Syosset Board of Education discusses multi-tiered system of support
During the Oct. 3 Syosset Central School District Board of Education meeting, the board saw a presentation about the Multi-Tiered System of Support, or MTSS.
According to the New York State Department of Education, MTSS focuses on evidence-based practices, relies on student progress data to inform instructional decisions and ensures that each student, based on their unique needs, receives the level and type of support necessary to be successful.
“Every student is an individual,” said Syosset Central School District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Rogers. “Every student has strengths and opportunities for growth, so what we do is meet students where they are, support them if needed and get them to their fullest potential possible. We do that by trying to individualize wherever possible and individualize especially when we see a student starting to struggle a little bit.”
Erin Goldthwaite, the assistant superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services, Dr. Raymond Loverso, the assistant superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and Jeanette Wojcik, the director of Elementary Pupil Personnel Services, Universal Pre-K and Committee on Preschool Special Education, led the presentation to the board.
“Syosset’s model has become something other districts follow,” Dr. Rogers said. “I was in the Albany area for a superintendents conference this past weekend, and I had several colleagues come to me and remark on how they used our MTSS plan as a framework for their own work in their district. I’m proud to get compliments like that, but I can’t take those compliments for myself because it was the hard work of the team that’s going to share with you shortly.”
Dr. Loverso stated that last year the board learned the innovative curriculum changes made across multiple areas including the arts, physical education, technology, computer science, mathematics and English Language Arts.
“We also discussed the strategic shifts we’ve made in our instruction and during last month’s meeting, we showcased student achievement data, which demonstrated the success of our innovative curriculum design and our instructional shifts,” Dr. Loverso said. “In order to complete our conversation on ways we amplify learning for all students, we wanted to highlight our targeted intervention and support service, which we call Multi-Tiered System of Support, or MTSS.”
According to the presentation, under MTSS, the district creates a proactive identification of students in need, has just right interventions that are matched to student need, monitors progress overtime, tapers off interventions once skill deficits are remediated, makes decisions based on data and leads scientific, research-based instruction.
“Each of our 10 buildings implemented the MTSS process,” Goldthwaite said. “Within each of our buildings, our MTSS teams consist of multi-disciplinary educators. This can include our building administrators, school psychologists, developmental learning specialists on the elementary level, social workers, special educators, guidance counselors, related service providers or, if appropriate, [English as a New Language] teachers, in order to provide a multi-faceted approach to exploring our students needs. Our teams meet weekly for referrals as well as during data meetings that take place at least three times a year.”
The universal image of MTSS is a triangle, or pyramid. Tier 1 provides universal support and curriculum for all students. Tier 2 targets support for small groups, which can include academic support, speech, occupational therapy, counseling and social skills groups. Tier 3 practices intensive support for individual students.
“MTSS focuses on a continuous monitoring of students,” Goldthwaite said. “Students can move both up and down the tiers depending on how they respond to the interventions we provide.”
For example, the presentation demonstrated the story of a character named “Arthur Reed,” based on the literary protagonist in the book series Arthur. Arthur is a fourth grader whose interests include sports, playing his saxophone and spending time with his friends skateboarding. He shows great enthusiasm for reading, he answers most questions correctly when it comes to literal understanding of text and his teacher reaches out to Arthur’s family for review of his progress.
However, when probed with questions that dig a bit deeper, he struggles with understanding the character’s motivation and making inferences. And during reading workshop, his teacher notices that he does not participate in discussions about the text.
Goldthwaite explained that under MTSS, the teacher would share Arthur’s strengths and concerns with his family, and begin to reflect in the entrance criteria for Tier 1 by analyzing data, which includes test scores and reading levels.
Under the Tier 1 intervention, the teacher would begin to focus on Arthur’s area of need, which would be reading comprehension. During a reading workshop block, his teacher would deliver small group instruction to target skill remediation in the area of inferential comprehension and character analysis. This is done in addition to the individual conferencing and whole group instruction that the entire class receives. After the first intervention cycle, the teacher would review the data she collects and look at Arthur’s reading level. If she notices the reading level stagnating and falling behind grade level expectations, she would consider referring to the school’s MTSS team.
“Arthur’s teacher feels that a referral is the next best step,” Wojcik said. “She reaches out to Arthur’s family to share her concerns and begins the referral process. As the team meets, Arthur’s teacher shares the data she has collected and the Tier 1 intervention she has implemented within the classroom setting. As the team discusses Arthur and his profile, each member’s unique perspective within their discipline allows for detailed discussions. For example, the speech therapist may ask about Arthur’s ability to understand spoken language, as there can be sometimes a correlation with understanding written language. Based upon the data, and the classroom teacher’s report, the team decides that Arthur would benefit from Tier 2 intervention.”
The Tier 2 intervention includes small group instruction inside or outside the classroom three times a week for 40 minutes, developed goals to monitor progress, grouping the students with similar levels and needs and sharing the information with his family.
If Arthur continued to not show improvement, he’d be recommended to Tier 3 intervention, where he’d meet for small group instruction five times a week for 40 minutes. Plans and goals would be updated, and the information would be shared with his family. An intervention program would be determined.
“Sometimes what a student may need is more time with the program that is determined at Tier 2,” Wojcik said. “Other times, based on data collected by the interventionist, we may recommend that a change in program is necessary to appropriately target increasing areas of need.”
If a child, receiving Tier 3 intervention, continues to not show progress, the MTSS team may decide to refer the child to special education. But in this presentation, Arthur’s reading levels began to improve, and he returned to Tier 2 intervention.
“Students have a variety of needs and we focus on the whole child during our MTSS process,” Dr. Loverso said. “Addressing their academic, social and emotional, as well as behavioral needs, we have a variety of tools and we use them purposely to accommodate the needs of students.”
To see the entire presentation, visit www.syossetschools.org/domain/120.