For years, the state of New Mexico used a Response to Intervention (RtI) system to support students, primarily in academics. The RtI framework was tied to a technical system for referring students for special education determinations through the Student Assistance Team. This process was often lengthy, leading to many students falling through the cracks or losing access to Tier 1 instruction.
In 2021, New Mexico introduced a different model: MLSS, a Multi-Layered System of Supports. The MLSS framework seeks to support all students through core instruction while allowing the option for educators to add targeted interventions when needed for smaller groups of students. MLSS is intended for holistic school improvement, driven by data-based decision-making to help educators act quickly and effectively to support students.
Gadsden Independent School District (NM) is moving quickly with its MLSS implementation. We sat down with Jed Duggan, Director of Student Success at Gadsden ISD, to learn about how the district partners with Panorama to implement the holistic MLSS framework. He shared about the powerful impact Panorama has had on the district’s data-based decision-making process, and how Gadsden uses student voice surveys to make impactful changes that directly improve the school climate and experience.
A model of the MLSS framework from the MLSS Implementation Guide from the New Mexico Public Education Department.
How has your partnership with Panorama impacted your district’s implementation of MLSS?
Jed Duggan: As schools began adopting MLSS, it became clear that the district didn’t have a reliable system for collecting and tracking data about the implementation of the new system. I saw an opportunity here for our district to use data to make the decisions needed for this transition, and in order to do that, we needed the tools to track and store data. That’s where our partnership with Panorama began.
With Panorama Student Success, everything is very clear and easy. It's no work on my end to gather the data—I just get to analyze the data, and I get to make decisions based off of it. That's a huge game-changer for many districts.
"With Panorama Student Success, everything is very clear and easy. It's no work on my end to gather the
data—I just get to analyze the data, and I get to make decisions based off of it. That's a huge game-changer for many districts."
— Jed Duggan, Director of Student Success
Panorama’s tools also provide us with data on student behavior. Now we can identify specific students who may need additional support and make sure they are getting what they need to succeed. Panorama’s surveys allow us to measure social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies, which are an important part of the MLSS framework. Panorama is way ahead of the game in measuring SEL statistics. For the first time, our counselors are able to track the progress of academic, behavioral, and social-emotional interventions, and really get a holistic understanding of each student.
The Panorama Student Success platform shows a holistic view of each student across Academics, Attendance, Behavior, and SEL. (Please note that demo data is pictured.)
How has having access to survey data informed decision-making in your district?
JD: After seeing the results from our first SEL survey this year, we decided to do a lot of work around chronic absenteeism. Absenteeism is a very frustrating thing for educators because they feel like they have very little control over whether or not a student comes to school. This is somewhat true—we aren’t going to their homes and putting them on the bus. But with our survey data, we were able to look more closely at schools with higher chronic absentee rates. I worked with those principals to investigate scores in teacher-student relationships and school safety. We can’t directly control whether students come to school, but we can control our relationships, our compassion, and how we speak to students. We have control over our school environment.
As we start our planning for next year, our principals are developing a plan to address chronic absenteeism. Instead of setting general goals around reducing chronic absentee rates, which is the kind of goal that nobody ever accomplishes, they’re setting goals around increasing favorability among teacher-student relationships and creating guidelines for adult-centered behaviors.
Our survey data also showed very low results in school safety. We tried to identify why that was—we assumed the low ratings were coming from our high schools, because we had recently been targeted by social media threats. But when I looked at the data, I discovered that this wasn’t coming from our high schools, it was coming from the elementary schools.
From the adult perspective, the schools are very secure. You can’t even get into the building without a tag. But as we looked deeper into the data, we realized that students weren’t worried about external threats to the school, but rather internal school safety, like online bullying. So we dedicated more resources to supporting students in those areas. I would encourage any district to go into that level of depth when they're making decisions.
"Panorama’s surveys allow us to measure social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies, which are an important part of the MLSS framework. Panorama is way ahead of the game in measuring SEL statistics.
— Jed Duggan, Director of Student Success
What learnings would you like to share with other New Mexico districts as they implement MLSS?
JD: I recently had a conversation with our superintendent, Travis Dempsey, where we were talking about how we’ve always wanted to send out surveys to our community, but we didn’t know how. We didn’t have any direction, or even know what questions we should be asking. With our Panorama surveys, we can finally connect with students, teachers, and families.
Now, we have the tools to be able to get input from a good, diverse group of people. We can truly say, “This is the student voice. This is what we’re hearing from parents. This is what the community organizers are telling us.” And then we can compare all of those responses and use them to inform our decision-making.
In the past, educators have relied primarily on our professional judgment when it comes to decision-making. We do our best, but we don’t have any results that can tell us definitively whether or not our initiatives are working. Now, we’re being asked for more and more accountability in our decision-making processes. That's where I see Panorama Student Success and Surveys making a huge impact. With Panorama, we’re able to use data from students, teachers, and families to inform and justify the choices we’re making in our districts and schools.
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