Aligning Your MTSS Practice with the CASEL Core Competencies

    SEL and Behavior, MTSS Practice

    When discussing SEL with educators, CASEL alignment almost always gets brought up. Because so many districts, schools, programs, and assessments have aligned themselves with CASEL’s framework for SEL, educators should have a thorough understanding of what CASEL is and what an alignment with the CASEL five core competencies looks like in practice. Below, we highlight key CASEL resources, components of their SEL framework, what it really means to be “CASEL aligned”, and how that alignment fits into an MTSS model. 

    Making the Case that RTI/MTSS is NOT Just Something Extra

    MTSS Practice, Instituting MTSS

    As a lifelong educator, I have worked for decades with teachers and teacher candidates in pre-k through high school classrooms in both public and private schools. One constant for my teachers across the board regardless of subject matter/specialty or grades taught--all consistently have experienced the “educational pendulum” swinging throughout their careers, and some may have even experienced the pendulum swing with multiple initiatives, new policies, etc. in a single year. In just this past year alone, teachers have experienced the shift from remote instruction to hybrid learning, and then back to in-person learning. It is no surprise that experiencing many shifts in the classroom can lead to fatigue, burnout, skepticism and a feeling that whatever the change is, “it won’t last.” Research has found that teachers make more minute-by-minute decisions than brain surgeons, and this can obviously be exhausting, especially when trying to keep up with new school initiatives (Watson, 2017). Unfortunately, due to this exhaustion, I believe that some vital processes such as MTSS/RTI run the risk of becoming miscategorized and put on the “just something else to do” list; rather than recognized as a best practice for all students, and a model for all schools. 

    Learning Loss VS Instructional Loss, & Addressing Loss Within MTSS

    MTSS Practice, Reflective Teaching

    As more districts are heading back to in-person learning, educators are being tasked with meeting the needs of students who have had a wide range of instructional and learning experiences over the past year. This might seem like even more of an uphill battle than what teachers have already gone through. Yet, there are several approaches that schools and districts can turn to help support this transition. Many of these approaches are key components of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), with which educators are already familiar. Below, we highlight the important distinction between learning and instructional loss as well as outline a few tips for effectively addressing the different skills and needs of students when they return to schools and classrooms. 

    Making MTSS/RTI Work More Efficient Through Groups

    MTSS Practice, Tier 2

    We know educators strive to provide the appropriate level of instructional support each student needs to achieve at least grade-level mastery. We have all experienced students arriving to our classrooms with a wide range of knowledge, skills, experience and interest. It is quickly evident we cannot just charge through the curriculum lockstep and hope that every student gets what they need. Even when utilizing varied daily instruction to accommodate for students’ different learning needs, some students still require additional support to master new skills and content or catch up on missing skills from previous years’ standards. 

    Supporting English Language Learners, Bilingual, and Dual-Language Students in MTSS

    MTSS Practice, Interventions and Learning Supports' Strategies

    A strong and effective MTSS model should support all students, no matter their language preference and background. Despite the number of students in the United States who come from diverse linguistic backgrounds, the programs and supports provided often do not meet the needs of non-English speakers. In addition, students who do not speak English as their first language are often identified as having underlying reading issues, when the problem lies in the proper translational skills from one language to another.

    For students in Bilingual or Dual-Language programs, the support being provided should also address the learning needs in both languages. The following are examples of programs and practices that can specifically be used within Bilingual and Dual-Language classrooms as well as with students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) to better support their development of reading across languages. 

    Evaluating the Quality and Impact of Your MTSS/RTI Practice

    MTSS Practice, MTSS Basics

    In a healthy RTI/MTSS practice, a data-driven approach is not only important for guiding decisions for individual student needs, but it’s also critical for evaluating the quality and impact of the practice at the school and district level. We recommend that school and/or district leadership meet three times a year, following the administration of universal screening assessments, to reflect on and evaluate their practice. The goal of this meeting is to understand the health of school-level RTI/MTSS practice by looking at the percent of students who are adequately being served by the core, the equity of instruction across demographics, and improvement in student outcome measures since the last meeting. These metrics are used to evaluate the quality of practice across tier 1, 2, and 3 levels of support and guide school-level improvement plans.

    Reflections on the MTSS Journey of Greene County Schools, NC

    MTSS Practice

    Good Intentions, Good Enough

    In almost 20 years of experience in education, good intention when it comes to intervention or specifically Response to Intervention (RtI) has never wavered or lacked. As educators, we are passionate about our students and we know that with the “perfect prescript” of support all students can grow. However, at times we may find ourselves settling with our intent as “good enough.” We become overwhelmed with the tasks involved in developing, implementing, and following-up with these support plans. As educators these unmet expectations weigh heavily and too often districts find themselves with well-written plans that lack follow-through. So how can we move beyond “good enough” to become “more than enough” - intervening with fidelity and effectiveness? 

    Learning Supports to Lean on throughout School Closures

    Distance Learning, MTSS Practice

    We know many of you are preparing your schools, colleagues, students, and families for schools either closing for a number of weeks or shifting to remote learning environments or both. We have assembled a collection of learning supports from the Branching Minds library that could easily meet those new needs.