Employing a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) helps schools intervene to address student challenges before they turn into problems, writes Aspen Florence, a student advocacy services supervisor for the Ogden School District in Education Dive. The “whole child” approach addresses not only academic concerns but also the social and emotional well-being of each student.
Using data to inform decision-making wasn’t new to the 20-school district in Utah, which collected information about “attendance, behavior, and grades to make better-informed decisions when it comes to our students.” Delays in assessing that data meant that teachers were not intervening with struggling students quickly enough, and the schools “faced higher-than-average rates of high school dropouts, chronic absenteeism, and suicides.” Florence writes, “Our leaders recognized that we were not proactively meeting students’ needs, as we were using the data more like an autopsy as opposed to a diagnostic tool.”
To reduce that lag in response time, the district created small groups of “principals, counselors, and academic and behavior intervention specialists” called child assistance teams that meet weekly to examine data about at-risk students. The support teams then devise interventions that are implemented within 48 hours.
One of the interventions focuses on building connections with individual students. In this “2x10 relationship building” technique, an adult spends at least two minutes a day talking with a student about anything other than school for 10 days in a row. Another intervention has an adult work with an individual student to identify a problem and discuss possible solutions. A more intensive intervention involves checking with a student on their progress toward a goal they have set. If the challenge is particularly difficult, an adult will review goals with a student daily and collect data on their progress throughout the day from all of the student’s teachers.
Streamlining data-collection processes and paying focused, immediate attention to what the data shows enables the teams to intervene quickly and address students’ needs in time.