Strategies for Introducing MTSS for Behavior to Schools & Building Consensus

Why is it Important to Build Consensus for Implementing MTSS for Behavior?

The best way to start the MTSS for behavior process is to build awareness among all individuals within the district, and to invite schools to participate in the training. An important part of the self-assessment process is to evaluate how much school administrators and staff members currently know about MTSS for behavior. Mandating a particular school improvement effort can create difficulties for a district. There is a long history of school reform efforts that have been forced on schools; experience teaches us that school personnel have a tendency to believe that “if we wait long enough, some other new idea will come along anyway”.

Implementing MTSS for behavior is different process because it is a fully consensus-based approach. Many leaders of MTSS for behavior efforts recommend that school teams obtain a full faculty vote before proceeding with MTSS for behavior. If 80% or more of school staff members are in favor of MTSS for behavior, then there will be a much higher likelihood that subsequent training and implementation efforts will be effective. If, however, most faculty members are not in favor of implementing MTSS for behavior, no amount of training and support will succeed. Instead, the first step for a school in this situation is to work on building a common vision, sharing staff members’ experiences with and expectations for students with problem behavior, and developing a sense of moral purpose among staff members.

Districts interested in starting MTSS for behavior can begin by providing opportunities for different stakeholders to learn more about the MTSS for behavior implementation process. Again, the choice of how to move forward is different for each district based on its unique characteristics and culture. Some districts begin by providing introductory information about MTSS for behavior to administrators to better ascertain their interest levels.

In some districts, small teams of administrators and school staff have visited other districts that have already started implementing MTSS for behavior and have demonstration schools (schools that have been implementing MTSS for behavior effectively). This allows the district administrators to see what implementation actually looks like and to ask questions about the process. In other situations, local or regional conferences may be scheduled enabling larger groups from the district to learn more about MTSS for behavior. Local or national leaders may also be brought to the district to present on MTSS for behavior and talk with the district leadership team about how to proceed forward, given the unique characteristics of the district. However, this is just one step in building district awareness. Administrators and school staff need time to discuss and reflect upon MTSS for behavior and what it will mean for their schools.

Once the school administrators within the district have decided to move forward with MTSS for behavior, the next step is to schedule time with school faculty. If the faculty have not yet been introduced to MTSS for behavior, administrators will need to create a plan for building more awareness (introductory information, PowerPoint presentations, videotaped examples from other schools successfully implementing MTSS for behavior, planned visits to other schools, etc.). If school personnel are interested in learning more about MTSS for behavior, a school MTSS for behavior planning team is formed.

Although it is possible for districts or schools to engage in a self-learning process about MTSS for behavior, it is important to obtain guidance about how to proceed in ways that will increase sustainability and full implementation. District teams can consult directly with professionals who have experience facilitating district-wide MTSS for behavior and hire professionals to guide teams on an ongoing basis. Nothing is more frustrating than starting an effort and getting “stuck” and not knowing how to find solutions to implementation problems. In some cases, a school team may have independently attempted to implement MTSS for behavior without assistance. The team may be stating that “they tried MTSS for behavior and it didn’t work”. Consultants can help provide guidance in these situations by sharing examples of successful implementation from other schools, providing tools with detailed implementation steps, and offering problem-solving assistance in areas where a team may be struggling.

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What is the Purpose of a School Planning Team

Each school implementing MTSS for behavior forms a planning team that represents the entire school. Examples of possible school team members include administrators, general and special educators, teachers from different grade levels, school psychologists, social workers, counselors, students, parents, and community members. The team meets on a regular basis throughout the year. In addition, time is often set aside for team meetings during inservice days and professional development days. These dates are planned in advance and documented in the school calendar.

The purpose of the school team is to gather information and bring it back to the school staff . The more everyone knows about MTSS for behavior before starting the process, the better off the school will be, once implementation begins. School teams often begin the planning process by gathering information about staff perceptions of student behavior, as well as the extent to which staff believe that systems, processes and supports are in place (or not in place) to address problem behavior effectively. This initial step provides a strong platform for further discussion with faculty. The interventions and implementation strategies that are chosen are based on faculty consensus. This means that schools implementing MTSS for behavior effectively have set aside time in staff meetings and in-services throughout the year, so that everyone is involved in identifying MTSS for behavior interventions.

In high schools, the school team spends more time working with faculty to identify how students will become involved in leading the MTSS for behavior effort. Many high school teams in Kansas that have started implementing MTSS for behavior did so by bringing students along during initial visits to other schools implementing MTSS for behavior. Student involvement and leadership is important, especially for older high school students. In fact, student leadership (and subsequent student buy-in) is a key factor in the implementation success of MTSS for behavior in high schools.

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What Happens if Schools Choose Not to Participate in MTSS for Behavior?

Schools that do not have consensus for moving forward with MTSS for behavior are still responsible for school improvement efforts. However, the school staff members may need to become involved in a consensus-building process to help build a common vision and develop a sense of moral purpose. Michael Fullan (2005) recommends that any school improvement effort begin with a focus on moral purpose because…..

“…adaptive challenges require the deep participation of the people with the problem; that is why it is more complex and why it requires more sophisticated leadership.” (pp.53).

Many schools and organizations will create a vision and mission statement but then abandon initial consensus-building activities and never refer to them again. Organizations that create ways to connect all decision making directly to a sense of moral purpose (e.g. the vision and mission held by a group) have a better chance of really creating systems change. This, in turn, can be an important first step in building consensus. Fullan goes on to say that….

“…sustainability is very much a matter of changes in culture: powerful strategies that enable people to question and alter certain values and beliefs as they create new forms of learning within and between schools, and across levels of the system.” (pp.60)

Case Example
One school administrator, who is part of a school team implementing MTSS for behavior, was initially told by her district administrators that they were mandating that her school implement MTSS for behavior. The school principal did not mention this mandate to her school staff. Instead, she brought the problems experienced—increases in ODRs, suspensions, and expulsion rates—to her staff and challenged them to find an answer that would be effective. She asked that a school planning team be formed, and provided recommendations about different school improvement efforts that would be given to the faculty for a consensus-based vote. Although the process took some time and several different approaches were investigated, the school team and faculty agreed that MTSS for behavior was the best way to move forward because it was not a “canned” or “cookbook” approach. This consensus-based strategy was very successful and allowed the school to get ready to implement MTSS for behavior in their own way.

Introductory information for school staff

Video introductions that can be shared with administrators, school staff, and the community

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  • Freeman, R., Griggs, P., Anderson, S., & Kimbrough, P. (2009). Multi-tier system of supports module. University of Kansas. Lawrence, KS. Request for edits or changes in content to these pages should be made only after contacting the authors.