The Daunting Task for Administrators
One of your most essential, yet complicated, responsibilities is supporting the wide variety of learning needs of all students. Data-driven education practices continue to revolutionize the way we approach learning. Reams of data are only helpful if you can quickly see patterns. You need flexible tools that provide comprehensive, relevant, and organized information.
Students’ needs change frequently. Some students struggle with learning disabilities, some with mental health, and others with physical health. A few students face multiple challenges simultaneously. Sometimes students are doing just fine and then, “bam!” their life spins out of control. A family or personal crisis creates new needs in otherwise stable students.
Deficits are not the only reason students need extra support. Gifted students may need enrichment and acceleration. High achieving students often need encouragement when they experience a setback. Students from wealthy families have educational gaps from travel-related absences.
Supporting special needs can be so overwhelming that some administrators end up neglecting building robust foundational structures and systems. Every student needs a well-designed curriculum, high-quality instruction, and a safe environment. Without those, students end up experiencing academic and socio-emotional stress. Students experiencing stress are more likely to need more intense interventions. It becomes a vicious cycle of reactionary, rather than proactive, education solutions. Monitoring and adjusting for all aspects of student success requires a systematic approach.
The Data-Driven Three Tiered Solution
Most states use the Multi-Tiered System of Support framework, or MTSS, for supporting student needs. MTSS is the combination of Response to Intervention, RTI, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, PBIS. RTI + PBIS = MTSS. RTI is the academic component, and PBIS is the behavioral and socio-emotional component. Each tier of MTSS incorporates both RTI and PBIS.
The popularity of the MTSS framework is a direct result of its benefits. Targeted, data-driven instruction increases learning. Consistently gathering data enables educators to monitor students and programs. Monitoring provides information so that you, and everyone on the educational team, offer the right interventions to the right population at the right time. Identifying students with the most intense needs and allocating resources to help them improves student outcomes.
Collecting and analyzing data is the center of identifying needs and providing appropriate interventions.
Educators then use the data to create action plans that include research-backed interventions. For example, “a cute activity from Pinterest” would not fit within the MTSS framework, unless there is evidence showing its effectiveness for the specific population.
This level offers universal support for every student. A tier one support system might include an automatic notification about absences and follow-up protocol. Analyzing tier one interventions uses data to answer questions about the strengths and weaknesses of district-wide and school-wide programs and procedures.
These questions might include:
- Do most of our students consistently come to school ready to learn? If not, why not?
- What do our classroom teachers do well, and where do they need to grow? Does our professional development align with teacher needs?
- What gaps do we have in our resources, and how can we fill them?
- What is our student culture like, and how can we improve it?
Using data to answer those types of questions will help you meet the needs of most students. However, some students will need additional interventions.
This level includes additional interventions that 10-25% of students need to succeed. An example of a tier two intervention would be a set of questions that the principal uses when calling home after three unexcused absences or ten excused absences.
The more problems you solve at tier two, the less severe tier three issues will be. Analyzing tier two interventions uses data to drill down into the details of various sub-groups. These questions might include:
- How do we help the 20% of our children who skip breakfast and do not concentrate well?
- What extra support would help the 25% of third graders not meeting benchmark standards for reading comprehension?
- What resources and training do our special education staff need this year?
- Do advanced readers have access to appropriate books?
- Why do the same students repeatedly show up in the office for discipline? Are they missing a behavioral support system that we can put in place?
Tier three interventions are for children experiencing unusually challenging situations. Typically, fewer than 10% of students need tier three interventions. These supports often include individualized interventions that often require the help of a specialist. An example of a tier three intervention would be a home-based tutor for a child with significant health challenges.
Analyzing tier three interventions uses data to answer questions about specific individuals and small groups. These questions might include:
- The Jackson family continues to have a high rate of absenteeism. Should we enlist the help of social services?
- Did counseling reduce the number of fights between Sierra and Morgan? If not, what is our next step?
- Why are Johnny’s grades dropping significantly this semester? How can we help him get back on track?
- What additional support does Sam, the sixth-grader reading at a first-grade level, and Frankie, the first-grader reading at a sixth-grade level, need?
You can see how useful data collection and organization help create action plans in each tier.
Tools to Effectively Implement MTSS
Implementing the MTSS framework with fidelity takes teams equipped with adequate resources. Without proper analytical tools, you and your team will likely suffer from data overload and give up before seeing the possibilities. Harris Education Solutions has an ecosystem of software to identify needs, organize data, support analysis, and create targeted action plans.
edInsight helps schools collect multiple measures and then display them in a color-coded dashboard. Anyone can quickly see who needs tier two or three support. You can then use the software to track interventions and appropriate individualized education plans (IEPs). It helps you monitor progress and report on intervention effectiveness. Read our free RTI guide.
If you want to use MTSS, but feel lost among the numbers, we can help. Click on the links to our websites, request a free demo, or request to be contacted by one of our sales representatives.