There is a universal truth when starting any sort of new project, vision, implementation, or system change: a disruption and reallocation of time and resources must be addressed. With the addition of a new goal, there will be a back and forth battle as finite (time, staffing, money) resources are reassigned. To minimize or alleviate the exhaustion that accompanies the tug-of-war, alignment should be the goal of every leader.
“Our teachers come together to meet about students’ needs regularly, at the individual student level—we just don’t have a way to come together as district leadership and meet about the system needs at the systems level. We don’t have the data or the structures to do that proactive pattern matching so that we could have bigger more positive impacts on improving student outcomes earlier. ”
The insight above was recently shared with me by a district administrator in Florida who was looking to improve their MTSS practice. Similar observations have been shared with me many times before. The most common component of MTSS that schools and districts implement is the student-level problem-solving meeting. In almost every school that employs an MTSS model, you will find a team of teachers who come together to understand why a student is struggling, what has been done to support the student, and what should be done moving forward. This collaborative problem-solving work at the student-level is critical for student success and effective MTSS, but it is all too often stymied by an absence of systems-level problem-solving that establishes the infrastructure upon which any student-level support can be provided. After all, as the name of the acronym suggests, it is the system that the model is based on and the foundation for student-level problem-solving.
Even though most teachers and school administrators agree that teacher collaboration leads to improved outcomes for both teachers and students, many schools are still not providing enough time for teachers to work together during school hours. Of course, there are many challenges in building a master schedule that gives teachers this time, but there is also a growing body of research showing the significant benefits of facilitating effective collaboration. Teacher collaboration is an important element for school improvement across the nation, and even more important when it comes to implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) approach, and certainly worth taking a deeper dive.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered our nation’s schools in mid-March 2020, many districts across the country had been working to transition to MTSS (Multi-Tiered Student Support System). Schools were “ditching” their more traditional models to evaluate students for special education and instead began moving towards a more holistic approach to consider the needs of all students. Many chose to transition to MTSS as it uses a multi-tiered support foundation that wraps around a school’s entire student body and uses data-driven problem-solving to address academic and non-academic (attendance, social-emotional, etc.) needs. Schools and districts making this shift found that they improved education for all students, gained efficiencies, and prevented students from “slipping through the cracks.”
As more districts are heading back to in-person learning, educators are being tasked with meeting the needs of students who have had a wide range of instructional and learning experiences over the past year. This might seem like even more of an uphill battle than what teachers have already gone through. Yet, there are several approaches that schools and districts can turn to help support this transition. Many of these approaches are key components of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), with which educators are already familiar. Below, we highlight the important distinction between learning and instructional loss as well as outline a few tips for effectively addressing the different skills and needs of students when they return to schools and classrooms.
It’s fun to be a leader. You were chosen because you are a “solutions and get it done” kind of an educator! It’s also very challenging, as it requires you to keep yourself fit – physically, mentally and emotionally! It requires that we relinquish the superhero cape and share the real work of leadership. The work district and school level leaders must accomplish is weighty and we must admit that building positive capacity in others is the only way to accomplish our goals and sustain them over time. You could have the greatest initiative ever, and spend an entire year working for all hours every day to get it going, only to be moved to another campus or another position for the following year. What happens to your initiative then? It slowly disappears, as staff and leadership changes. Moreover, doing everything on your own just takes longer! To solidify the foundation of a great initiative in an organization, it is crucial to build capacity in others.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the federal government has passed three separate stimulus bills. Combined, the three pieces of legislation have provided over $195 billion in funding for K12 schools - that’s almost double the $100 billion that schools received from the 2009 stimulus bill following the economic recession.
Keeping track of all that money and how school districts can use the funds for students can be confusing, but here’s a bit of help...
The MTSS/RTI team is a school-based, problem-solving team; it is the engine that drives the MTSS/RTI practice. The MTSS/RTI team exists to proactively address system needs by reviewing school-wide data (within grade levels and classrooms) and support individual student growth by helping to monitor progress and make decisions for students at Tier 3.
The site administrator should play an active role in recruiting and ultimately designating the composition of the MTSS/RTI team. The most successful teams consist of volunteers, so it is important that site administrators make an effort to designate members who truly want to be involved. MTSS/RTI team membership is made up of both standing members who contribute expertise from their respective disciplines and those who may be invited to address a specific concern. Examples of standing members on the MTSS/RTI team include: administrator, general education teacher, school psychologist/counselor, dean, content area specialist, ELL teacher, special education teacher, and grade-level or department representatives.
We know educators strive to provide the appropriate level of instructional support each student needs to achieve at least grade-level mastery. We have all experienced students arriving to our classrooms with a wide range of knowledge, skills, experience and interest. It is quickly evident we cannot just charge through the curriculum lockstep and hope that every student gets what they need. Even when utilizing varied daily instruction to accommodate for students’ different learning needs, some students still require additional support to master new skills and content or catch up on missing skills from previous years’ standards.
No, it's not 'teacher appreciation week,' but it is the season of love. ❤️
Teachers have a tremendous impact on their students' learning and lives. Although showing them love and appreciation for all the fantastic work they do should not be limited to a season or a day of celebration, it is still worth the spotlight in February when the topic is ever present.