The Kansas Multi-Tier System of Supports Framework
The triangle at the center of the Kansas MTSS graphic represents the Multi-tier framework commonly seen in RtI models. Surrounding the Triangle are Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, which interact to directly influence the system’s ability to meet each student’s needs.The three arcs around the outside of the circle highlight the concepts of Leadership, Professional Development, and an Empowering Culture. These concepts must be constantly cultivated to ensure that all the work that takes place within the system is supported and that the system is sustainable. Viewing the Kansas MTSS graphic from the center out makes it clear that a system is necessary to support the business of educating students. All (Core) forms the base of the triangle and represents what is often referred to as the Core, or Tier 1. This level of the system is the foundation for the educational experience for all students and includes curriculum, instruction, and assessment. At the Core level, practices are evidence based and are designed so that a maximum number of students will be successful, thereby minimizing the need for additional intervention. However, even in a well-functioning MTSS with a strong Core, some students will need additional (Supplemental or Intensive) support in order to continually learn and achieve to high expectations. Some (Supplemental) is the center portion of the triangle, representing the Supplemental level of support provided to some students. This is often referred to as Tier 2. The use of a process to make databased decisions regarding grouping and instruction of students is essential at this level. Databased decision-making may be conducted in various configurations of collaborative teams: professional learning communities (PLCs), grade-level teams, departmental teams, student improvement teams, etc. The goal remains constant: to analyze student data obtained through universal screening and diagnostic assessments and to make informed, Intentional decisions that match interventions to student needs. Interventions in Tier 2 target specific learning needs of students based on assessment data. Instruction in supplemental groups is more explicit and intense. The group size is smaller, typically three to five students. Interventions are research based. Supplemental levels can focus on advanced learning as well as remediation. These interventions are in addition to the Core provided to all students. It is through regularly scheduled times that the collaborative team reviews the progress of students receiving Supplemental supports to determine if any instructional adjustments are required. With a strong Core and effective Supplemental supports, the needs of most students will be met. However, a well-functioning MTSS should also contain more individualized, customized, and intensive supports for those few students who have more significant needs. Few (Intensive) is the level at the top of the triangle and represents the most intensive and customized intervention available within a school. A strong Core and effective Supplemental support help ensure that the number of students being served at this level remains small enough to sufficiently provide Intensive support. Again, collaborative teams use data to determine students’ needs. The Intensive support provided at this level is even more explicit and systematic than at the previous tier. This is created through even smaller groups, as guided by research, potentially resulting in increased instructional time, different curricular materials, and/or instructional practices. Intensive services may necessitate an individual plan of student support. The components of curriculum, instruction, and assessment must be designed, utilized, and implemented within the context of multiple tiers for instruction to be effective. Curriculum: The curricular materials that are used at all the levels must be evidence-based and align with Kansas College and Career-Ready Standards (Kansas Common Core State Standards). When determining curricular materials to support student behavior, considerations may include character education outcomes and school-wide behavior expectations. The issue of which curriculum/curricula to use is not as important as ensuring that all the essential components of the content area are addressed, appropriate staff training is available, and the curriculum can and will be executed with fidelity. Instruction: Schools that understand instructional design will be able to plan explicit, systematic, scaffolded instruction for purposeful interventions in addition to the Core provided to all students. It is through regularly scheduled times that the collaborative team reviews the progress of students receiving Supplemental supports to determine if any instructional adjustments are required. Assessments: Assessments in a multi-tier system are used for a variety of purposes. Therefore, it is essential that a comprehensive and aligned assessment system be in place to facilitate necessary instructional decisions for academics and behavior. A comprehensive assessment system includes valid and reliable assessments for the purposes of (1) universal screening, (2) diagnostic/functional behavioral assessment, (3) progress monitoring, and (4) outcomes in each area being addressed Leadership is an essential component to creating sustainable change within the system. Leadership is of particular importance in structuring and implementing an MTSS. When moving to a multi-tier system, there are formal structures of leadership that are necessary to ensure consistent communication and support to all stakeholders including staff. The initial work of the leadership team will be to create these leadership structures. Professional Development is another essential component of the Kansas MTSS. Effective professional development supporting MTSS practices require a carefully designed and executed plan. Professional development must be designed so that all staff members receive initial training and Implementation support. A comprehensive professional development plan also includes processes and procedures to monitor fidelity and provide ongoing support to individual staff. An Empowering Culture can prove to be one of the most challenging components to create, but it is key to creating a system that is sustainable. In an empowering culture, staff, students, families, and stakeholders become actively involved in the process of school improvement. The leadership team not only provides skills and opportunities, but also encourages and facilitates active involvement of others in decision making.
The defining element of an effective MTSS is a Self-Correcting Feedback Loop, which is achieved through the use of a problem-solving process that continually collects data, analyzes results, and makes adjustments aimed at positively influencing student learning and achievement. While the term self-correcting suggests something that happens automatically, the reality is that there is nothing automatic about it. The forces behind the Self-Correcting Feedback
Loop are teams working in concert toward a common vision. In order to ensure that all parts of the feedback loop are functioning, teams must utilize bi-directional communication in a clear, consistent fashion. The cycle of Improving Instruction in the graphic represents the work of collaborative teams comprised of teachers and support staff who are in charge of analyzing data (screening, diagnostic, and progress monitoring) at the grade, classroom, small group, and individual student levels. The collaborative teams use data to group students; identify the instructional focus of the groups; ascertain the materials to be used for Core, Supplemental, and Intensive instruction; and evaluate the effectiveness of the supports being provided. Collaborative teams have the ultimate responsibility of informing the building leadership team of how the system is operating on the front lines. Members of the collaborative teams are “in the trenches,” so to speak, providing insights regarding potential system issues. Information is proactively communicated to the building leadership team for a timely, effective response. The cycle of Improving the Building System in the graphic represents the work of the building leadership team made up of members of collaborative teams representing all grade levels, as well as other appropriate staff members. The building leadership team, led by the building principal, is responsible for making all the pieces of the system function effectively and ensuring that student learning is monitored and evaluated. To accomplish this, the building leadership team analyzes input from the collaborative teams in addition to building-level student data. The leadership team determines whether adequate progress is being made toward building goals. The team evaluates the effectiveness of components of the system to determine if adjustments are needed. When adjustments are required, the team determines what actions will be taken to refine the system. When results are not consistent with the goals, the building leadership team issues. Information is proactively communicated to the building leadership team for a timely, effective response. The cycle of Improving the Building System in the graphic represents the work of the building leadership team made up of members of collaborative teams representing all grade levels, as well as other appropriate staff members. The building leadership team, led by the building principal, is responsible for making all the pieces of the system function effectively and ensuring that student learning is monitored and evaluated. To accomplish this, the building leadership team analyzes input from the collaborative teams in addition to building-level student data. The leadership team determines whether adequate progress is being made toward building goals. The team evaluates the effectiveness of components of the system to determine if adjustments are needed. When adjustments are required, the team determines what actions will be taken to refine the system. When results are not consistent with the goals, the building leadership team determines what course of action is needed to improve the system. The building leadership team, with the principal making final decisions, has the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the system is intentionally redesigned so that each student is learning.
The graphic illustrates the intersection of these two cycles occurring at different levels for different purposes, each communicating with the other. It is at the intersection of these cycles that anticipated actions are communicated to the collaborative teams. In addition to the crucial communication between the collaborative teams and the building leadership team, communication with the district leadership team must occur. This is a reciprocal communication, as the building leadership team seeks to share information about successes as well as any need for support from the district. The district, in turn, shares district decisions that the building leadership team needs to know so that it can determine the impact to the MTSS. The district leadership team is made up of members representing schools in the district as well as district leaders. The cycle of Improving the District System in the graphic represents the work of the district leadership team. It is the responsibility of this leadership team to ensure that the district system has all the pieces functioning effectively to support the growth of the MTSS in each building. To accomplish this, the district leadership team analyzes district-and building-level input and data to evaluate the effectiveness of district supports. Through this analysis, district leadership teams determine if adjustments in district supports are needed and communicate what actions or resources will be provided to building leadership teams.
(Structuring Module 1, Leadership, Kansas MTSS, www. kansasmtss.org)