Does Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) Support the Needs of all Students?
Multi-tiered Systems of Support is designed to meet the needs of students in all three tiers. The framework presents universal supports in tier one, and increased intensity of supports in tiers two and three. To ensure students benefit from appropriate supports in applicable tiers, a reliable universal assessment is administered to each student. This helps to determine which tier of MTSS each student would benefit from, by receiving the most appropriate supports in the form of interventions.
Educators disaggregate the universal assessment data to inform which tiers students would benefit from to create a pathway to grade-level performance in impacted areas, post-intervention. The selection of the interventions is extremely important because students will spend weeks, even months, engaged in intense instruction to support their needs. However, if the intervention does not match their needs, invaluable time has been wasted at the students’ expense. The interventions should not only be research and evidence-based, but they must also match students’ needs and vertically align to standards.
Using Data to Drive Instructional and Intervention Supports
We assume that data is used to drive instructional and intervention supports at the most basic levels. However, we must not assume that everyone understands how to interpret, understand, and how to use data. What are the implications of the data? What will we do with it? Do we need additional data? The data analysis process can evolve from straightforward to comprehensive, depending on the levels of the group of students, areas assessed, and adults involved in the process, particularly the decision-makers on behalf of matched supports for students. Another factor to consider is the ages and grades of students. What evaluating questions can we ask?
- Based on the data, what interventions must the team select from to yield progressive results?
- Is the Student Support or equivalent team cohesive with team processes, procedures, routines, and meetings?
- Are the interventions evidence-based, progressed monitored, and implemented as prescribed with fidelity?
- How often is the team meeting?
- When they are meeting, how are they monitoring the tiered interventions?
- What data is analyzed and debriefed?
- Is there a continuum for students to move among tiers as needed based on data?
- Is the intervention implementation observed and feedback given to support appropriate implementation?
These are all questions to consider when evaluating instructional and intervention supports.
Is MTSS Working? Key Indicators
Another common assumption is that the framework for MTSS is implemented on a strong foundation, but this may or may not be the case. Some schools may lack ample resources and capacity; they may only appear to make MTSS work. In this case, leadership must build the capacity of educators and provide ongoing professional development and coaching supports to empower staff to effectively implement the core fundamentals of MTSS.
A Student Support or equivalent team should be in place to consistently conduct the work required to ensure MTSS benefits all students. Problem-solving and decisions must be made based on reliable data. Research must occur to determine which tiered interventions are evidenced-based and will support students based on data in tiers.
Families and MTSS
Have families been informed and do they have a voice and seat at the table for their children? Families should also be well versed in MTSS: what it is, how it will support students, and why they need to partner with the school to promote the progress of their children. Does the school’s master schedule include tiered interventions, acknowledging them as a major part of the instructional school day? The school schedule should represent tiered interventions to help school staff with prioritizing their contributions to support the school-wide collective effort.
How do tiered interventions look based on informal observation? Tiered interventions must be implemented, and progress monitored with fidelity. Leadership should give feedback to the Student Support or equivalent team and tiered intervention implementers for continuous improvement. Are interventions matched to root causes for students below level performance and are students improving their performance based on data? Tiered interventions should strategically target the root cause as to why students are below grade level performance and those discoveries should help students increase their performance levels. These are general “look fors” that may help to frame better MTSS processes and deepen our general understanding of the concept. Are you looking for more clarification on MTSS and how your district and schools can implement it? Consider CSAS as a resource to provide job-embedded professional development and coaching supports to your teachers to improve the outcomes for your students.