There are many measures of success for students with IEPs – and many of those measures are tied to measures of OUR success in the teaching and learning domain. While we can find many variables to consider, the following are consistently identified in the literature as critical:

  1. Having, and acting upon, high expectations for student learning.
  2. Maintaining a laser focus on what is taught and how it is taught (classroom instruction aligned to standards and effective practices implemented well).
  3. Assuring relevance and opportunities to connect learning with real post-secondary outcomes.
  4. Assuring meaningful relationships that truly support student effort and interests.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) defines Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) as an integrated, multi-tiered system of instruction, assessment, and intervention designed to meet the achievement and behavioral health needs of ALL learners. In short, a MTSS framework is designed to ensure that each and every student that walks into a classroom will have their individual needs met through high-quality instruction. In addition, the integration of a MTSS framework within the Michigan Continuous School Improvement Process is an essential component for improving academic achievement for all learners. The MDE is striving to improve achievement for all learners through the strategic support of Michigan districts and schools.

Traditional plans for school improvement are often written and implemented in silos. While the plans may be well-written and solid in their own right, the lack of collaboration and common planning frequently results in each plan competing for the resources within that system. This approach divides resources, which can negatively impact efforts to improve student achievement. Experience has demonstrated that in order to increase achievement, successful systems plan their improvement efforts collaboratively.

Developing one common plan for improvement streamlines the school and district’s efforts and resources, and maximizes improvement for all learners. The Michigan Continuous School Improvement process serves as a comprehensive process to organize the work through data analysis, goal setting, planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating. By strategically embedding an MTSS framework into the district and school improvement plan, a school system sets itself up for continuity and alignment in the implementation of a research- based system of MTSS. When working together, the Michigan Continuous School Improvement process and the MTSS framework enhance and strengthen each other, for the benefit of all learners.


henry tool thumbnailResponse to Intervention and Multi-Tiered System of Supports tool

Focus schools across Michigan are tackling issues surrounding achievement gaps. To address these issues, district and school leaders are charged with developing and implementing strategic interventions that will improve the quality of instruction for all students and reduce achievement gaps. MSU K-12 Outreach is proud to highlight the efforts of Leslie Public Schools. Leslie’s efforts are notable not only because they are working to change teaching and learning in their two Focus schools, but also because they have used the Focus designation to reinvent the way they plan and lead school improvement across the district.

While only the elementary and middle schools were designated as Focus schools, Leslie’s district and school leaders have taken this as an opportunity to assess and address what they see as district-wide needs.  After looking at their data for all schools, identifying where there were gaps in student learning, and holding discussions with all stakeholders, Leslie identified possible strategies to address those gaps.  

The video you see here was taken at a professional development day where teachers and administrators came together with their MI Excel facilitator to concentrate on differentiated instructional strategies that Leslie’s K-12 instructional staff has decided will have the greatest impact on learning for all students.

Although Leslie never wanted to be a Focus district, the administration and teachers have embraced the designation and have rallied to improve teacher collaboration and use of data, leading to improved instruction that will benefit all students. Leslie Public Schools is an example of leadership fostering district-wide momentum that other districts can look to as a model for embracing change.

 This article was written with contribution from:

author blairBlair Anstey is a Research Assistant with Michigan State University’s College of Education, Office of K-12 Outreach. She is a 3rd year doctoral student in the K-12 Administration program. Blair’s research interests include leadership practices when faced with policy initiatives such as the Michigan focus school designation. She is a recent recipient of MSU’s new Urban Education certificate program and an EPFP alumnus. Prior to attending MSU, Blair was the Assistant Elementary School Headmaster at the American School in Switzerland. Her professional experiences also include work as the Technology and Math Director at TASIS and an elementary classroom teacher in Massachusetts for four years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Human Development from Boston College and her masters of education in Education Technology and Media from Boston University.

author beverlyBryan Beverly is a Research Assistant with Michigan State University's College of Education, Office of K-12 Outreach. He is a 2nd year student in the Educational Policy program. Prior to returning to MSU, Bryan served as an education consultant for school districts and alternative education systems assisting in the development, implementation, and assessment of education initiatives. His professional experiences include work with the Lansing School District; KRA Corporation; the President's Council of State Universities, Michigan; the Michigan Association of Counties; MSU GEAR-UP; and the State of Michigan−Office of the Governor (Granholm). Bryan is a lifelong Lansing resident and holds a BA in Sociology from Olivet College and a MA in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education Administration from Michigan State University. He takes pride in the quality of education he received and is passionate about providing similar impactful experiences with students in today’s urban schools. This guides his research interests: urban education, governance and policy formation, and access. Bryan is actively engaged in his community, currently serving on the Lansing Housing Commission and the Greater Lansing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission.

The bottom line is ALL of us are committed to the success of ALL students, and ALL of us are willing to do things differently to achieve this.” (Comment from a Superintendent at the 2013 Focus Schools Summer Institutes.)

When a district leader makes this statement, it represents a marker in school improvement. It also reflects multiple levels of leadership from superintendent to principal to teacher levels and more. It implies a collaborative commitment across all general and special education staff, signaling a readiness to function systemically and holistically. It implies a willingness to take risks and step away from the old way of working. And it signals that all central office roles and functions are ready to support the improvement efforts. In short, it has the potential to create foundations for a culture of high expectations, shared leadership and real improvement in learning for each and every student.

sparty-02  Educators know that students learn content and skills at very different rates. Most likely, you’ve seen some students excel, grasping new concepts very quickly, while other students need more time or any number of other pedagogical supports to aid their learning. In previous articles, we talked about Krashen and Terrell’s (1983) five major second language acquisition stages and strategies that teachers can use to work with students in the different stages. Much like learning other skills, English language learners (ELLs) flow through these stages of second language acquisition at very different rates. Let’s look at an example of one ELL student.

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