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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 InterventionCentral.org website.
You probably already know that there are several different names (and a ton of acronyms!) for school or district-wide systems that help struggling learners in general education using academic and sometimes behavioral interventions.
Here are some examples:
- Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
- Response to intervention (RTI)
- Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS)
Many states have their own frameworks (and acronyms!) that incorporate the goals and standards of MTSS, RTI and/or PBIS.
When providing interventions as part of a response to intervention (RTI) or multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) model, structure is critical – both structure for students in the classroom and structure for the school personnel providing support, identifying struggling learners and measuring the effectiveness of interventions.
Structure is vital because the power of RTI/MTSS lies in data collection and analysis, which is complex – especially when it involves multiple stakeholders and spans different departments within a school district. Without organizational buy-in around data collection and use, and an understanding of organizational RTI/MTSS best practices, it’s all too easy to overlook opportunities to help students succeed.
Here are some opportunities to assess and recalibrate your RTI/MTSS efforts throughout the school year – and feel more in control of your data and plans for each student.
Beginning of Academic Year
Fall is a busy time of year for many reasons, and RTI/MTSS programs are no exception. Fall is when the first universal screening takes place to identify students who may benefit from intervention.
The datasets that result from the screenings are invaluable because they help educators judge the effectiveness of a school’s core instruction, and when needed, provide guidance on strengthening teachers’ instructional practices.
The beginning of the year is a good time to:
- Evaluate the quality and use of screening data
- Set your Data Analysis Team (DAT) up for success throughout the year
- Expand your RTI/MTSS program to include social emotional and behavioral support
1. Evaluating your RTI/MTSS academic screeners
There are basically two types of academic screeners:
|Basic skills screeners
|General (curriculum) skills screeners
|Brief, timed measures that assess both accuracy and fluency in foundation academic skills like reading fluency or math computation.
|Measures that assess general skills provide more global information about students’ mastery of skills tied to national or state academic standards.
The decision of what type of screener is right for your school will depend on the average academic standing of your student population. Schools can also choose to use a mix of general- and basic-skills screeners.
“As a team, ask important questions like: Do our academic screeners identify the ‘right’ students? If the answer is no, it may be time to consider a different type of screener.”
2. Setting your Data Analytics Team (DAT) up for success
The multidisciplinary DAT manages Tier 2/3 entry and exit for your most at-risk students. So it’s essential they have what they need to be effective data-informed decision-makers. To help them determine who is eligible for Tier 2 and Tier 3 services, the DAT should have access to easy-to-read lists of students organized by intervention tier according to your school’s screening benchmark norms.
To help the DAT prepare for decision-making, your school needs to:
- Identify the right screening tools that help DAT team members assess the academic and/or curriculum skills of your student population.
- Locate additional data sources, such as state test scores, to flag at-risk learners – and establish cut scores for those data sources.
- Assign weight to your screeners and additional data sources, so that more trustworthy data has greater weight
After each of the three academic screenings that take place in your school (fall, winter and spring), the DAT will meet to:
- Share screening results with grade-level teachers to help them to improve instruction
- Identify students that qualify for Tier 2/3 services
- Assemble an individual plan for each student identified for Tier 2/3 services.
3. Expanding RTI/MTSS to include social, emotional and behavioral support
Research has shown that schools can improve their behavioral climate by adopting an RTI/MTSS model that prioritizes staff working together to provide graduated positive support to general-education students to meet their social-emotional or behavioral needs.22>
1. Levenson, N. (2017). 10 Best Practices for Improving and Expanding Social, Emotional and Behavioral Supports. District Management Journal, 22. Retrieved from: https://www.frontlineeducation.com/blog/support-student-social-emotional-behavior-needs
2. Grosche, M., & Volpe, R. J. (2013). Response-to-intervention (RTI) as a model to facilitate inclusion for students with learning and behaviour problems. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 28, 254-269.
When asked “Do you use RTI/MTSS for behavior in addition to academics?” in a recent survey, RTI/MTSS leaders responded:
RTI/MTSS models for behavior can be extremely helpful because they provide clear next steps for action, with specific strategies that your team can implement and develop over time. However, the most important work for planning to use RTI/MTSS to address social, emotional and behavioral issues happens before implementation starts. At the outset, district and school leadership should make sure that all staff implementing RTI/MTSS understand and accept some key, fundamental principles.
Principles to set staff up for success in using an RTI/MTSS behavioral model
- Goal behaviors should be defined
- Goal behaviors should be taught
- Misbehaviors present a teaching opportunity
- Adults are behavior models
- Data drives behavioral support
Tiers or levels of intervention for RTI/MTSS for behavior
- Tier 1: Educator teaches behavior expectations and has toolkit of ideas to proactively manage class-wide behaviors
- Tier 2: School sets up programs such as Check & Connect that link unmotivated learners to mentors
- Tier 3: Problem-solving team has the capacity to complete Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBAs) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) for students with intense behavioral needs
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The middle of the school year is a crucial juncture for school personnel working to help struggling learners succeed. And for schools implementing RTI/MTSS programs, the mid-year mark typically brings a new influx of data from winter universal screeners. Ideally the fall screening process went well, and you’ll be able to follow a similar process for winter screening.
The mid-year mark is also an important time for progress monitoring. Both for monitoring the progress of students who started receiving interventions earlier in the school year and for setting realistic goals for students who have been flagged as “at risk” following mid-year screenings and assessments.
Collecting and interpreting progress data can be complicated when you work with students with varying ability levels. However, there are some steps you can take to collect the right data and gain a better understanding of each student’s progress.
If the information required to answer any of these questions is missing, the data story becomes garbled and teachers can find themselves unsure about the purpose and/or outcome of the intervention.
Jim Wright, highly acclaimed RTI/MTSS presenter, trainer and author
Steps to monitor progress for Tier 1
- What skill or behavior is being measured
- What data-collection method will best measure the target skill or behavior
- How long the intervention will last
- The student’s baseline performance
- The student’s outcome goal
- How often data will be collected
- How the student’s actual performance compares with the outcome goal
Steps to monitor progress for Tier 2/3
- Who qualifies for Tier 2/3 intervention services
- What the appropriate groupings of Tier 2/3 students are, based on profile of academic or behavioral need
- Which assessment method(s) you will use to monitor Tier 2/3 progress
- How long the Tier 2/3 intervention will last
- The Tier 2/3 group’s baseline performance
- Each student’s outcome goal
- How often you will collect data
- How each student’s actual performance compares with the outcome goal
There are 2 possible outcome decisions to make at this point:
- Should the student continue in the current intervention?
- Does the student still need Tier 2/3 services in general?
TIPS FROM JIM WRIGHT
Screening is the Foundation for a Progress-Monitoring Plan
Like trail markers on a hiking path, progress-monitoring data helps you set and then evaluate whether students are achieving an accelerated “catch-up” rate of learning in Tier 2/3 interventions. A consistent stream of progress-monitoring can also:
- Provide real-time evidence of intervention impact that prevents students from languishing in ineffective services.
- Make the case in combination with updated screening data for stepping down or exiting from intervention a successful Tier 2/3 student.
- Yield clear documentation to be archived in the school’s RTI/MTSS content-management system indicating whether students have benefited from particular Tier 2/3 intervention groups.