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!

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

MTSS From Buy-in to Implementation: 8 Steps for Change

Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Starting with MTSS/RTI, Meetings, Culture

A robust and continuous MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) program has been proven to lead to more positive school environments, more robust core instruction, and effective interventions. However, getting the cart rolling and everyone on board is not an easy task. 

To many, hearing the words “MTSS implementation” sounds like a lot of paperwork and meetings—with a high probability of failure. As most veteran teachers can validate, new education initiatives come and go, often not lasting any longer than the time it took to put them in place. 

This doesn’t have to be the case. By carefully planning for the change of instituting MTSS, districts and schools can ensure that this initiative doesn’t meet the short and sad fate of many before it.

Change methods, or change models, are evidence-based approaches to instituting change at an organizational level. When used with fidelity they provide a clear guide that allows organizations to walk through a change process while remaining equitable and cognizant of the needs of their stakeholders and staff. Change methods also enable organizations to look at instituting MTSS through systems-level processes, stepping back from individual roles to evaluate and plan for a change at an entire school or district level. 

While many of these methods exist, one of the most predominant and well-researched is Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change (Kotter 1996). When placed into an education framework, Kotter’s method lays out a clear outline and plan for the district’s implementing MTSS. 

Below, we’ve outlined each step of Kotter’s process as it would align with an MTSS adoption.

Step 1: Create a Sense of Urgency 

Starting a new initiative at the district or school level can be incredibly difficult. In Kotter’s extensive study of organizations and new initiatives, he determined that over 50% of organizations fail at this implementation stage (Kotter 1996). Organizations that lacked a clear vision and failed to demonstrate the need for a new system were unable to maintain motivation for the trajectory of their adopted system. How leadership handles the adoption of MTSS sets the tone for the rest of the entire implementation process. 

When introducing MTSS, it’s imperative that leadership sets a tone of urgency. Why is MTSS necessary? What problems are schools currently facing that MTSS can help with? How is the current system failing to address the "red flags" of the education process? These questions need to be clearly communicated for all stakeholders at the very start of instituting MTSS. 

By connecting MTSS to the school or district's vision and mission, there is immediate buy-in for the necessity of a new initiative. In this early stage, it’s also helpful to access resources that clearly show the value of MTSS and why adoption is essential.

➡️ Learn More: Leadership and the System-Level Work in MTSS

Step 2: Build a Guiding Coalition 

Once a district or school has decided to institute MTSS, the next step is to create a team to guide the adoption process. This is the MTSS team, and it should include individuals from various positions, tenure, and skillsets. 

The goal of this team is to pre-address problems that might arise during the adoption of MTSS. They are the leaders of the adoption phase, tasked with preparing data, communicating with staff, and analyzing options pertinent to MTSS adoption (such as selecting an MTSS Software). 

This team can also begin to handle more specific questions that will need to be addressed during implementation. They will need to communicate with district IT departments to answer data-related questions when selecting an MTSS software. 

This team will also organize information on staffing requirements, necessary budget adjustments, and an implementation timeline. Remember, this team is the MTSS leaders, and each member should have a specific role and expertise in the process. An excellent resource for this team is our article on Leadership During Change and for Continuous Improvement

Step 3: Form a Strategic Vision and Tie Initiatives to MTSS 

From the blueprint set forth by the MTSS team, districts and school leaders can then begin to form a strategic vision that clarifies the goals and expectations of instituting MTSS. Under Kotter’s Method, this vision should be communicable, desirable, have a clear verbal picture, be flexible, feasible, imaginable, and simple. 

This vision should clearly communicate how MTSS will lead to a different future than the current reality within the education sphere. Leaders can pull from the research and evidence utilized in the first stage when the rationale for MTSS adoption was created. 

➡️ Related Resource: Infrastructural Alignment for MTSS

The MTSS team will begin to identify clear initiatives of targeted and coordinated activities that will make the vision a reality from the vision stage. These initiatives are pulled from the strategies and questions analyzed in the previous step, such as specific software adoption or budgeting considerations. 

For 2021-2022, Branching Minds has created our MTSS Mobilization Framework for 2021-2022 to help in facilitating and identifying these initiatives. This step-by-step, year-by-year guide is an excellent resource in creating a clear vision, shared language, and aligned initiatives throughout the MTSS implementation process. Schools and districts can also access our MTSS Buy-in and Mobilization Guide to provide further information and guidance. 

Step 4: Enlist a Volunteer Army 

Once a district or school has created a clear vision and framework in instituting MTSS, the next step is to bring on an army of volunteers to move the initiative forward. Kotter’s Method shows that change can only occur when a substantial portion of an organization is brought in to facilitate the process of change adoption. Kotter’s model argues that between 15-50% of a district or school will need to be included at this stage to continue the momentum with positive acceptance (Kotter 1996). 

This larger group of individuals should include teachers, counselors, administrators, school psychologists, MTSS coordinators, and special education professionals. The role of this group is to combat the initiative fatigue of the education staff by actively communicating action steps and the rationale for MTSS adoption. 

By including many stakeholders in the MTSS adoption, school and district leadership allow for consistent and open feedback. This is essential when instituting MTSS, as all staff members will be important in facilitating an MTSS program. At this stage, it’s also important to clearly communicate how MTSS will benefit the school, community, and staff members. This is not just another addition to the already full plate of a teacher. 

If adopting an MTSS software to aid in instituting MTSS, proper training and professional development for your volunteer army will need to occur. Branching Minds offer a variety of professional development training for our partner schools to help in this process. 

Some helpful resources to utilize at this stage include our article on Communication Planning for MTSS, as well as our turnkey slides for introducing MTSS to your team. 

Step 5: Enable Action by Removing Barriers 

As MTSS adoption moves forward, it’s vital that leadership takes a moment to identify potential barriers that could be met in the final stages. This includes analyzing how past initiatives have failed and receiving feedback from current staff about the current implementation process. It may be helpful to incorporate an anonymous survey for school staff members, so the MTSS leaders can target issues before they derail the process. 

When considering how past initiatives have failed, it’s important to complete a root cause analysis. What is the problem? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?

Our Guide to Solving the Top Four MTSS Challenges can be a valuable resource in identifying these potential barriers and creating proactive steps to utilize during the change process. If the school or district utilizes an MTSS Software, such as Branching Minds, it’s also important to consider which data rostering method will support the MTSS practice. 

Step 6: Generate Short-Term Wins 

As MTSS implementation moves forward, collecting, categorizing, and communicating wins with all stakeholders is essential. The Kotter Method defines wins as relevant, meaningful, tangible, and replicable. 

At this stage, more staff will need to be brought into the process and trained in MTSS. This maintains momentum and includes more stakeholders, which validates the continuous feedback process, which is vital to implementation success. Small wins to celebrate may include hitting particular milestones in staff onboarding or in reaching a certain percentage of satisfaction ratings in staff feedback forms. 

 ➡️ Related Resource: Benefits of and Strategies for Teacher Collaboration In & Outside of MTSS

Step 7: Sustain Acceleration 

When moving forward, schools and districts will need to maintain momentum as they fully onboard all staff members in MTSS, including professional development training necessary in mastering an MTSS software. 

During these final stages, it’s imperative communication and feedback remain consistent. As more staff members are brought on board, there may be more friction and resistance to instituting MTSS. Maintaining and communicating a clear vision can help ease resistance and frustration that is naturally present during change. 

By focusing on the positives gained from MTSS adoption, staff members may be more receptive to the additional workload required during initial implementation. Communication should stress that MTSS is not just something extra being added to an already hectic year—but an avenue to efficiency and fidelity in delivering the best instructional and intervention practices to all of our students. 

 ➡️ Related Resource: MTSS Requires Capacity Building

Step 8: Institute Change 

At the final stage of the Kotter Method, a school or district will take the last steps to institute MTSS fully. School teams should be given specific goals and schedules to maintain trajectory and track goals as the rollout begins. These teams include the local MTSS teams at each school level and department and content teams tracking individual student progress.

The focus should be on bringing MTSS fully into the culture of a school, where it does not exist as an external part but as an integrated path to student success and instructional fidelity. A plan should be developed to address training of new staff hires and ongoing professional development opportunities, so MTSS continues to be naturally integrated in the years to come. 

When considering the Kotter Method as an avenue for instituting MTSS, it's important to remember that each stage is important. While it may be tempting to skip over a step or combine steps, Kotter’s research on accelerating change shows that skipping over steps is a primary driver which leads to initiatives failing (Kotter 2012). 

At the start, schools and districts can utilize the staff and resources they already have in place to help evaluate their current system and organize the change necessary to address problems plaguing their process.

By taking the time to carefully consider each step of Kotter’s Method and accounting for an open feedback system throughout this process, educational leaders can ensure successful MTSS implementation—leading to a stronger school environment that benefits staff, students, and our communities. 

 

Citations

Kotter, John P. "Accelerate!" Harvard Business Review 90, no. 11 (November 2012): 45–58.

Kotter, J. P. Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

MTSS Resources for School Leadership

Leadership, RTI/MTSS, Starting with MTSS/RTI, Meetings, Culture

Principals across the nation work hard to provide the best education and leadership possible. “Effective principals work relentlessly to improve achievement by focusing on the quality of instruction. They help define and promote high expectations; they tackle teacher isolation and fragmented effort; and they connect directly with teachers and the classroom.”*

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. 

The Top 13 MTSS Resources You Need to Head Back to School in 2021

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

Long before the 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 started to let go of traditional models to evaluate students for special education and instead began moving towards a Whole Child approach to consider the needs of all students. Many chose to transition to MTSS because 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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.