Branching Minds MTSS Summit -- December 8th, 2021

Branching Forward: Setting Intentions for MTSS in the New Year.

Benefits of and Strategies for Teacher Collaboration In & Outside of MTSS

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

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.

MTSS as Organizing Principle for Moving Beyond the 2020-2021 School Year

Best Practices, Leadership, RTI/MTSS

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.”

Learning Loss VS Instructional Loss, & Addressing Loss Within MTSS

Best Practices, Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Distance Learning

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. 

MTSS Requires Capacity Building

Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Starting with MTSS/RTI

Why Is Capacity Building So Critical For RTI/MTSS?

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. 

Funding for MTSS in Stimulus

Leadership, Funding MTSS/RTI

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...

Developing a Successful MTSS/RTI Team

Best Practices, Leadership, Starting with MTSS/RTI

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. 
 

Making MTSS/RTI Work More Efficient Through Groups

Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Tiering Students, Starting with MTSS/RTI

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. 

How to Show Your Teachers Some Love

Leadership, Community

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. 

Evaluating the Quality and Impact of Your MTSS/RTI Practice

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

In a healthy RTI/MTSS practice, a data-driven approach is not only important for guiding decisions for individual student needs, but it’s also critical for evaluating the quality and impact of the practice at the school and district level. We recommend that school and/or district leadership meet three times a year, following the administration of universal screening assessments, to reflect on and evaluate their practice. The goal of this meeting is to understand the health of school-level RTI/MTSS practice by looking at the percent of students who are adequately being served by the core, the equity of instruction across demographics, and improvement in student outcome measures since the last meeting. These metrics are used to evaluate the quality of practice across tier 1, 2, and 3 levels of support and guide school-level improvement plans.

A Note of Gratitude

Leadership, Community

2020 has been a doozy and I’m pretty sure I won’t be alone celebrating the new year of 2021 with a capital C. That being said this Thanksgiving, I, and the entire Branching Minds team, have a ton for which to be grateful.