 
    • Referring teacher: Completes pre-meeting student summary form, describes the student, and shares student data during the meeting
    • Scribe: Takes informal notes and tracks brainstorming ideas in a visible space
    • Timekeeper: Times each section of the meeting and helps the team adhere to the allotted time
    • Note-taker: Takes formal notes for documentation using a template
  • Ensure that the team includes members who know the student, have expertise in data analysis, have expertise in content, and have authority to make decisions.
  • Collecting and sharing student information and data 
  • During the meeting, the facilitator explains the purpose of the meeting and keeps the participants on task.
  • Introduce the meeting and review its purpose
  • Describe the student and share data
  • Ask clarifying questions to create a hypothesis
  • Promote and model ostentatious listening as participants take turns to talk or share
  • Review evidence-based strategies for intensification
  • Prioritize and plan
  • Wrap-up and establish next steps

After the meeting, the facilitator will follow up on the next steps identified during the meeting. 

The next steps are as follows: 

  • Ensuring the follow-up meeting is scheduled
  • Confirming the plan has been documented and shared with relevant educators and team members
  • Confirming information has been shared with parent(s) 
  • Checking in with the referring teacher regarding the intervention implementation and data collection

Meetings are critical for educators to get together and collaborate to help students succeed, and many people spend most of their time in them. However, at the same time, many feel that the meetings they attend are ineffective and a waste of their time because of lack of structure, unclear purpose, poor facilitation, absence of data and lack of preparation, etc. Creating effective meetings by utilizing agendas, meeting roles, and many of the norms and tactics we listed above can ensure that something frequently done can also bring significant value.

Sources:

The National Center on Intensive Intervention - Intensive Intervention Meeting Facilitator's Guide

The National Center on Intensive Intervention - Implementation & Intervention Data Teaming Tools

Lucimeetings

The New York Times - What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

Integrating SEL Into an MTSS Framework: Resolving Four Common Problems

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, SEL and Behavior

Many educators are familiar with social and emotional learning (SEL) and a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), but integrating these two frameworks can be challenging. Not only does it require a complete understanding of both SEL and MTSS, but there also needs to be cohesion and collaboration across different leadership teams, classroom teachers, as well as academic, social-emotional, and behavioral specialists. 

Below, we outline four common problems that educators run into when merging these systems and our recommendations for resolving these issues to ultimately strengthen SEL implementation within MTSS.

How to Respond to an Upside Down MTSS Tiered Triangle

Best Practices, Universal screener, RTI/MTSS, Tiering Students, Progress monitoring

Before becoming a professional development consultant with Branching Minds, I spent 34 years in the roles of teacher, interventionist, and instructional specialist; and I’m currently supporting a school district as they continue to improve their MTSS system. My roles allow me to spend time with teachers and administrators from all over the country. And while fall has everyone drinking, eating, and smelling all things pumpkin...for those in education, this season also ushers in a time of data and stress.

With the arrival of fall comes the arrival of student scores from the Beginning of Year administration of Universal Screeners. Universal Screeners are the assessment tool for targeting students who struggle to learn when provided a scientific, evidence-based general education​​ core curriculum (Jenkins, Hudson, & Johnson, 2007). Typically these assessments are administered three times per year during the beginning, middle, and end of year to all students. 

After administering the universal screener to students, we as educators would expect/hope to see 80% of students in Tier 1, indicating that students are meeting grade-level expectations; 10% to 15% in Tier 2, indicating student performance below grade-level expectations; and 5% to 10% of students in Tier 3, indicating students are well below grade level expectations. 

Giving Students Agency With a Seat at the MTSS Table

Best Practices, RTI/MTSS, Progress monitoring, Meetings, Data Reporting and Monitoring

Every year I head to my doctor's appointment for my annual check-up. This year, I thought about all the screeners that the doctor used to determine my overall health, as well as the conversation we had in her office as we sat at the table reviewing my results.