Transforming MTSS Fall Summit: Our Top Five Biggest Takeaways

November 23, 2021

Transforming MTSS Fall Summit: Our Top Five Biggest Takeaways' 

Highlights from Classworks Virtual Fall Summit

Okay, we admit it. We're MTSS obsessed. And with good reason. You see, MTSS, or Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, is the way to address learning loss and the impact the pandemic has had on students’ academic and social-emotional well-being. The goals of MTSS should be the same for every school district; give each student the opportunity to achieve grade-level proficiency and college and career readiness.

So why the obsession? Simply put: MTSS gets students the help they need earlier in their academic journey rather than allowing students to become academic casualties. This topic is so urgent that we brought together over twenty experts to deliver ten sessions focused on helping you create equitable MTSS processes. Educators across 24 states came together to discuss the components of successful MTSS/RTI. 

We asked you for your favorite takeaways and here are the five most discussed topics from our summit along with some practical steps you can take to implement equitable MTSS.


1. Think of MTSS as a Library

We all love a library for its fantastic resources and ability to transport you into whatever world you're reading about; oh, and did we mention that nostalgic smell that just brings us back?

Dr. Melinda Mitchiner offers an example of MTSS as an organizing system like a library. A public library houses a variety of books on a wide range of topics intended for many audiences. Everyone has access to the knowledge they need, which may vary by audience and time. Strategic decision-making occurs around book and even page choices based on information about the purpose, reading level, and other "data." Importantly, everyone is welcome to use the library system, where each person can check out the right book for them at the right time. 

The shelves represent an overall MTSS framework. The books represent the components of the system, and the pages in the books represent practices, strategies, and research-based interventions. You’ll choose what you need based on the data available.

Now that we're all inspired by this fantastic MTSS library, let’s meet in the non-fiction section during our break to discuss what we learned!

2. Tiered Support is so Much More than Just Extra Time

Research shows the positive impact early intervention and intensive support can have on quickly addressing significant academic needs. In the three tiers of MTSS learning, each tier provides the exact instruction students need the moment it is needed. Along with that, individualized learning plays a role in all three tiers of support for students, and yet it plays a different role at each tier. 

Tier 2 support may occur in small groups and support skills students need foundation to master grade-level content. Tier 3 support is intensified intervention designed to meet the needs of students for whom the core curriculum isn't effective. Students with intensive needs often require 10–30 times more practice than peers to learn new information. 

More time is not the only difference between Tier 2 and Tier 3 support. Tier 3 support is intensified with individualized learning driven by skills-based probes.

We recommend working individualized learning and intervention into a set schedule, recognizing the varying needs between the tiers. This ensures that students have the time to get the intervention they need, and you can get the data you need. 



3. Creating SMART Goals is, well, Smart!

SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They provide a framework that clearly defines students' goals and objectives, making it that much more likely they'll achieve them. SMART is a research-driven and widely-used goal-setting system in education, which is why we've chosen to use it for the Classworks' student Goal Tracker.  

So, why is the SMART framework so effective? We've all had vague goals in the past, such as "I'm going to be a better runner." Chances are, that goal never became a reality because it wasn't SMART -- or we constantly got distracted by an adorable puppy on our nightly runs, which is pretty distracting!

Goal-setting theory tells us that two people will perform very differently on the same task if they have different performance goals, even if they have the same skills and knowledge. Their goals ultimately determine their motivation to succeed! For example, one study examined the relationship between goal setting and student achievement in over 1200 high school students learning Spanish. It revealed a statistically significant relationship between the process of setting goals and students' proficiency in Spanish. It found that setting goals gave the students a greater sense of autonomy in their learning, thus leading to higher levels of motivation to succeed. 

Students who set goals are often more motivated to learn than those who don't. This all leads students to better educational outcomes! A win-win if you ask us. 


4. Interpersonal Skills Have Just Entered the Chat 

We know assessments are an essential aspect of effective instruction and student learning. It's turning out that SEL is no different. A recent P.D.K. poll indicated that the vast majority of principals agree that the measurement of SEL competencies is important, with 84% of them saying they believe schools should assess students' interpersonal skills. 

A survey and data-driven approach to SEL has many out-of-the-box benefits for school-level MTSS implementations. Specifically, these surveys can help schools and districts to communicate SEL as a priority. Remember the old saying, "what gets measured gets addressed." With time and resources limited, surveying and reporting SEL sends a great message that promoting students' SEL competencies is a top priority. 

Also, using surveys throughout the year as formative check-in with students helps teachers improve their SEL instruction and implementation. SEL Survey's can help teachers and leaders find strengths and weaknesses in student group populations and then quickly address or capitalize on them. 

While these formative benefits help with the day-to-day implementation of SEL, it's important to note the benefits of equitable outcomes in education. The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development said, "when done well, an integrated approach to social, emotional, and academic development benefits every child and can be part of achieving a more equitable society." Here at Classworks, we think systemic SEL is a crucial lever for supporting equity in schools because of its emphasis on improving learning environments using its strength-based approach. SEL competency surveys can be a critical part of this systemic approach. It helps to reveal discrepancies in the degree to which teachers and leaders are supporting students' needs.

We believe that SEL plays a critical role in the academic achievement of each child. Always remember to view the whole child, not just their academic outcomes.  

Speaking of the whole child….

5. Always Remember to Keep the Whole Child in Mind

The importance of supporting the whole child is always a top priority for us here at Classworks and our schools. This is also vital when implementing interventions. You could be asking, "how does one intervention affect another area of opportunity for the student?" This is a critical consideration when implementing a successful PBIS plan that students' have buy-in and take action on. 

Candidates for PBIS interventions are referred and monitored through the SST process. This creates an excellent opportunity to streamline systems and intervention techniques to target students' overall growth instead of addressing interventions separately. 

Data plays a much more critical role when addressing the entire child because you're not looking at each intervention singularly. You compare and contrast all the data to determine how the student responds to intervention as the whole plan and how techniques and tools used across interventions affect the child. 

For tier 2 and 3, data collection and monitoring are the cornerstones of measuring fidelity and impact on the students' overall success with their PBIS interventions. This is where having an easy way to track data is vital to determining the next steps for a student receiving tier 3 support. 

BONUS lesson (because we couldn't pick just five!)

6. Not too Hot or too Cold, Getting your SST Meeting Just Right

Now that you have the vital data from Classworks to continually support your students' needs, it's time to set your Student Support Team (SST.) meeting in motion. It is vital to streamline your SST. meetings to get everything just right from the start. While we know that every SST. meeting brings unique challenges, it is critical to take a step back and think about the whole child (see #4). Are you feeling overwhelmed? Start by chunking that long-term goal into shorter-term targets, identifying one data point to focus on, and developing a target to be met by the end of the next month. Ahhhh… .that's MUCH better!

Still want more? We do too! We invite you to visit our YouTube page to listen to the sessions and leave with practical ways to improve your processes. At around 30-minutes each, you'll be well on your way to becoming an MTSS pro in no time!

Classworks can't wait to help you reach your goals. Whether you've already implemented an MTSS or RTI framework and you want to refine your processes, or you're at the beginning stages, we can help you get to where you need to be. 

Additional Resource: 5 Ways Classworks Simplifies Your SST Process

Thank you so much! I truly enjoyed the Classworks Fall Summit and learned so much about using the program to support our Special Education students that I plan to redeliver to my teachers. I'm looking forward to what Classworks has to offer in the future. Thanks again!
Karla Simpson, Special Education Instructional Coach, Newton County Schools, GA


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