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.
School leaders and teachers have a tendency to rush to implement behavior or academic interventions plans for struggling students, without first taking the time to problem solve why students are struggling in the first place. I witnessed this firsthand in my nearly ten years as a high school assistant principal.
As a first-year high school teacher, it was almost instinctual to pull a struggling learner (often an English Language Learner or a student well below grade level) out of the classroom and work with them individually. Wasn’t this one-on-one attention precisely what this student needed? Wasn’t I helping them by teaching them at their level? They didn’t have to sit through a lesson feeling lost and frustrated, and I didn’t have to worry about them feeling lost in this environment. Instead, I could work with them individually and get them caught up.
While I intended to help, I did not realize I was causing more harm than good, which was evident by my student’s lack of progress by the end of the year. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of a strong, frequently revised Tier 1 curriculum, differentiated for all learners, and the importance of using interventions as supplemental instruction for struggling learners.
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.
As a professional development consultant for Branching Minds, I work with teachers and administrators from all over the country. I frequently get asked how progress monitoring should look at the middle school and high school levels.
Secondary teachers and leaders often cite difficulties and frustrations when they are asked about their current RTI/MTSS practice or implementation. My own experience with this work started when a district-level administrator walked into my office (about 2 seconds into my first year as a high school Asst. Principal) and dropped off a thick binder titled MTSS (that used to be titled RTI). Here you go. Run with this and see what you can do. MTSS? In high school? Why, how?
Some leaders don’t see the point of MTSS in secondary schools and think of it as a framework that belongs in elementary schools. Others understand the importance of implementing a strong practice, but when they take steps towards establishing the structures and procedures they meet many challenges and quickly get frustrated, which was my experience almost immediately.
In these stressful times of seeing more struggling students in need of Tier 2 and Tier 3 support, it's easy to glance over Tier 1 needs by thinking they are sufficient. Often times an overview of the data will lead us to believe this common thought, however skimming over Tier 1 data is causing us to miss key red flags that push our numbers of Tier 2 and Tier 3 even higher.
We can address this concern with some “Best Practices” and procedures built into how we meet the needs of all our students. Utilizing data and applying differentiated practices are two critical components to success with all of our students.
This week we are summarizing our top 10 most commonly used interventions, supports, and strategies for high school students. When implementing MTSS district-wide, secondary students can sometimes fall through the cracks. However, supporting these students to ensure they develop the skills and competencies to graduate and be successful beyond high school is essential. If you are looking to support your secondary level students in 2021, here are some strategies and programs you can check out: