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Q: How can we bring an equity lens to our MTSS?
This is a question that many educators are thinking about. More than ever, measurable goals around equity and inclusion are at the core of district planning and priorities.
First, it’s important that we don’t think of equity and inclusion as separate from MTSS. Equity is intrinsic to MTSS, and should be embedded within each tier of supports.
An MTSS that advances equity gives all students access to a great education in the most inclusive environment possible. This access is provided using universal screening and progress monitoring data to start a student in the least intensive support environment, and adding or removing that support as needed. In other words, we’re giving each and every student just the right amount of support they need to succeed.
Our biggest recommendation is to use data to identify differences in how groups of students are experiencing school and performing academically. Bring your academic, behavior, attendance, and demographic data into one place to answer questions like:
- Are there academic achievement gaps between groups of students?
- Which groups of students are attending school less than others?
- Do we see an over-representation of any groups of students in our behavioral data?
- Which groups of students are reporting few, if any, social-emotional strengths?
- How are students and staff thinking and feeling about equity and inclusion at their school? (The Panorama Equity and Inclusion Survey is a great resource to gather this data.)
Honing in on the data can illuminate trends such as group differences in intervention efficacy and show you where resources need to be allocated at the district or school levels to address disparities and promote equity.
Let’s look at discipline disproportionality to put this into context. National trends show an over-representation of students of color identified as “critical” or “at risk” in behavior. In other words, we know that disciplinary inequity persists in education today.
As administrators and educators with a focus on equity, we can use our demographic, behavioral, and student voice data to understand the state of disciplinary equity in our context. Does what we’re seeing mirror national trends, or is something else true in our community?
This data is also a starting point for important conversations about educator beliefs, mindsets, and policies that impact students’ lives. This type of data inquiry can drive Tier 1 or whole-school improvements that create a better place to learn for every student.
So, by bringing an intentional equity lens to our MTSS, we can be sure that we support a diversity of learners and empower each student to reach their full potential.