Special Education

Building a Multitiered System of Supports From the Ground Up

By Christina A. Samuels — October 27, 2016 2 min read
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Many people have heard the term “multitiered system of supports,” or MTSS. Some may understand that it’s an umbrella term for a framework that allow districts to systematically help students who are struggling with academic and behavioral problems. (The academic instruction part of the framework is known as “response to intervention,” while the behavioral supports are often grouped under the term “positive behavioral interventions and supports.”)

But there can be a wide gulf between knowing what a term means, and knowing how to get such system up and running effectively.

At 2 p.m. Eastern time, Nov. 3, I’ll be hosting a live webchat with John O’Connor, the director of interventions and supports for Henry County, Ga., schools, on how he helped the 42,000-student district develop a system of supports that meets the needs of all students. Nothing other than a computer with internet access is needed to participate in the chat, and you can start submitting questions on Nov 3. The most interesting questions and answers will be re-surfaced for a special report on response to intervention that Education Week will publish in December.

I first met John when he gave a presentation at a recent convention jointly hosted by the Council of Administrators of Special Education, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. He began his career as a special education teacher of students with orthopedic impairments, and has also served as a program manager with the Georgia Department of Education. He has also held several leadership positions in local school districts, including assistant director for special education, executive director for special services, and assistant superintendent for student services. He has also written books on a variety of educational topics, including MTSS.

But what I appreciated most about his presentation is that he brought the abstract promise of MTSS down to earth. In real life, not everyone is fully versed in the framework. Some administrators and leaders are downright skeptical. And the number of tools promoted as being useful for multitiered support systems can be overwhelming—even for schools and districts that are fully on board. It helps to be aware of these roadblocks and have ways to navigate around them.

I’m looking forward to John providing that same nuts-and-bolts message during this webchat. Please sign up and join us!

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.