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Your RTI & MTSS Data Analysis Team: Nerve Center of Tier 2/3 Services

Special Education

Student data tells a story. When schools administer building-wide academic screeners, screening data has the remarkable power to predict which students are at serious risk of academic failure and need targeted RTI and MTSS interventions.

At Tiers 2 and 3, the Data Analysis Team (DAT) is the building-level group that interprets this data ‘story’ — they analyze screening information to discover and place students requiring more intensive academic support.[1] The role of the DAT is to use data to oversee entry and exit of students across Tiers 2 and 3.

The DAT meets after each of 3 school-wide academic screenings that take place in fall, winter and spring. Each time they meet, the DATs tasks are to:
  1. Share screening results with grade-level teachers to help them to improve instruction;
  2. Identify students that qualify for Tier 2/3 services; and
  3. Assemble an individual plan for each student identified for Tier 2/3 services.

DAT Goals

DAT members should also set goals for academic performance, and apply decision-rules to evaluate student progress. These critical functions will be topics of future posts as the school year continues.

The DAT is typically a multi-disciplinary building-level team. While there is no minimum or maximum number of team members, the team should collectively:
  • Be familiar with the state academic standards and academic curriculum for each grade level in the building.
  • Be knowledgeable of all intervention personnel and evidence-based programs available in the school for Tier 2/3 interventions.
  • Be skilled in applying benchmarks to estimate the risk for academic failure of each student picked up in the screening.
  • Be able to match identified students to appropriate interventions while providing students with sufficient instructional support.
  • Have the capacity to document in writing the Tier 2/3 intervention plan set up for each student.

Preparing For & Holding Tier 2/3 Intervention-Planning Meetings

(Adapted from Kovaleski et al., 2013; Kovaleski & Pedersen, 2008).

True to its name, the primary mission of the Data Analysis Team is to analyze and respond to student academic data. In preparation for the DATs work, the school identifies an appropriate range of screening tools and other data sources capable of accurately assessing student basic academic skills and/or curriculum skills.
Step 1: Select screeners.
The school chooses an appropriate range of screening tools to accurately assess student basic academic and/or curriculum skills. For each screening tool, the school establishes ‘cut-points’ — score ranges that allow students to be sorted and placed in categories according to their level of risk for academic failure. Those categories may include:
Tier 1: Core Instruction: Low Risk: No intervention is needed.

Tier 1: Classroom Intervention. Emerging Risk: A classroom intervention plan is sufficient.

Tier 2: Supplemental Intervention: Some Risk: The student requires intervention beyond core instruction to remediate off-level academic skill gaps. Tier 2 groups are limited to 7 students and meet at least 3 times per week for 30 minutes.

Tier 3: Intensive Intervention. At Risk: The student requires the most intensive level of intervention support matched to their unique skill deficits. Tier 3 groups are limited to 2-3 students and meet daily for 30 minutes or more.
Step 2: Find additional data sources.
The school can select additional data sources (e.g., state test scores; teacher nomination) for identifying students needing intervention support. When possible, cut-points are established for these additional data sources (e.g., organizing raw scores into cut-points on a state reading test to correspond with Tiers of intervention).
Step 3: Weight screeners & other data sources.
The school weights (in descending order of importance) are measures to be used to make intervention placements, with the most reliable, diagnostic sources appearing in first position.

When a student’s data shows an inconsistent profile (e.g., with some sources indicating a need for intervention and others suggesting that the student is low-risk), the school assigns greater weight to the more ‘trustworthy’ data sources to help to resolve the uncertainty.

Using Data to Have Conversations About Each Student

With your school-wide academic screening system in place, the DAT is ready to make data-based decisions about who is to receive Tier 2/3 intervention services. The DAT meets after fall, winter and spring building-wide screenings to update the roster of students eligible for supplemental interventions. Here are the general stages of DAT preparation and meetings that unfold after each screening:
  1. Prepare screening data.The DAT prepares school-wide screening data in formats suitable for sharing with classroom teachers and making Tier 2/3 service placement decisions. Your team should display this information in a way that’s likely to motivate educators to act on it. For example, teachers may benefit from individualized reports that include screening results for each student in their classroom along with summary performance information for all students at that grade level.

    To aid them in determining who is eligible for Tier 2 and Tier 3 services, DAT members should have access to clear, easy-to-read lists of students organized by intervention Tier according to the screening benchmark norms.
  1. Conduct grade-level instructional conversations. The full DAT (or its representatives) meet with teachers at each grade level. Grade-level teachers are given data reports containing academic screening results for their students, including summaries highlighting patterns of student performance and eligibility lists by Tier for that grade level.

The goals of DAT grade-level conversations are to:
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of core instruction. DAT and teachers review the numbers and percentages of students whose screening results met or exceeded benchmarks. A general rule of thumb is that core instruction is judged to be adequate if at least 80% of students perform at or above the benchmark cut-point.
  • Examine patterns of student performance. DAT and teachers next look over the screening results to see what grade- or class-wide patterns of performance emerge. Relative areas of strength and weakness are identified.
  • Brainstorm ideas to strengthen instruction. Once specific areas of student weakness are identified, the conversation turns to a discussion of specific strategies that teachers can incorporate into core instruction across the grade level to improve learning and outcomes. A recorder takes notes and the resulting ideas are formulated as an ‘action plan’ for teachers to implement.
  • Identify Tier 2/3 students. The DAT next reviews screening results at each grade level. The team’s task now is to identify students who qualify for Tier 2/3 services because they fall below cut-point scores on the academic screening measure(s). (For specific guidelines on how to sort students into intervention tiers, consult the technical documentation that accompanies your screeners.)
  1. Develop Tier 2/3 intervention plans. In the final segment of the DAT meeting, the team assigns each student to a specific intervention program and creates a matching plan. For each student, the team decides on details such as what group and intervention program that learner should be assigned to, the frequency and length of intervention sessions, and the number of weeks the intervention will last before check up. Of course, each student’s plan will also have a data component — a method of progress-monitoring — initial (baseline) assessment, and a clear outcome goal.

    The DAT also creates a written record of the intervention plan.  A key consideration for schools is how the content of these plans can be managed most efficiently. In the near term, DAT members need ready access to the intervention plans to evaluate student progress. Over the longer term, schools must be able to assemble a student’s full history of RTI support to judge whether they are responding adequately to academic interventions. An electronic management system for RTI/MTSS records is a recommended solution, ideally balancing ease of access with data security. 
Here’s some hand-picked content you may find helpful: sample agenda and script for running DAT meetings.

Final Thoughts on the Role of Your DAT 

The DAT is essential to the smooth functioning of RTI and MTSS for academics. Its responsibilities are great — to manage Tier 2/3 entry and exit for the school’s most at-risk students. Therefore, the DAT is most likely to serve as an effective ‘decision point’ for routing students to appropriate academic services when it can depend on reliable screening data and follow a structured problem-solving meeting agenda.
Does your organization have a scalable workflow that supports high-quality data capture and analysis for struggling learners? Take a look at how Frontline’s RTI & MTSS Program Management software can help you identify and support each student.

1. Kovaleski, J. F., VanDerHeyden, A. M., & Shapiro, E. S. (2013). The RTI approach to evaluating learning disabilities. New York: Guilford Press.

2. Kovaleski, J. F., & Pedersen, J. (2008). Best practices in data analysis teaming. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology, V. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

About Jim Wright

Contributing Consultant to Frontline Education

Jim Wright is a highly-acclaimed national presenter, trainer and author on topics that cover the essentials and beyond of Response to Intervention and Multi-Tiered System of Supports. He has worked for 17 years in public education as a school psychologist and school administrator. Jim has published "The RTI Toolkit: A Practical Guide for Schools" and is the creator of the website.