As we reflect on the four-year journey since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s evident that the educational landscape has undergone profound changes. The pandemic’s disruption, which started in early 2020, has left a lasting impact on public education across the United States.
While schools have long since returned to in-person learning, the aftermath of the pandemic continues to pose significant challenges. Educators are grappling with the long-term effects of the pandemic on student learning, including the academic gaps that have widened during this period. The initial disruption, combined with the ongoing struggles of remote and hybrid learning models, has led to a substantial increase in the number of students at risk of academic failure.
Studies conducted in the early months of the pandemic showed significant losses in progress in key areas like reading and math. The cumulative impact of these losses, especially for vulnerable learners, has been considerable.
In response to these ongoing challenges, schools must reinvigorate their commitment to RTI/MTSS. This approach is critical in identifying, monitoring, and supporting students at risk of academic failure. It’s now more important than ever to employ a structured, data-driven strategy to ensure that students receive appropriate and timely interventions.
Despite the challenges, there have been positive developments. The pandemic fostered resilience and innovative problem-solving within school communities. Moreover, the need to rebuild and enhance RTI/MTSS systems offers an opportunity to improve these frameworks, making them more robust and effective than before.
To meet the changing needs of students post-pandemic, schools should consider the following updated strategies:
- Recommit Staff to the Mission of RTI/MTSS: It’s vital to rejuvenate the faculty and staff’s understanding and dedication to RTI/MTSS. Schools should offer advanced professional development to deepen their knowledge and adapt to the evolving educational needs post-COVID.
- Retrain Teachers in Tier 1/Classroom Interventions: With an anticipated increase in students requiring academic support, teachers must be equipped with up-to-date tools and techniques for effective classroom interventions. This includes training in digital and hybrid teaching methods that have become more prevalent.
- Restore the Full Tier 2/3 Intervention Continuum: Schools need to reassess and reestablish their Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, ensuring that they meet current quality guidelines and are adapted to the new learning environments and challenges.
- Rethink Data Sources to Determine RTI/MTSS Eligibility: The pandemic has altered the landscape of academic assessments. Schools should conduct a thorough audit of their assessment tools, integrating new forms of data collection that have emerged during the pandemic, such as digital engagement metrics.
In conclusion, while the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to education, it also provides an impetus to revitalize our approach to RTI/MTSS. By embracing these changes and recommitting to robust intervention strategies, schools can not only recover from the pandemic’s impacts but also emerge stronger, more equitable, and more effective in supporting all learners.