Navigating Data for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

Equity-based practices for using data at the district, school, and classroom levels to accelerate student supports


About This Collection

Many schools employ a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), a comprehensive framework that centers individual student needs within the wider scope of instruction, differentiation, behavioral support, and intervention. However, the MTSS framework can be challenging to use effectively. In Navigating Data for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, we share a collection of best practices for leveraging data to respond to student academic and social-emotional needs with a particular focus on Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty.

Research-to-Impact Practices

This collection includes three best practices essential to the work of improving the use of data to devise tiered levels of support for schools, students, and families on behalf of improving learning outcomes for all students. There are also two case studies, one focusing on how network leaders at Green Dot Public Schools use data effectively at the network-level and another on STRIVE Prep’s approach to improving family engagement.

The collection also includes a literature review synthesizing research on the benefits and challenges of MTSS, common implementation strategies, and efficacy.

In addition, our work highlights several cross-cutting findings about how the participating schools improved their existing MTSS structures:

  • Schools are full of data but are not focused on the right data.
  • Schools must disaggregate data to be able to design for priority subgroups.
  • Alignment across all levels allows the system to function smoothly.

Implementing Routine Data Cycles to Rapidly Address Student Needs

System-wide data routines are necessary to support educators to review classroom-level data biweekly, if not weekly, to determine student needs and drive instructional decision-making and interventions. In addition, educators benefit from accessible data systems that allow them to sort student data in meaningful ways and disaggregate data by subgroups. This chapter details the steps a network or school can take to design regular data routines so educators can respond in a timely manner to students’ needs and includes a routine data cycle protocol tool. The chapter also describes how data systems and professional development can help strengthen these data routines for schools.

Why it Works

  • Disaggregated data allows focus on priority population.
  • Data can identify and mitigate bias in the system.
  • Customized data visualization enhances existing systems.

STEM Preparatory Schools used Routine Data Cycles to increase the percentage of students with disabilities who earned an A or B in math from 25% to 81%. 


Crown Prep Academy, Los Angeles, CA


Establishing Effective Data Routines in Site-Based Teams

While educators need to individually analyze data and make instructional decisions based on the individual student needs shown in that data, school-based teams also need to gather and use data to coordinate timely, targeted support for students across grade-, department-, or other site-level teams. This chapter describes different types of school-based teams and their purposes. It also discusses how teams can create useful structures to ensure efficient meetings and create accountability for resulting action items.

Why it Works

  • Site-based teams directly impact student learning experiences by ensuring that instruction is data-driven and based on individual student needs.
  • Increasing teacher capacity through site-based teams is particularly important for students of color and students with disabilities who are more likely to be placed with the least skilled teachers.
  • Site-based teams aid both newer and veteran teachers to grow their knowledge and capacity for making data-driven decisions about student needs and reflect on their own practices.

At Rosenwald Collegiate Academy, a Collegiate Academies high school in New Orleans, a new data teaming structure helped 92% of RCA’s students with disabilities achieve Mastery on their LEAP and/or April Dunn projects in 2022-23, up from 44% at the end of the school year 2020–21.

Teachers at Rosenwald Collegiate Academy, New Orleans, LA


Student Conferencing for Life and Academic Skills

Student conferencing is a regular, consistent time during class for teachers to coach students 1:1 on how to set goals, make plans to achieve their goals, enact their plans, and reflect on their progress. Any school staff member can conduct conferencing with students, but the schools in the NIC that implement this practice piloted conferencing with special educators and students with disabilities. This chapter explains how 1:1 student conferencing can be implemented in a variety of configurations based on individual school capacity and student needs. The steps outline the skills students need in order to begin conferencing as well as those they can gain by participating in conferencing.

Why it Works

  • One-on-one interactions between students and teachers during conferencing fosters a sense of belonging and deeper relationships.
  • Goal setting is associated with increased perseverance, higher aspirations, and positive homework behavior as well as some improved outcomes for the lowest-performing students.

At KIPP Navigate College Prep, biweekly student conferences led to all of the participating students increasing the number of classes they were passing during the school year, and over 75% of them passing all their classes.

A student conference at KIPP Navigate College Prep, San Jose, CA


How Network Leaders Use Data to Respond to School-Based Needs: Green Dot Public Schools California

The use of MTSS is not confined within the walls of a school building. It can also be used at a system level when network leaders consider how to best support each of their schools. This case study explores how Green Dot Public Schools built a team of network-level leaders who meet monthly to analyze data and identify tiered supports for schools based on their needs.

“It helped me broaden my understanding of MTSS at the systems level, not just assigning and removing interventions to kids at the local level.”
— Leilani Abulon, Chief Programs Officer

Leilani Abulon, Chief Programs Officer, Green Dot Public Schools California


How to Improve Family Engagement with Text Messaging: STRIVE Prep

The COVID-19 pandemic physically disconnected students and families from their schools, forcing school and network leaders to consider new ways to re-engage families in the education system. STRIVE Prep developed a routine of using a text-messaging intervention to help ensure that all families could stay informed about their students’ academic progress and communicate with their school in a new way. This case study details how STRIVE Prep piloted text messaging with families of students with disabilities and includes the steps a school can take to implement a similar text messaging intervention.

“It’s been great to know grades as they’re happening, not just get a progress report at the end of six weeks.”
— Parent, STRIVE Prep SMART

STRIVE Prep Smart math teacher works with a student.

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    Research-to-Impact Home

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