United We Learn is the State of Kentucky’s initiative to propel forward the future of public education in the state, a vision built “around three big ideas: creating a more vibrant experience for every student, encouraging innovation in our schools – especially when it comes to assessment, and creating a bold new future for Kentucky’s schools through collaboration with our communities.”
To realize this vision, the Kentucky Multi-Tiered System of Supports (KyMTSS) is a multi-level prevention system to support student achievement and social-emotional behavioral competencies through an integration of differentiated core instruction, assessment and intervention.
The purpose of KyMTSS is stated to be to promote “the integration of systems-level approaches and state/district/school initiatives under one comprehensive framework to more efficiently use resources while focusing on improving outcomes for every student.”
That stated vision of equitable access and opportunity is, in fact, the paradigm: one comprehensive framework of six interdependent and interconnected components that are essential to the implementation and sustainability of an effective MTSS framework in Kentucky school districts.
The challenge is that the current reality of how data is gathered, stored and analyzed has historically been anything but comprehensive, one, interdependent nor interconnected, making the task of effective MTSS implementation arduous, onerous and time-consuming for those responsible for executing this vision. Many districts are, in fact, data-rich…but too many are also tragically knowledge-poor.
This is why the EdTech sector is pushing for greater interoperability and advocating for disparate systems and entities speaking a common data language. This is how we will collaborate to make this critically important initiative a reality, without taxing our resources or monopolizing educators’ time that is better spent on activities other than data mining.
How to Visualize Data to Actualize Outcomes
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has identified six elements as essential to the implementation, improvement and sustainability of an effective multi-tiered system of supports:
- Collaborative Problem-Solving Teams (includes shared leadership, collaboration and communication)
- Data-Based Decision Making with a Comprehensive Screening and Assessment System
- Tiered Delivery System with a Continuum of Supports
- Evidence-Based Instruction, Intervention and Supports
- Equitable Access and Opportunity
- Family, School and Community Partnerships
The first thing that jumps off the page to me are the words “collaborative,” “data-based” and “evidence-based.” We’ve seen firsthand how school districts nationwide struggle to collect and connect all of the various disparate systems and data warehouses that educators and administrators rely on to provide educational excellence and comply with transparency reporting obligations.
The KyMTSS Implementation Guide notes that the systems used for “academic, behavior and social-emotional supports often are implemented in silos or parallel systems that work independently of each other. Each system and initiative might have its own set of teams
doing the work, separate data systems and separate practices,” and recommends “building one coherent, strategically combined system to address multiple domains or content areas in education to achieve and sustain positive outcomes more effectively.”
It is important to note that, in doing so, districts should “braid” all available data sources, including those proprietary to the district itself, as well as all publicly available data sources.
What districts are increasingly finding is that events and data that occur outside of the classroom have a significant impact on outcomes that are achieved in the classrooms themselves, especially when it comes to social-emotional learning. Factors such as demographics, geographics, economics, equity of access, and many more contributing factors may have nearly as much influence on learning as curriculum, instruction and quality/training of teachers.
The answer? Seeing is believing. Truly seeing. Correlations that may exist between poverty rates, Internet access, geographical boundaries and student achievement can only be understood if displayed visually and overlaid on one another. A heat map will reveal where at-risk students tend to live, in most cases, and may also reveal some other important interdependencies. But this is not possible to examine if the data remains in silos. Nor is it achievable if it’s only displayed in a columnar table or a spreadsheet. All you see is numbers…when what you are looking for is trends, drivers, and potential causality.
Data must be visualized for better outcomes to be actualized.
Guidelines for Implementing the Six Essential Elements of KyMTSS
A team of data scientists has partnered with educators and administrators to develop a comprehensive resource designed to support districts in implementing Kentucky’s state-required K-12 Multi-Tiered System of Supports. This guide can be used not only as a roadmap to effective KyMTSS implementation, but can unlock a singular system for implementing each of the six essential elements and providing the necessary documentation and reporting.
Examples from each of the six essential elements guidance protocols include:
1 – Collaborative Problem-Solving Teams (includes shared leadership, collaboration and communication)
Build and openly share a dashboard that “helps teams at the district, building, grade and content level to analyze academic, social emotional and behavior data in one, shared online platform.” (For example, see the Munetrix Early Warning Module.)
2 – Data-Based Decision Making with a Comprehensive Screening and Assessment System
Configure a system so that it can “manage and analyze multiple types of data, including assessment, behavior, social emotional, attendance, demographic, perception, process, and other types of data in one centralized platform. This helps districts ensure that the data is collected, analyzed, and used to monitor both student outcomes and implementation of interventions over time.” This should include:
- Needs Assessment
- Academic and Behavior Data
- Formative Assessment Data
- Progress Monitoring Data
- Demographic Data
- Student/Family/Staff Survey Data
- Relevant Community Data
- Student Early Warning Indicators
The Munetrix Early Warning Module is a tool designed with all of this in mind…all in one place!
3 – Tiered Delivery System with a Continuum of Supports
Insist on technology that allows stakeholders to “analyze data and trends across various groups and sub-groups to help consider the range of learning needs and assets from accelerated to severe and persistently challenged. Dynamic filters are needed to help educators quickly and easily identify and group students by ability levels within areas of need, across multiple assessments.
4 – Evidence-Based Instruction, Intervention and Supports
Student growth and needs assessment must be supported by an “application that can analyze data to help identify the outcome and fidelity of implementation to monitor the effectiveness of instruction, intervention, and supports.”
5 – Equitable Access and Opportunity
The most effective solutions are ones that “equip district leadership with student and community demographic and socioeconomic data, so that they can ensure that MTSS leadership teams include key stakeholders such as students, family and community partners who are representative of the entire student body and holistic school community.” It should “blend financial and student data (academic/behavior/social emotional) in a single platform to empower district leaders to analyze the data in one place so that they can identify and address inequities of funding, student access to highly effective teachers, high-quality curriculum, school disciplinary practices, or other supportive resources such as technology.”
6 – Family, School and Community Partnerships
Ideally, the “system helps districts form active and reciprocal family, school and community relationships through transparency reporting tools and access to tools to evaluate community socioeconomic and demographic data as well as student, parent and community input or survey data collected through family engagement opportunities.”
Free Template and Resource Guide
If we were to simplify the guidance offered in this document, it would be this:
- Get all of your relevant data sets into one system.
- Don’t ignore the data outside of your own purview of education and student achievement.
- Make sure that data can be visualized, not just tabulated.
- Make reporting easy, transparent and intuitive.
Take these simple steps and your district will be well on its way to helping Kentucky realize its vision of “each and every student empowered and equipped to pursue a successful future.”