At a Glance
Venango Technology Center (VTC) uses a Multiple Tiered System of Support (MTSS) to proactively implement interventions for students who face barriers to learning.
VTC administrators and faculty recognize the importance of supporting at-risk students and providing them the resources and tools they need to overcome challenges. However, their usual efforts to design and implement interventions for students at the end of the grading period did not seem to allow enough time for those interventions to work. As Jena Seidle, Special Populations Coordinator observed, “Time was always against us.” With this realization, they looked for ways to intervene earlier when concerns arose about student learning.
After conducting research on models that prioritize early intervention, VTC administrators decided to implement a Multiple Tiered System of Support (MTSS). MTSS often is described as “a data-driven, problem-solving framework to improve outcomes for all students. MTSS relies on a continuum of evidence-based practices matched to student needs.” (See https://www.pbis.org/pbis/tiered-framework.) The MTSS approach centers on three tiers of support, moving from universal interventions that benefit most students (Tier 1) to individualized, intensive interventions for specific students (Tier 3).
Ms. Seidle and the guidance counselor assumed responsibility for implementing the MTSS at VTC. After hearing Schuylkill Technology Center staff present about the program at the Integrated Learning Conference, they met with Stacey Minahan, Assistant Principal at Schuylkill Technology Center, to learn more about how to develop a MTSS program. They discussed the types of data and documentation they should use to identify students at risk and to monitor their progress. (Schuylkill Technology Center implemented the School Climate Initiative which is a comprehensive MTSS effort to build strong school-to-student and school-to-family relationships. For more information about STC’s initiative, see The School Climate Initiative profile.)
In 2019, VTC implemented a MTSS program adapted to the needs of VTC. The guidance counselor and Ms. Seidle created a program that allows them to continuously review student progress and identify new students in need of support. They focus on two data points they had identified as leading indicators that students require intervention services: grades and attendance records. The guidance counselor pulls this data every 15 days, and she and Ms. Seidle review it.
If the data indicates a student is at risk of failing or has increased absences, then the student’s instructor completes an input form. On the form, the instructor identifies academic concerns related to the competency task grid and social/emotional concerns. For Ms. Seidle and the guidance counselor, the information on this form provides them with a fuller picture of the student’s experience.
Using the details from the input form, Ms. Seidle and the guidance counselor work with the instructor and the student to develop an individualized intervention plan. This communication between the instructors and students is valuable because it alerts students to concerns about their performance and promotes a sense of personal accountability. Once the plan is finalized, instructional aides help implement the identified interventions.
If the student continues to face challenges, then the team revises the interventions and moves to the Tier 3 level of support. Tier 3 interventions often include one-to-one support and direct instruction. VTC staff also will communicate concerns with the sending school and IEP team as necessary.
The MTSS program at VTC has formalized a process for early intervention. It also creates opportunities for more communication among staff members and between faculty and students about the multiple learning barriers students may face. Although VTC is not using the MTSS model during the 2020-2021 school year because time and resources are focused on the many changes presented due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms. Seidle hopes to continue the practice once VTC returns to normal operations.
Ms. Seidle identifies limited time and resources as the greatest challenges associated with implementing MTSS. VTC enrolls over 500 students and with only two faculty members pulling and reviewing the data and then meeting with students, the process can feel overwhelming for those in charge. Given these challenges, Ms. Seidle and the guidance counselor are looking at ways to adjust the delivery model and secure greater support among other staff so that it is more sustainable.
The MTSS program encourages communication between VTC support staff, instructors, students, and sending schools and established a monitoring process through which these key stakeholders have become more aware of students’ needs.