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 STRIVE Prep’s approach to improving family engagement and another on how network leaders at Green Dot Public Schools use data effectively at the network level. Finally, the collection includes a guidance document for developing a data dashboard.

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:

  • While schools are full of data sources, the type and quality of data they utilize is most important for making equitable gains for diverse student populations. 
  • Schools must disaggregate data to be able to design for priority subgroups.
  • Alignment across all levels of school and district teams allows the system to accelerate support for all students.

Implementing Routine Data Cycles to Rapidly Address Student Needs

Crown Prep Academy, Los Angeles, CA

Educators need dedicated opportunities to review classroom-level data regularly, identify 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 practice details the steps a school can take to design data routines so educators can respond in a timely manner to students’ needs and includes a routine data cycle protocol tool. It 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 populations.
  • 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%. 


Establishing Effective Data Routines in Site-Based Teams

Teachers at Rosenwald Collegiate Academy, New Orleans, LA

School-based teams need to gather and use data to coordinate timely, targeted support for students across grade-, department-, or other site-level teams. This practice describes different types of school-based teams and their purposes, and explores how teams can create useful structures to ensure efficient meetings and foster accountability for resulting action items. Strong data routines used by teams of educators can help supplement the individual and regular use of data for decision-making in schools.

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 to reflect on their own practices.

At Rosenwald Collegiate Academy (RCA), 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.


Student Conferencing for Life and Academic Skills

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

Student conferencing is a consistent time 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. This practice 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 to over 75% of students passing all their classes.


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

Leilani Abulon, Chief Programs Officer, 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 California 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


How to Improve Family Engagement with Text Messaging: STRIVE Prep

A STRIVE Prep Federal math teacher works with a student.

The COVID-19 pandemic physically disconnected students and families from their schools, forcing schools to consider new ways to engage families in the education system. STRIVE Prep developed a routine of using a text-messaging intervention to keep families informed about their students’ academic progress. This case study details how STRIVE Prep piloted text messaging with families of students with disabilities and includes 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


How-To: Design and Prototype a Data Dashboard

An educator at Summit Public Schools uses a data dashboard.

When existing data tools do not meet current needs and a school or network chooses to design a custom data tool, it is important to invest the necessary time and effort to ensure the tool is useful, usable, and utilized. The iterative process necessary to develop an effective data tool can be time-intensive. This guidance document provides school and network leaders with helpful recommendations for the planning process.

Explore the Collections

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    Turning the Page to Secondary Literacy

    Tested practices for schools to identify gaps and implement interventions for secondary readers

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    Opening Doors to Collaboration

    Interdisciplinary practices for building collaboration between general and special education teams

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    Igniting Postsecondary Aspirations

    Proven school-based practices to empower students to transition into meaningful college, career, and community postsecondary pathways

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    Anchoring Emotions

    One school’s skill-based practices for supporting students with emotional-based disabilities

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    Research-to-Impact Home

    Evidence-based practices to improve outcomes for Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty

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