School leaders who implement RTI/MTSS have a big responsibility ― to deploy a school’s full array of intervention resources to find and help struggling students. To meet this goal, periodic checkups are needed to ensure that schools align their current practices with RTI/MTSS best practices. The close of the school year offers staff the ideal time for an RTI/MTSS checkup ― now is your chance to tidy up loose ends in record-keeping, use data to improve classroom instruction, identify gaps between intended and actual service delivery and look ahead to the next phase in RTI/MTSS program roll-out.
As summer approaches, here are 7 steps to firm up your procedures, ensure they are carried out with integrity and prepare staff for the 2018-19 school year.
Steps to Making the Most of Spring RTI/MTSS Data
1. Archive RTI/MTSS information
Schools should remind all staff responsible for keeping track of RTI/MTSS information that they should complete their records for the current school year before summer break. Staff should also be given a deadline date for finishing record entries. Having a district or school-wide RTI/MTSS program management system that all stakeholders can access helps keep data organized and archived for future use. Once that deadline is past, school staff can spot-check student entries in the RTI/MTSS system to verify that records are indeed complete.
2. Evaluate Effectiveness of Core Instruction
RTI/MTSS schools typically collect building-wide academic screening data at fall, winter and spring checkpoints. These data-sets are invaluable, as they allow a school to judge the effectiveness of its core instruction and, if needed, provide guidance to teachers on strengthening their instructional practices.
It is a widely accepted rule of thumb that classroom instruction across a school can be considered adequate if at least 80% of students meet or exceed a screener’s performance cut-points. The close of the school year is an ideal time for administrators to meet with grade-level teams to review screening data and brainstorm future instructional ideas to boost students’ collective academic performance.
For real-world examples of how to use this best practice, download the free eBook RTI/MTSS and End of School Year.
3. Analyze Data to Uncover Performance ‘Pockets’
As schools build a strong RTI/MTSS model, they collect troves of data monitoring student performance. If this data is reliably archived, school leadership can analyze it to identify pockets of student performance that either exceed or lag behind expectations. For example, a school might compare the relative outcomes of two Tier 2 reading groups using the same program to see if there are significant differences across instructors.
This type of advanced RTI/MTSS ‘data mining’ requires that a school first standardize its procedures to ensure that data sources are valid and reliable and that student data is uniformly stored in electronic format for easy retrieval.
4. ‘Recalibrate’ RTI/MTSS Procedures
Every school that follows an RTI/MTSS model has its own procedures to identify students for services, document intervention plans, collect data, move students up and down the tiers of intervention and so on. The end of the school year is the perfect time to review the school’s actual RTI/MTSS practices, identify any gaps in implementation and ‘recalibrate’ to align those day-to-day practices with the expected RTI/MTSS procedures.
Data can help school staff uncover discrepancies in procedures. It is an expectation, for example, that in a ‘typical’ school, 1-5% of students might be referred to the Tier 3 RTI/MTSS Problem-Solving Team in a given school year. If, as summer approaches, fully 10% of a school’s students have been brought to Tier 3 during the current year, the school can follow up by reexamining its criteria for accepting a Tier 3 referral and how those criteria are being enforced by staff.
For a real-world example of how to use this best practice for Tier 1, download the free eBook RTI/MTSS and End of School Year.
5. Recruit Fall Groups Using End-of-Year Screeners
To identify students at academic risk, most schools screen the entire building population 3 times per year (fall/winter/spring). Those data are then used to recruit students whose risk profile indicates they require Tier 2/Tier 3 academic-intervention services. While fall screening data would seem to be the logical data source to recruit fall academic-intervention groups, it presents 2 limitations:
- Tier 2/3 interventionists cannot begin work with students until the school has conducted the fall screening and identified groups, resulting in several weeks of dead-time when at-risk learners are not receiving intervention services.
- In an effort to speed formation of fall intervention groups, the school may be tempted to screen immediately after the start of school. However, students often experience a ‘summer slide’ — a predictable and temporary drop in reading or math skills over the summer. For most students, the summer-slide effect disappears after 4-5 weeks of school. Therefore, schools that screen within the first 2-3 weeks of school are likely to ‘lock in’ temporary academic deficits and falsely identify at least some students for Tier 2/3 services whose skills would have rebounded on their own.
A solution is to use the end-of-year (spring) academic screening results for 2 purposes: (1) to enter or exit students for current spring Tier 2/3 services and also (2) to identify fall Tier 2/3 intervention groups before the summer break. This approach allows academic-intervention groups to meet immediately when school resumes in the fall and encourages the school to schedule the fall screening when student skills have fully recovered from the summer regression.
6. Update the RTI/MTSS Roll-out Plan
It can take 3 to 5 years to fully implement the RTI/MTSS academic model. Schools in the midst of rolling out RTI/MTSS will find that the final months of the current school year offer a good vantage point from which to firm up plans for the next phase of implementation slated to start in the fall.
While advanced RTI/MTSS planning is always a good idea, some elements of RTI/MTSS require it. Schools seeking to overhaul their system of Tier 2 (supplemental/small-group) interventions, for instance, may need to alter multiple elements, e.g. changing the schedule for those services and training Tier 2 providers to deliver new research-based intervention programs.
For a real-world example of how to update your RTI/MTSS roll-out plan, download the free eBook RTI/MTSS and End of School Year.
7. Prepare RTI/MTSS Professional Development
While schools often do a good job of outlining and implementing a comprehensive RTI/MTSS plan, they sometimes overlook the need to provide ongoing professional development to prepare their staff to understand, accept and work effectively within the plan. As school leaders use the close of the school year to reflect on the quality of RTI/MTSS implementation and proposed next steps, they should also consider what additional training teachers and support staff require to help improve delivery of RTI/MTSS services. This professional development plan should include both the essential RTI/MTSS content to be delivered to teachers and a training calendar extending into the coming school year with opportunities in large- and small-group settings to provide that professional development.
Read examples of RTI/MTSS professional development planning.
A Final Thought on Optimizing RTI/MTSS at End of Year
A key quality for success in implementing an RTI/MTSS model is simply that schools pay attention to the details, verify that records are complete and archived, close gaps between current and best practices and look forward to the next steps in the unfolding RTI/MTSS roll-out plan. The end of the school year is a strategic time for schools to focus their attention — make productive use of this pivotal moment between the recently elapsed and coming school years!
As you reflect on your RTI/MTSS program this spring, consider how Frontline RTI & MTSS Program Management can help you collect and analyze the data you’ll need to make next year even better for staff and students.