Courtesy of San Benito High School:
When San Benito High School District adopted a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) approach four years ago, there was much to learn in order to intervene more effectively on behalf of ALL students. “It has been a fantastic and effective evolution as this data-based, problem-solving framework provided ways to focus on targeted support to struggling students not only in academics, but also in behavioral and social emotional needs,” said Special Education Director Dr. Paulette Cobb.
A Focus on Early Intervention
The simple focus was to intervene early so students receive the support they need to progress academically, behaviorally, socially, and/or emotionally in order to catch up with their peers. What needed to be accomplished was how to systematically focus on the “whole child.” The answer was to create a team approach in order to bring people together with varying ideas and approaches to create a system that maximized the resources already available at San Benito High School and identify the resources that needed to be expanded. Through the expertise and collaboration of the team, there is now a robust system monitored through data and driven by student needs. Assistant Principal Deborah Armstrong said that significant focus during remote instruction has been engagement — traditionally referred to as attendance rate.“By using a tiered approach, we systematically and intentionally address the needs of individual students using data from our AERIES system,” she said.
A Three-Tiered Approach to Student Support
By providing multi-tiered supports, the primary role of MTSS, tiers of support increase in intensity from one level to the next. For example, if an absent student did not attend school after a dialer was sent home, a personal phone call would be made so they “move up” to one-on-one personal connections. If they still did not attend class, then a home visit would be made to identify the barriers for that child. Data would be monitored and once the student showed a pattern of improvement, that same student would then move back down the tiers.
How the System Works
Tier 1: All students are taught with methods that research has shown to be effective. All students are screened to see who is and isn’t responding to these strategies. Students may be broken into small groups that address different strengths and areas of need.Tier 2: Small Group Interventions. Some students receive more targeted support in small groups. The scheduling of these interventions is important. The goal is to keep students from missing any core instruction or other Tier 1 activities that might make it harder to catch up.Tier 3: Intensive, Individualized Support. A few students who move up to this most intensive level of support continue with Tier 1 activities. Their breakout groups are smaller than in Tier 2. And, these sessions last longer and are more narrowly focused.
Not a Curriculum, But a Framework
MTSS isn’t a particular “curriculum” and the framework can be utilized in any program. It’s a proactive approach that has several key elements, including:Universal screening for all students early in each school yearIncreasing levels of targeted support for those who are strugglingIntegrated plans that address students’ academic, behavioral, social and/or emotional needs
The use of evidence-based strategies
- A school-wide approach to support students. Teachers, counselors, psychologists and other specialists work as a team when they assess students and plan interventions.
- Professional development so staff can deliver interventions and monitor progress effectively
- Family involvement so parents can understand the interventions and provide support at home
- Frequent monitoring of students’ progress so educators can use this data to help decide if more interventions are needed
Constant Adjustment and Improvement
At San Benito High School, there is a continual evolution. Practices are improved, and adjustments are constantly being made to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. For example, in the remote instructional environment, the MTSS framework helped to quickly respond to concerns regarding student attendance. Thanks to the efforts of escalating tiers of support including dialers, personal phone calls, home visits, and in-person cohort support, attendance rates have vastly improved. Data is continually being collected and analyzed to determine if we need to adapt our interventions to support all students. Grades are being analyzed, wellness is being monitored and supporting the “whole child” is the constant focus of the San Benito High School team all supported through the MTSS framework.“With the challenges all our families are facing during remote instruction,” Armstrong said, “we are taking an extremely supportive approach to participation and attendance. Each step is designed to give the student the specific resources they need to succeed.”