There's nothing more energizing than a room full of educators sharing their challenges, successes, and ideas. This fall, we were grateful to bring together 46 school and district leaders from 18 districts in the Indiana area for an MTSS meetup at Hamilton Southeastern Schools in Fishers, Indiana.
The day was packed with interactive sessions focused on how to launch a district-wide multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) -- from using early warning data, to building an interventions toolkit, to integrating social-emotional learning.
We left the meetup inspired by the deliberate, behind-the-scenes work that districts in Indiana are doing to improve student outcomes.
Here's what we learned, including key takeaways to bring back to your district.
Learning today alongside many IN districts ways to strengthen our MTSS systems while integrating SEL practices. Thx @HSESchools for hosting today’s sessions & @PanoramaEd for the convening to better leverage data to make instructional decisions for @wwsweb Ss! #indyMTSSmeetup pic.twitter.com/fG8HLlncC3— Sherry Grate (@DrGrateWWS) October 29, 2019
Key Takeaways from our Indianapolis MTSS Meetup
1. Prioritize a small list of effective MTSS interventions to ensure fidelity across your district.
During a presentation from the "Student Success" team at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, educators talked about the importance of keeping MTSS simple.
Instead of having a long list of interventions, it's better to have a short intervention menu with fewer, high-quality supports. That way staff can deeply understand the interventions and how to implement each one with fidelity.
Educators have a lot on their plates. Let go of interventions that don't work, and train educators on a small set of effective strategies before layering on more.
"In education, we so often add things to our plate but rarely take things away. We need to let go of what doesn’t work."
– Hamilton-Southeastern Schools (IN)
2. Structure your MTSS like a fire department. Be ready to respond at the first sign a student is struggling.
Administrators from Indianapolis Public Schools compared MTSS to first responders from a fire department.
Imagine a neighborhood where all of the houses are on fire. A fire department doesn't wait for someone in the houses to call. A fire department doesn’t ask, “Why do you think this is happening, and what have you done to try to put it out?” They go put out the fire.
In the same way, a strong early warning system is key to an effective MTSS. The data should immediately flag students who are struggling so that educators can take quick action. "We don’t need to wait for a specific person to make the call. We don’t need to ask teachers and staff why they think it’s happening, or what they’ve done to help before we take action," said one administrator.
Build your district's “fire truck” matrix of resources so that you have a fire truck ready to go when a student needs help.
"Equip your 'fire truck' with the resources needed so you have it ready to go when a student needs help, and you already know who should be delivering those resources."
– Indianapolis Public Schools (IN)
3. Place an intentional focus on adult SEL.
Throughout the day, social-emotional learning (SEL) was top of mind. Administrators shared how their districts are incorporating SEL into MTSS to support students at every tier.
The concept of "adult SEL" emerged as one of the biggest themes of the day. SEL starts with adults. It's important that administrators, teachers, and staff understand and develop their own SEL skills before they support student SEL.
As you implement MTSS, don't forget about your adults. Delivering interventions focused on adults' mental health and self-care can go a long way. Download this Adult SEL Toolkit to access our top district resources for strengthening adult SEL.
"We need to be focusing on adult SEL first so our adults can better support student SEL."
– Montgomery County Educational Service Center (OH)
The Consensus: "Just Get Started"
We heard you loud and clear at the meetup: While MTSS can be overwhelming, it's important to just get started. Regardless of where you are in the MTSS journey, what matters is that you’re making progress. Little by little, the impact on students will follow.
As an administrator from Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township said: “I just need to do it and stop complaining about being overwhelmed... I need to quit being so critical of myself and just do my thing with our kids in mind first.”