Best practice: Quality implementation makes the difference
Like other effective frameworks, MTSS must be implemented with fidelity in order to realize positive outcomes for students (Scott et.al., 2019). Confusion around process and difficulty finding ways to intensify instruction are two commonly noted implementation challenges within MTSS (Braun et. al., 2020).*
Systematic implementation of a data platform will drive consistency in data usage, decision-making practices, intervention delivery, and communication. This is possible only when all stakeholders have access to the same information, presented in a consistent format, and the data platform provides insight that can drive program effectiveness.
Manage staff access
Ideally, staff access to a data system is centrally managed, typically within the district student-information system. It is important to confirm that as staff join, leave, or change roles, their access to job-appropriate data are maintained. Asking all staff to log in at the start of each year to confirm correct access can help quickly identify problems. Monitoring to see who has logged in can help a district identify both master users, and those who may need assistance using the platform.
Provide high-quality training
Implementation of an MTSS framework requires regular, ongoing professional development and review of practices to ensure effectiveness. Each year, staff who are new to their roles will need clear training on access and procedures for data-based decision-making. In addition, staying up to date with enhancements and how these might prompt changes in school-based practice, are important to highlight and help to ensure all users feel confident and are able to work efficiently to support students. Since time for training is often limited in schools, be sure to prioritize covered topics. Review of systems-level data can be used to inform targeted topics.
Example: If the data demonstrates that too many students start the year on target but finish short of target, collaborative work around enhancing core instruction may be warranted. If growth rates for students receiving supplemental intervention programs are not high, and data on implementation suggest inconsistencies, updated training on intervention implementation may be a good use of resources.
Embed data platform use into daily activity
The implementation science framework described by Fixsen and his colleagues (2009) provides district teams with guidelines for integrating tiered implementation models and a problem-solving system that can be used to expand MTSS. As other evidence-based practices are adopted, systems can bridge the gap between theory and practice by establishing shared goals and procedures. School- and district-level leadership can contribute to continuous improvement in MTSS practices by articulating clear goals and collaboratively establishing procedures for data-based decision-making that are built into regular school practice.
Example: Schools can establish a regular cadence for data review and decision-making for grade-level teams, schools, and district teams. Agendas for these meetings would describe the particular data to be reviewed, questions to be considered, and decisions to be made. Having a data-management platform that effectively operationalizes these activities through clear, question-driven reporting can make these meetings more efficient and effective. It also embeds the platform within regular practice and establishes it as a critical component of ongoing work rather than an add-on.
*Terrance M Scott, Nicholas A Gage, Regina G Hirn, Amy Shearer Lingo & Jon Burt (2019) An examination of the association between MTSS implementation fidelity measures and student outcomes, Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 63:4, 308-316.
Gina Braun, Skip Kumm, Christerralyn Brown, Samantha Walte, Marie Tejero Hughes & Daniel M. Maggin (2020) Living in Tier 2: educators’ perceptions of MTSS in urban schools, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 24:10, 1114-1128.