Designing success: A (MTSS) framework and your school
Judy Elliott is a keynote speaker at the 2019 Every Student Succeeds Act Institute for Schools in Des Moines.
Elliott is the former chief academic officer of the Los Angeles Unified School District where she was responsible for curriculum and instruction early childhood through adult education, professional development, innovation, accountability and assessment, and programs for all students including English language learners, Standard English learners, students with disabilities, and gifted.
Before that she was the chief of teaching and learning in the Portland, Oregon, Public Schools; and prior to that an assistant superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District, Calif. Elliott also was a senior researcher at the National Center on Educational Outcomes at the University of Minnesota. She started her career as a classroom teacher and then school psychologist.
Elliott continues to assist districts, national organizations, state departments of education in their efforts to update and realign curriculum frameworks, instruction, and assessment, and accountability that include all students. Her research interests focus on systems change and reform, effective instruction for all students, and data-based decision making for accountability and accelerated student achievement.
Elliott responds to some questions on the theme of her keynote:
Why is Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) so important in a school?
MTSS is a framework to integrate all (Academic, Behavior, Social-Emotional) of the instruction, supports and student-centered data to increase the impact of instruction and supports on student growth. The integration of academic and behavior/social-emotional instruction has long been understood to increase student growth at a greater level than when addressed separately. In addition, MTSS is a framework that addresses both effective and efficient practices. Instruction and supports are provided in varying levels of intensity based on student need.
How can you tell if a school has a dynamic MTSS in place?
You can tell based on the answers to the following questions provided by school personnel:
- Does your school provide universal instruction in Tier 1 — instructional strategies that simultaneously meet the needs of diverse learners? Is Tier 1 instruction guided by the principles of Universal Design for Learning?
- Does your school have a process of lesson planning that involves all providers of instruction to ensure integration of instruction across the tiers?
- What are your methods of intensifying instruction across the tiers?
- Does your school review student data on a regular basis to answer the following questions:
- Across time (e.g., fall, winter, spring), can we demonstrate that more students improve than remain the same or worsen?
- Can we demonstrate that students receiving intensified instruction are demonstrating a positive response to instruction/intervention?
- Can we demonstrate across time (e.g., across grade levels) that students demonstrate proficiency in increasing numbers (percent)?
- How does your school integrate academic, behavior and social-emotional learning across the tiers?
- What are the functions of your school leadership team and how does this team interact with grade-level or subject-area professional learning communities in the school?
Conversely, how can you tell if a school’s efforts fall short with MTSS?
In general, poor responses to questions 1-6 above. In addition:
- Lack of evidence of improved student outcomes.
- No evidence of systematically implementing the components of MTSS and no evaluation data to support implementation evidence.
- Lack of a district policy identifying MTSS as the way of schooling in the district.
- Lack of professional development, coaching and/or technical assistance to support implementation of the components of MTSS.
- Lack of a district-wide data system to support school-level implementation.
- Lack of leadership development (e.g., school principals) in the context of MTSS.
What role does leadership play in MTSS?
As with all education initiatives/efforts, leadership plays an important role. Implementation of a framework like MTSS is not sustainable without leadership committed to ensuring that the framework becomes part of the culture and professional behavior in the school. Protocols, instructional leadership teams, meeting structures and professional development are some of the important structures in the implementation of MTSS – however, strong leadership distributed across different levels of an organization is critical to make this work a sustainable reality.
How does MTSS help schools with their ESSA efforts?
MTSS is a framework that is evidence-based to implement the strategic initiatives/efforts in a district and schools. The strategic initiatives/efforts could be the ongoing district strategic plan as well as strategic plans focused on desired or required school improvement initiatives. The components of MTSS should be embedded as methods of achieving specific strategic goals and objectives of the district. MTSS should NOT be an effort separate from the district’s specific strategic goals — rather, it should be integrated fully into those goals.