The main ideas behind Minnesota’s Multi‐Tiered Support Systems (MTSS), sometimes referred to as Response to Intervention (RtI), are clear: catch kids with early interventions, be flexible with groupings to keep them moving forward, and closely monitor student progress. As a lifelong educator who spends way too much time thinking about acronyms like MTSS and RtI, I have an idea: let’s take MTSS a step further and also connect it to teacher progress.

First, a definition: MTSS is a framework to improve outcomes for all students that organizes district-level resources to address each individual student's needs such as academic and/or behavior needs using research-based instruction and interventions that vary in intensity. An MTSS framework includes (a) screening of all students using valid and reliable measures, (b) tiers of instruction that vary in intensity, (c) collaborative teams that review data, problem solve, and organize instruction, (d) frequent progress monitoring using valid and reliable measures to determine the impact of evidence-based interventions, and (e) a system to ensure that instruction including interventions are evidence-based and implemented with fidelity.

In layman’s terms, it means everybody should be focused on meeting the needs of every child before problems get too severe. And it just so happens that our state is already looking for ways to improve MTSS. Last year, the Minnesota Legislature called for strengthening MTSS, which many schools have been using since its establishment in 1989. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to co-chair the work of this group of parents, administrators, teachers and other stakeholders working to draft practical and effective legislative recommendations.

During one of our meetings, familiar noises emerged as gears started moving in my head and soon an idea developed to tie things together.

The new Teacher Development and Evaluation (TDE) law is rolling out statewide this school year, with student achievement—derived from test results—constituting 35 percent of each teacher’s TDE summative score.

I believe that good test scores do not always align with effective teaching and that 35 percent is an arbitrary number. So instead of tying a teacher’s evaluation to a test score that may or may not align with effective teaching, why don’t we align it with professional development centered on best practices for outstanding MTSS?

MTSS is already law, just like TDE, so why not align them and make evaluating a teacher sound like the following?

…“You have (or have not) engaged fully with our school’s focused learning approach to make MTSS work for ALL of our students. And, with your contributions, both inside and outside professional learning community time, you have (-or have not-) shown to benefit not only your students and their achievement, but also your colleagues. You have (or have not) demonstrated commitment to develop as a professional and share with your peers.”

I want to see all students succeed, and I believe we will achieve that by encouraging collaboration and growth among educators. I want to see teachers demonstrating best practices of effective teaching and learning in authentic ways, collaborating together with peers and administration and creating an ongoing cycle of assessment, communication, development, growth and success.

Let’s connect the dots between MTSS and TDE and evaluate teachers based upon their commitment to best practices and collaboration.

I believe such a shift would better support beginning teachers to fast track their effectiveness to the highest level—and raise student achievement as quickly as possible, too.


Lee Carlson taught high school English for over twenty years before becoming the continuing improvement specialist at Northside Elementary in St. James, Minn. He’s a former national director for the Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation and state corporate president for Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership, and currently serves as a board member of Education Minnesota, the Minnesota Rural Education Association and Minnesota Minority Education Partnership. Lee’s interested in just about everything—especially hanging out with his wife (who teachers fifth-grade) and three children—but mostly blogs about equity in education, teacher development, leadership and building partnerships.

The MinnCAN blogging fellowship allows Minnesota teachers, administrators and parents to share their thoughts on key education issues. MinnCAN supports fellows seeking to advance the conversation around public education, though fellows' views and opinions are solely their own.


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