Strong Core Instruction is the Heart of Effective Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
Core Instruction is a school’s instructional practices that all students receive through Tier 1. One guideline for MTSS implementation suggests that 80% of your students should score proficiently on the benchmark criteria established by the school’s selected screening tool. If not, RTI Network recommends intensifying your focus on improving Tier 1 instruction for two reasons: 1) buildings do not have the resources to intervene with a large percentage of students and 2) you cannot “intervene” your way out of core instruction that is not effective.
What are some first steps?
Create a Team
While it might seem easier as an administrator to just do the research yourself and pick a few strategies, collaborative decision-making is a key to sustainability of practices. According to the Hanover Report 2014, “Districts should organize school‐level and district‐level taskforces to design, implement, and track improvement efforts. These groups should comprise representatives from all groups affected by the improvement efforts, and teams should be no larger than 12‐15 people. At the district level, experts emphasize that the primary focus of leadership teams should be supporting schools in these efforts, rather than compliance.”
Select One or Two Teacher Criteria from OSPI.
- Content Knowledge
- Learning Environment
- Families and Community
- Professional Practice
Criterion 2: Demonstrating effective teaching practices.
Descriptor: Instruction; the teacher uses research based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.
Example: Implement the instructional strategy “Effective Feedback”
Wiggins (2012) in the article “Seven Steps to Effective Feedback” defines effective feedback as specific, timely feedback as “goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.”
Criterion 5: Fostering and managing a safe, positive learning environment.
Descriptor: Learning environment; the teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of students.
Example: Build strong relationships with students
In the article, “What Everyone Needs to Know About High-Performance, Teacher Student Relationships,” strong student and teacher relationships are highly impactful to student success. It takes warmth, empathy, and time to begin developing these caring relationships. In addition, believing students can succeed and pressing them to succeed are crucial. This is often referred to as “nag and nuture.”
Make MTSS a Part of Your School Improvement Plan (SIP) and Use a Quality Improvement Process (Plan, Do, Study, Act/Adjust)
Finally, it’s important to make your MTSS plans a part of your SIP and create S.M.A.R.T. goals. This means the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Consistent monitoring of your implementation process and the strategies and practices is necessary so you can see what is working and if adjustments need to be made to the plan. Without a quality improvement process there is a danger that your plan stays on a shelf as a compliance document and not as a working document that guides implementation.
Online Journal Articles
Metcalf, Terri. What’s Your Plan? Accurate Decision Making within a Multi-Tier System of Supports: Critical Areas in Tier 1. RTI Action Network. Retrieved from http://www.rtinetwork.org/essential/tieredinstruction/tier1/accurate-decision-making-within-a-multi-tier-system-of-supports-critical-areas-in-tier-1
Best Practices for School Improvement. Hanover Research. Retrieved from https://www.hanoverresearch.com/media/Best-Practices-for-School-Improvement-Planning.pdf
Hattie, John. (2008). Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement. Visible Learning. Retrieve from https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement
Wiggins, Grant. (2012). Seven Steps to Effective Feedback. ASCD Educational Leadership. 70 (1). Retrieve from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx
What Everyone Needs to Know About High-Performance, Teacher Student Relationships. Retrieve from http://www.evidencebasedteaching.org.au/crash-course-evidence-based-teaching/teacher-student-relationships
How School Improvement is Like a House Move
You have decided to move to a new home. You know you need to go through your belongings and figure out what you want to take with you. You may have felt a similar feeling of overwhelm when you looked at the results of your needs assessment. You may have a vision of what you want your school to look like and thought, “where do I start?” A first step might be to ask yourself three questions based on one target area.
- What do you want to take with you into the new school year?
- What do you want to leave behind that’s not working?
- What new evidence-based strategies will you need to explore?
For example, you collaboratively consider your math data, scores and practices in mathematics and determine that your overall goal is to: Increase Math Scores for English Learners on the SBA by ______percentage in 3 years.
After your team reviews the three questions and research causal factors and effective practices you determine:
- A math team that is positive and on board.
- Teachers have been trained in Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) strategies for English Learners (EL) but have not implemented any strategies.
- One member of the math team is relocating.
- The focus has been on math computation and memorization.
- Even your most successful students appear to struggle with critical thinking skills.
- Instruction often follows a text adoption scope and sequence rather that building resources to effectively bring EL students to standard.
What the Research Says about Math Success
According to the Strengthening Student Educational Outcomes (SSEO) from Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Washington State Mathematics Menu of Best Practices (see page 18) gives guidelines on what it takes to be successful in changing mindsets and the way we approach mathematics in education.
A focus from computation and memorization to conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency and application. A mindset shift from mathematics success is for an elite few to the concept that mathematics success is an achievable goal for all students.
With this information in mind, your team decides to try a small test of change for the remainder of this year. This small test of change will focus on learning and practicing new mindsets. Here’s what your sub goals or tasks might look like:
Sub Goal 1
Provide professional development to the math team and administrative staff on how to identify and shift mindsets.
Target Date: March 11, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Coach
Sub Goal 2
Provide math students with training on how to identify and shift mindsets.
Target Date: March 25, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Team
Sub Goal 3
Practice mindset shifting exercises in math classroom from April 1 – June 1.
Target Date: June 3, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Team
Sub Goal 4
Provide walkthroughs to determine percentage of classrooms implementing the practice of mindset shifting exercises.
Target date: Monthly April – June, 2019
Person Responsible: Math Coach
Sub Goal 5
Evaluate the effectiveness of mindset shifting exercises in math classrooms and determine next steps.
Target Date: June 5, 2019
Person Responsible: Principal, Math Team, Math Coach
Important Note: Progress monitoring goals are included in your sub goals.
- If this small test of change is successful, you might consider scaling this to others within your school.
- A math next step may be to continue using mindset shifting exercises and begin work on components of an effective math classroom that focuses on contextual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application.