During a recent professional development event at Orange County (CA) Alternative, Community, and Correctional Education Schools and Services (ACCESS), teams created definitions and analogies for Multitiered System of Support (MTSS) that fit their unique context and student needs. MTSS is broadly defined throughout California schools as a tiered system of support for students’ academic, behavioral and social emotional learning. This system is sustainable when supported by strong administrative leadership; integrated educational framework; student, family and community partnerships; and inclusive policy structure and practices.
We asked the ACCESS teams to create an analogy to help explain MTSS to their colleagues and community. We shared an example of MTSS as an organizing system like a library. In a public library we can know and learn where things are: many books by many authors on various topics intended for many audiences. Everyone has access to what they need, which can be different things at different times. Strategic decision making occurs around book choices and pages to read based on information about the purpose, reading level, and other “data”. Importantly, everyone is welcome to use the library system, where each person can check out the right book at the right time. In this imagery, the shelves represent an overall MTSS framework, books represent the components of the system, and the pages in the books represent practices, strategies, and research-based interventions from among which they can select based on data they gather.
ACCESS teams created their own analogies for MTSS, which included department store analogies ranging from Nordstrom’s to Target; MTSS Mine Craft, which starts off basic with many levels and challenges and no limit on exploration; an ecosystem with students, families, community stakeholders, teachers, administrators; and an all-inclusive MTSS universe.
Many teams chose to make food analogies! Examples of these included a custom designed multi-layer cake, an ice cream sundae with lots of individualized sprinkles, a “whole enchilada”, individualized pizzas, a potluck dinner, and an MTSS Poke. If you aren’t familiar with Poke, see the photo posted with this blog, which shows a universal base of rice/salad/chips, a next tier of protein based on support needs, a more intensive tier of toppings with intensive flavor options, and specialized support that includes “extras.”
With these analogies fresh in their minds, the teams set to work taking a closer look at available resources across their system. They began considering ways to maximize personnel and resources to create a system that supports all students’ academic, behavior, and social-emotional needs.
I am excited to return to see all the “ingredients” they find and how they put them together for a “delicious” MTSS for alternative education in Orange County, CA!
-Dr. Melinda Mitchiner
As Research Programs Director at SWIFT Education Center, University of Kansas, I work closely with state and district teams to provide technical assistance and support to guide their work to install equity based multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) using the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT).