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4 Steps to Achieving Data Interoperability in MTSS

Jenna Buckle
Jenna Buckle
4 Steps to Achieving Data Interoperability in MTSS



The use of data to screen, progress monitor, and take meaningful action for students is foundational to multi-tiered systems of support.

Yet, many districts struggle to align data systems—also known as "data interoperability"—when implementing MTSS.

What is data interoperability? By definition, it is “the seamless, secure, and controlled exchange of data between applications.” In simpler terms, it means getting your data systems to talk to each other so that educators can leverage data to respond to students’ needs.

The promise of interoperability looms large in strategic plans for MTSS, but the reality on the ground is that educators are using spreadsheets, forms, ad-hoc reports, and multiple data systems to make decisions about how to support their students.

That’s why Morris School District (NJ) has prioritized data interoperability on its journey to provide personalized learning experiences for each and every student.

"We think the true promise of education is data interoperability. We've crafted our organizational chart around data interoperability and worked for the last three years on making it a reality. With interoperability, the whole idea is you can marshal all the resources of a system to meet the individual needs of each student."

mackey-pendergrast– Mackey Pendergrast, Superintendent, Morris School District

Here are the district’s four steps to achieving interoperability.

1. Maintain clean data on students’ mastery of standards, and bring it into one spot.

First, it's important to gather data that tells you exactly where students are in their academic journeys. For example, Morris School District uses a standards-based curriculum and collects robust data to monitor student progress towards those standards.

The district then brings all of those student metrics—across grades, assessments, behavior, attendance, and social skills—into one place. Administrators, teachers, and staff have access to the same data in the same spot instead of needing to spend hours analyzing spreadsheets to diagnose student needs.

“We want to ensure that our dozens and dozens of student metrics are coming into the same place—from mastery of standards, to active engagement in our community," said Mackey Pendergrast, superintendent of Morris School District, on a recent webinar. "These data points can tell us exactly where a student is in their learning and what steps they need to take to reach their destination."

2. Build habits around using the data within multi-tiered systems of support.

Once you have meaningful data, the next step is to create habits and expectations for using it to support students. Is every educator in the building looking at the data in the same way and using it to inform instructional practices?

This means carving out daily and weekly opportunities for staff to access the data and discuss it. Provide professional development to train staff on how to look for evidence in the data rather than make assumptions.

3. Broaden your data sources to include social-emotional learning.

For most districts, the core purpose of multi-tiered systems of support is to understand and respond to every student's unique story. We can't do that without considering the social and emotional aspects of learning; research shows that SEL correlates positively with academic and behavioral success in school.

To get a true picture of the whole child, it's important to gather data on students' social-emotional skills and mindsets in the same way that you track academic performance, attendance, and behavior. Morris School District collects SEL data through student surveys, combines it with academic and behavioral data points, and helps teachers and staff work with this SEL data to support students.

4. Mobilize your entire system to respond to the data.

For Superintendent Pendergrast, the fourth and final step of interoperability goes beyond aligning data systems. You know that you've achieved interoperability when there is a sense of collective efficacy—when the whole system is working together to help students overcome obstacles like trauma, equity, and poverty.

"Do you have your entire system—your counselors, administrators, teachers, parents, and students—responding to these data points?" Pendergrast said. "This is when you’ve reached data interoperability. Is it all coherent and interdependent to meet the needs of the individual child?"


Is data interoperability a challenge in your school or district? Schedule a conversation with us to learn how Panorama is streamlining the MTSS work at Morris School District.

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