Student Assistance Teams in various forms (and under various names) have been an integral part of the Grayling Elementary School community for more than 20 years. Throughout that time, the process has been revised based on the needs of the students and staff. However, one tenant has remained constant during these revisions, and that is the power of working together as a team.
Once again, we find ourselves in a position to reflect on the student assistance process, and are seeking to revise our current practices. Through collaboration and discussion, the HELPS and SProUTS processes have evolved to MTSS, Multi Tier System of Supports.
Within a tiered system of support, approximately 80-85 percent of students are likely to be successful with high quality core instruction in the general education program, along with individualized Tier 1 supports. These Tier 1 supports are often put in place by the classroom teacher without he or she even thinking about them. Often this happens without the teacher even realizing he or she is providing a Tier 1 intervention. The idea is that we all have a great “bag of tricks” that work with many of our students. However, occasionally our tricks don’t work for a specific student.
At this point, educators often need the support of colleagues So, Hey Everyone Lets Plan Something (HELPS) to see if we can put our collective heads together to help our struggling students.
Now we’re sure you are saying to yourself, “Okay… that sounds good, but how does it work?” We’re glad you asked! The key to the MTSS process is that behavior and/or academic deficiencies are measurable. When you submit a student into the MTSS process for an academic and/or a behavior issue you have joined the HELPS team for that particular student. We will meet as a team of teachers and specialists to help pinpoint what the root of the issue is and how we can measure and address it. We will draw upon all of our collective bags of tricks to see if we can come up with some Tier 1 strategies to try and document. You will then have some fresh ideas and ways to track them to see if they are making a difference.
The next step is to collect data for at least 2 weeks. The MTSS team will provide ideas and tools to aid in the data collection process. This data will serve a dual purpose. That is, first it will allow us to determine if our Tier 1 interventions are working. Second, it will allow us to have several data points in place if we need to proceed to the next step. All of this data will be discussed at the 2nd HELPS team meeting. At that second MTSS meeting we, as a team (this includes you), will determine how to proceed. We could see some solid growth in the area we are measuring and move on to trying to “fix” another problem area with more Tier 1 interventions. Or we could see stagnant progress and try another Tier 1 approach. We could see limited success and feel like the student needs more or more intensive support (i.e. Tier 2).
If the MTSS team determines that the student needs more support than Tier 1/2 interventions can provide, the team will brainstorm ideas to further support the struggling student. This could be more intensive intervention, a behavior plan, or more diagnostic testing. Whichever the team decides to proceed, the student's needs will be what drives the process. The student's needs can only be determined by solid data collection.
Again, in the MTSS process we will be keeping and tracking the data associated with the intervention(s) that are put in place. The further a student goes into the MTSS process, the data collection/intervention implementation process will be more intensive and done over a longer period of time. After each MTSS meeting the team will set a follow-up date to check in and adjust interventions. The reason data is so integral to this entire process is because a student, once in the MTSS process, is always going to be categorized as such until they are released or special educational needs are found. This means that even if the student is responding to the interventions, we will continue to check in and keep data until the student is deemed stable or they receive special education services. The MTSS process carries on from year to year with the only change being that the new teacher joins the team and “last year’s” teacher can choose to stay on and consult or leave the team.
This revision of the student assistance process, to MTSS, has the goal of improving follow-through from all involved individuals. It will be tractable and measurable, both of which are extremely important to provide appropriate services to our students. Most importantly, it will allow a true team to come together to help the students who need it most. We all have so many good ideas and backpacks full of “things that work.” This revision of the student assistance process is designed to capitalize on the power of highly talented teachers working together as a team to help students demonstrate success in the school setting.