Espe: Multi-tiered systems of support grant for math K-5

Last spring we were informed we received the one grant awarded in the state of Minnesota, called Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Mathematics K-5.  This is a multi-year grant which we are very fortunate to have earned.
This grant fits many of our Strategic Plan Goals:
1. Provide personalized instruction for every student.  This grant helps us differentiate instruction for students.
2. Prepare 21st Century students to be career and college ready.  Statistics show upwards of 80% of future careers will be based in STEM fields, which includes understanding mathematics.
3. Implement innovative programming.  One of our district initiatives is in the STEM and STEAM areas, and understanding mathematics well enough to apply it in STEM and STEAM is critical.
What is Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)?
The MTSS framework is simply good teaching.  By using MTSS, there are three big ideas to keep in mind:
• Assessment of student performance,
• Effective instruction and intervention, and
• Collaborative teams using data to make instructional decisions.
There are four reasons to assess, using MTSS:  screening, diagnostic testing, progress monitoring, and outcomes measuring.  First, all students are given a quick universal assessment, to screen for the students with greater needs.  Then there is a diagnostic test, to decide what it is the student is not understanding or missing in his or her learning.  Then, as the student is being taught the targeted intervention of need, progress monitoring is done, to assess how effective the intervention is.  Finally, there is an outcomes test, to make certain the student has indeed learned effectively.
The system is working properly if 80% or more of the students are understanding their learning, then the core instruction is working.  We observed a need for this five years ago, and have been working, as a district, on our core instruction.  We have not yet reached the 80%, but we have been making incremental progress over the years.  This core instruction portion of the students is called Tier One.
Using MTSS assessments, we look for Tier Two students, or the 15% of our students who have small gaps or lacks of learning.  In addition, we look for Tier Three students, or the 5% of our students who have greater needs.  Each of these (20% of students) receive targeted interventions, to help them understand the learning.  Tier Three students’ interventions are more often and intense than Tier Two.
It may seem to the general public, that this system is easy to understand and easy to implement.  It is not.  In fact, teachers and administrators must learn how, in collaborative teams, to use the data to make instructional decisions that make the MTSS framework a success for each child.  This is a difficult, and yet critical need in education.
This grant is helping us to be more effective, by providing staff development for our teachers.
What is the Purpose of the Grant for Princeton?
The purpose of the grant for our district this year is to track how our schools (Princeton Primary and the Intermediate School) actively increase achievement of all and disaggregated groups of students through measuring and action planning, to improve fidelity of core instruction and tiered instructional supports in mathematics.  Defining instruction, measuring fidelity and continuously improving organizational and teacher capacity is a complex task requiring sustained attention.
What Have We Done So Far?
We have lead teachers for this grant:  Michelle Hallbeck for the Primary School, and Cathy Norton for the Intermediate School.  Andrea Preppernau is the coordinator for the grant.
School Leadership Teams completed a Math Tiered Fidelity Inventory to inform the development of action plans, one for each school.  The lead teachers, as well as teachers who provide targeted interventions participated in assessment training.  Teachers participated in training to define the features of core instruction and Tier Two instruction.
What Are the Plans for the Future?
This week, all teachers at the Primary School and the Intermediate School will participate in a day of staff development. This session will start with looking at the WHY of the grant, essential practices in mathematics education, and specific professional development in instructional strategies.
This leads into teachers developing cognitively complex-rich tasks for students.  This is  connected to the staff development all Princeton Public Schools teachers received in January.
People in the community most likely do not see the professional development and planning teachers do on a daily basis to perfect their students’ experience to learn more effectively.  People recognize the time with students as being their job.  However, teachers continually perfect their strategies behind the scenes in order to improve student results.