Sunday, June 10, 2018

MTSS: It’s School Improvement!

The newest “buzz word” lingering in the halls of schools these days seems to be “MTSS.” While we have a generalized perception of what is meant by the greater realm of Multi-Tiered System of Support, do we really understand all that it entails? Is it as complicated as it seem, and does it truly hold the magical answers we are looking for?
Because MTSS takes shape in a school as a framework of understanding and conceptualization rather than a process, individual schools have many ways to develop and design their structures with an overall goal of total school improvement. In many instances, MTSS has been given an improper descriptor as “the road to EC.” While much of it may focus on early intervention for both academic and behavioral needs, MTSS runs much deeper in schools. MTSS is truly comprised of anything within the school that plays a part in school improvement.

So, how does MTSS affect school improvement anyway?

School Culture: Morale and sense of belonging play an important role in school improvement for all stakeholders. Teacher appreciation recognitions, school clubs and dances, and annual community events create safe environments for school families and allow for everyone to be positively engaged. Creating such environments only enhances the culture of a school and, ultimately, works toward school improvement. School culture, in this respect, is a key factor of effective MTSS structures.

Teaming Structures: MTSS relies heavily on a problem-solving model. The use of teaming structures within a school justifies that school concerns have been thoughtfully considered and dealt with accordingly. School improvement teams, climate committees, professional learning communities, and grade level or departmental committees are just a few examples of how everyone having a voice to arrive at a decision outweighs a “one and done” leadership initiative. Teaming structures are vital for problem-solving and promoting school improvement initiatives.

Data-Informed Decision-Making: These days, it seems almost impossible to make any decision without reason to do so. Data is essential in all aspects of teaching, and the appropriate use of data spotlights effective MTSS structures throughout a school. Turning to both student outcome data (class assignments, grades, assessment scores) and implementation data (fidelity checks, walkthrough information) when making decisions only clarifies the purpose and need for making the chosen “next steps.” The use of data directly correlates with school improvement.

Community Involvement: With the rising financial demands of schools, it is nearly impossible to thrive without the support of the community. Reaching out to community members and businesses to support school functions, staff and student recognitions, or to serve on the School Improvement Team are simple ways to involve the community and develop mutually beneficial relationships. Involvement of the community has great impact on school improvement.

Yes, intervention has an important role on MTSS, but the framework has the ability to be much broader than that. Because it is synonymous with school improvement, anything that improves the overall function of the school is ultimately deemed MTSS. There are so many ways our daily routines and actions create an MTSS framework.

About the Author:
Lynn Plummer serves as the MTSS Coordinator for Stanly County Schools and is the secretary of North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators. A North Carolina Teaching Fellow, Plummer taught kindergarten and third grade before serving as an elementary curriculum coach. Upon earning his Master of School Administration from UNC Charlotte in 2015, Plummer began working district-wide with schools, supporting MTSS initiatives and efforts. Join in all things education by following him @lwplummer and learn more about NC MTSS in the Livebinder.

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