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.
Effective progress monitoring is critical for a successful MTSS/RTI practice. In addition to universal screening assessments--which are given to all students three times a year--students receiving tier 2 or 3 levels of support should be given a progress monitoring assessment every other week or weekly, respectively. These data allow us to have better visibility into whether or not our support is working for a given student, and more importantly, when it is not so that we can adjust the intervention approach quickly to better meet the needs of that student. Assessments used for progress monitoring should be quick, skill (not content) based, and valid and reliable (i.e., having demonstrated to accurately and consistently measure what they are supposed to be evaluating). The Center for Intensive Intervention has a helpful chart that evaluates and compares these qualities for common progress monitoring assessments.
Among many of the COVID-19 and remote learning struggles for educators, understanding students’ assessment data has been one of the most common challenges. Interpreting student scores from universal screeners and benchmarks, and using the data to inform instruction and support, is an essential component of any MTSS framework. Without this information, educators must rely solely on their own observations of students to determine who is keeping up and who is falling behind. And of course, this becomes even more of a struggle when teachers aren’t able to observe and work with their students in person. These types of issues will likely stick around for a while, but as long as we continue to have students learning remotely it is essential to figure out ways to work with the data and information that is available. Below are common concerns that educators have with assessment data from their remote learners and suggestions for how to address them.
In almost 20 years of experience in education, good intention when it comes to intervention or specifically Response to Intervention (RtI) has never wavered or lacked. As educators, we are passionate about our students and we know that with the “perfect prescript” of support all students can grow. However, at times we may find ourselves settling with our intent as “good enough.” We become overwhelmed with the tasks involved in developing, implementing, and following-up with these support plans. As educators these unmet expectations weigh heavily and too often districts find themselves with well-written plans that lack follow-through. So how can we move beyond “good enough” to become “more than enough” - intervening with fidelity and effectiveness?
RTI and MTSS are data-driven, systemic approaches to providing instruction and intervention at varying levels of intensity based on individual student needs. These models were born out of the necessity for more objective ways to identify students with a learning disability and have since evolved into a more holistic practice that aims to better meet the needs of all students through a streamlined, data-driven approach. While equity remains at the heart of these models, they remain unproven to have a positive impact on promoting equitable student outcomes. Based on data we’ve collected through the Branching Minds platform and with close examination of these practices across our district partners, it appears that the systems and structures of RTI and MTSS alone are not enough, and districts need to adopt an equity focused, self-reflection process that guides their decision making through these practices in order to ensure equitable student outcomes.
Since the early 2000s, school districts across the country have implemented a tiered intervention system like Response to Intervention (RTI). In recent years, many districts have been transitioning their systems to a more holistic Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model. However, like many other areas of K12 funding, how districts choose to fund an RTI or MTSS model can be a complicated question: traditional federal funding streams can be relatively inflexible, but with new funding streams like the CARES Act, passed in March 2020, school districts have greater funding flexibility to implement MTSS.
Last week CASEL shared its updated definition and framework for understanding and implementing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our country’s education system is facing one of the most significant opportunities for learning loss that we have encountered in nearly a century. As educators work to address this reality, they are also tasked with managing a variety of learning contexts from fully remote/virtual classrooms to in-person learning and hybrid models. Many administrators are looking for ways to reduce teachers’ workload to mitigate the stress and burnout that has come along with teaching during a pandemic. Some districts have made the decision to “pause” differentiated instruction or “lighten up” on the best practices of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Unfortunately, this decision will likely have a detrimental effect on student outcomes and create even more work for educators down the road.
As a former special education teacher/case manager and now a special education university supervisor, I have spent many an hour discussing MTSS (Multi-Tier System of Supports). My university students and I have reviewed the countless interventions and supports they are exposed to during their required observations, practicums, and culminating student teaching experiences. After conducting an informal poll with my most recent cohort, I found that many students felt that MTSS has a confusing reputation in the field. Further, I noticed that some students were using the term MTSS interchangeably with terms such as RTI, PBIS, and even pre-referral screening. As a result, I decided to take a moment to clear up what MTSS is, and what it is not.
At Branching Minds, we believe that there are 7 guiding principles of RTI/MTSS: