Aspen Florence is a student advocacy services supervisor for the Ogden School District in Utah.
As schools serve student populations with increasingly complex academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs, a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is proving to be beneficial for identifying, prioritizing and supporting students. Educators and district leaders report the MTSS student support framework has empowered them to provide support to students before a problem occurs, ensuring no student falls between the cracks.
The ability to measure and understand the impact of interventions is critical for an effective MTSS process. While the data and insight MTSS provides holds enormous potential, only 3 in 10 educators report they are currently tracking interventions effectively. Like many school districts, educators and district leaders in the Ogden School District in Utah had utilized various sources of data to identify, prioritize and support every student. However, our district leaders still saw gaps in achievement among groups of students, and schools still faced higher-than-average rates of high school dropouts, chronic absenteeism and suicides.
We realized that we needed to uniquely equip our teachers to address the inherent risk factors that many of our students were dealing with, which is why we have spent the past three years investing in building and scaling a district-wide MTSS standard to support over 12,000 students across 20 schools. This system takes a comprehensive "whole child" approach to addressing the unique and individual needs of each student through the use of tiered interventions, an early warning system, social-emotional learning assessment and professional development for teachers.
Purposeful use of data
Ogden has always been a very data-driven school system, utilizing data from attendance, behavior and grades to make better-informed decisions when it comes to our students, but pulling those data points together would sometimes take two to three days. We also needed to step back and review how we were utilizing the data that was being gathered.
Our leaders recognized that we were not proactively meeting students’ needs, as we were using the data more like an autopsy as opposed to a diagnostic tool. As part of our effort to look at data as a way to drive outcomes rather than react to them, we implemented a new early warning system and social-emotional learning assessments from Panorama Education. Additionally, we connected key data systems. This offered our educators a full view of a student’s progress and an all-in-one spot to manage interventions.
This 360-degree visibility enables educators to more easily monitor the progress of individual students and groups and provides guidance on the next steps needed to meet student goals. Most importantly, this data is visible across the district, giving educators and administrators the opportunity to build collaborative, goal-based intervention plans that are readily available when the student changes schools within the district.
Given the reality of resources, schedules and staff capacity, it can be challenging at first to establish the “culture” needed for MTSS to be successful districtwide. We began delivering consistent MTSS services by first creating student support teams at each school site—known as child assistance teams (ChATs)—to mobilize around at-risk students.
Made up of principals, counselors, and academic and behavior intervention specialists, the ChAT meets weekly to review relevant data, identify students in need of tier two supports and ensure that interventions are carried out with fidelity. Based on these meetings, next steps are planned for each at-risk student and interventions are implemented within the next 48 hours.
A narrow set of MTSS interventions assist with us delivering effective, targeted support. By keeping our intervention menu simple, we can ensure we are reaching students promptly. These include:
- 2x10 relationship building: Connect with a student for two minutes per day, 10 days in a row. These conversations should focus on relationship building and must be about anything but school.
- Preventative problem-solving plan (3Ps): Work with the student to identify the problem and talk through a solution.
- Goal setting: Check in with the student around a goal; more teacher-directed than the 3Ps, but still based on what the student has identified as the problem.
- Check in, check out: This is the most time-intensive intervention; review goals with the student every morning and collect data in 30-minute increments.
Additionally, we utilize group-based interventions to assist students needing extra support. For example, at Mound Fort Junior High, the Achievement Club has led to positive outcomes for 8th and 9th graders who need additional support on their path to graduation. One specific student went from 89% daily attendance to 95% attendance after being placed in the club.
While we have made tremendous academic gains, and our growth trend is moving upward drastically, we recognize that results aren’t achieved overnight, and we still have a long way to go.
With measurements that align with our five-year strategic goal, Ogden has created a sustainable, coherent system for change. Before, our students were letting us know they were struggling but not sure how to ask for help, and often we were identifying them too late. Now, by utilizing the data that we were already collecting in addition to early warning signals and social-emotional insight, we can ensure that we are addressing their needs in time.