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.
Although educators meet frequently to discuss student needs, teacher supports, and interventions, how often is there a discussion around implementing those supports with fidelity? Our goal is to serve the needs of our students. However, without fidelity monitoring in a Multi-Tied System of Supports (MTSS), we don’t know if the student actually received the high-quality instruction or intervention that we planned! There is often a big difference between a plan on paper and what happens in the day-to-day life of a school. A consistent plan to monitor and improve the quality of your intervention implementation could be the missing ingredient in your students’ success!
Building positive relationships with families is like putting money in the bank! Yes, it takes effort and valuable time, but the investment is absolutely worth it. The MTSS process provides several strategic opportunities to connect with families and partner together to support students.
Do you ever find yourself trying to make sense of all the assessments your students are expected to take, only to end up with more questions (and maybe a headache)? When should they take the assessments? Are they for ALL students or only SOME students? Which teachers can administer them? Which students need testing accommodations, and which accommodations do they need?
As more and more schools implement a Multi-Tiered System of Supports, a common question I hear in my work as an educational consultant among teachers, administrators, and instructional leaders is, “How are Tier 1 and Tier 2 Different?” They want to know what it means to differentiate at the Tier 1 level, and how this is different than a Tier 2 intervention. It is a valid inquiry that resonates with frustrated teachers experiencing initiative fatigue. The bottom line teachers want to make sense of is…how will their daily instruction be expected to change?
During the past couple of weeks, I have facilitated Branching Minds’ “Foundations of MTSS” for two elementary campuses. I asked one of the principals what I should write about in a blog dedicated to MTSS on an elementary campus. She pointed out that she wanted to hear more about the layers of support illustrated in the graphic below. “Okay”, I thought I could work on that.
I remember the days when I was teaching a classroom full of 2nd graders, intending to ensure each student would experience success. Then reality set in…Johnny, Sue, and Ben could not read, Sara, Keon, Nhu, and Mike could not learn how to tell time to the half-hour, and Christian, Debora, and Aaron had some behavioral challenges.
School is just around the corner and planning for next year has already started. This year, your school may be introducing a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to better support all students. If you’re unfamiliar with MTSS, this new framework can at first appear daunting.
There is a learning curve for all educators working through the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) to help identify students’ needs. As a former school psychologist, I was often able to make recommendations on effective ways to support students in school and on following MTSS processes.
I’ve heard it said that many school psychologists, case managers, and other student support team members have fallen into the position of reviewing student interventions that were tried but were not “evidence-based.” Or perhaps, having to explain to a colleague that there wasn’t sufficient data to qualify moving a student between tiers, much less qualify for special education.
In my experience, I found that utilizing MTSS processes ensured that before a student is ever evaluated for special education, the continuum of support based upon the student's identified needs has already been provided, documented, and it was already determined if the prior interventions were working.
That being said, it may not be easy for any school team member to remind a colleague to follow a process, and reiterating to my colleagues the critical need to follow the MTSS processes was one of the essential parts of my role. This discussion provided the opportunity for me to help teachers understand the process for supporting growth and meeting the needs of all students.
Planning and implementing MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) can appear as a monumental task, especially in today’s world, where our teachers’ tasks are exponentially growing. It’s widely accepted that vast numbers of students will struggle this year, and they will need more support than ever before.
Accelerated learning pushes teachers to incorporate grade-level content with students who have spent over a year in an abnormal learning environment. To accomplish this feat, core instruction requires a strong platform built upon support and interventions. The burden of locating these supports and interventions lies on the already burdened shoulders of our teachers.
The Branching Minds team and platform seek to alleviate that burden, making the road to MTSS smoother and less rocky—so we can all have a bit more time for self-care without compromising student success. The Branching Minds support library comprises thousands of research-based supports and interventions, cutting down the time teachers need to find their own effective resources.
Terminology can be a pesky obstacle, leading to added frustrations when we can’t find what we need. Between “learning supports,” “interventions,” and “accommodations,” it’s easy to get confused as to what resource is needed during the MTSS cycle.
It’s important to note that regardless of the term, these resources all have the same goal— helping all students to achieve academic success. Generally speaking, the use of differentiated support can be applied more broadly to the work you are doing to help a student, such as during Tier 1 core instruction for all students. This fills in learning gaps and facilitates accelerated learning.
Supports become interventions when used in an intensive setting to meet grade-level expectations. Supports become accommodations when they remove a particular barrier a student may have to learn/demonstrate content.
Below, we’ve outlined these definitions more in-depth, as well as when/how they’re typically used. Keep in mind that these definitions are fluid, and many educational resources do not fit into one definition.
When it comes to categorizing a resource, you must also account for how and why it is being utilized. The same resource can often be used as a learning support and an intervention, depending on its application and the student’s needs.