Parents of Great Bend USD 428 students can learn more about the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) by watching a seven and a half minute video produced by Great Bend High School instructor Dan Heath. The video features art teacher Sergio Ramirez, board member Susan Young and parent Lisa Moore discussing the move to MTSS that began at Great Bend schools in 2015.
The Kansas Department of Education uses MTSS to provide a system of prevention, early identification and intervention to ensure every student learns math and reading skills.
Young speaks from her experience as a former teacher as well a school board member. She explains how regular testing of students’ abilities helps teachers develop targeted strategies, similar to the Individualized Education Plans that are already used for special education students.
“It actually all comes down to a testing situation that everybody’s depending on,” Young says on the video. “We knew years ago that testing a student one day is not a true assessment of children’s learning capabilities. We then were introduced to fall, winter and spring testing, which gave a better overview.”
Young continues, “I likened it in my own mind to each student having an IEP — their own personal IEP. Data tells us where our students need to be.
“Every school has the same instruction; every school has the same coaching support (from pre-K to high school),” she said. “We are meeting student needs like we’ve never done before.”
As a parent with two students at Park Elementary School, Moore said the conversion from Direct Instruction to MTSS has been an improvement, especially with last year’s addition of the “Wonders” reading curriculum.
“There were times (my son) was bored with DI. They read the same story over until all kids get it,” Moore said. The new books are more interesting, and her son can work at his own level.
If students need extra help it is there for them and if children are ready to move on or excel, they can do that, too.
“All kids are different; there are no two kids alike. Everybody needs extra help at times and some others just excel and need to keep moving on,” Moore said. “The MTSS program helps every kid soar to their own potential. It is a great program.”
In addition to teaching art, Ramirez has volunteered to spend part of his day as a reading interventionist. He is one of eight such volunteers at Great Bend High School.
“The story I’m going to tell is really about students who have been struggling for years, and because of their struggles have really become those ‘bad kids’ in our classroom,” Ramirez said. Although that isn’t a blanket description, he said, “(Several students) came in with a wall, really defensive, not really knowing what to expect.” By high school, those students have struggled with reading for years, and even some teachers may not have expectations of seeing them grow.
“I personally had a student in my intervention who I had heard of a little bit before. That was through other teachers, through other students, and so when they came into my classroom and they had a negative attitude, it was not surprising at all,” Ramirez said. “But what was surprising was how quickly we were able to get them to turn around — through demonstrations of mutual respect, hard work, patience. Before I knew it, by the end of the time with them, they were helping me out in the classroom. They were asking other students to be quiet and telling other students to focus.”
While GBHS instructor Dan Heath put this video together this past summer, other USD 428 videos are being produced by students.
Heath teaches video production and digital media classes and his students make up the crew for GBTV. He uses the MTSS video as a training aid to show students how to put together industrial videos.
“Our goal (at GBTV) is to reach multiple audiences through targeted social media with original creative projects, news, sports and information,” Heath said. “We are in the beginning stages but I am very excited to offer our students the opportunity to utilize new media while developing skills in reading, writing, teamwork, project management and audio/video production.”
Heath also teaches three sections of 21st-century journalism/digital imaging. That is the foundation course for his other classes as well as instructor Andy Negaard’s yearbook and newspaper classes.
Some students are getting involved as early as elementary school. Park Elementary Principal Phil Heeke provided aerial footage for the MTSS video using the school’s drone. Some Park students are also learning video production skills through an after-school Drone Club.
GBTV Cat’s Eye videos from Great Bend High School and the MTSS video can be viewed online on YouTube by searching Great Bend USD 428 MTSS.