State Spotlight on Mississippi - March 2017
Mississippi continues to take steps to promote and implement MTSS statewide. The State Board of Education adopted the Three Tier Instructional Model in January 2005 and revised this model in August 2016. In addition, the Office of Intervention Services (OIS) developed various professional development modules that strategically focus on teacher and classroom practices. These modules include evidence-based practices and principles, as well as multi-tiered intervention strategies for academics and behavior.
OIS also created the Family Guide for Student Success. Each school received hard copies of the book, designed for each grade level, Pre-K – 8. The book includes ways for parents to encourage their children’s academic growth by reinforcing classroom activities at home; details what all students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade; and lists expectations that will help students meet assessment standards. The book can be downloaded from the Mississippi Department of Education here.
“Parents love having this resource in parent-friendly language and examples of how to understand the standard,” SWIFT LEA Facilitator Dr. Bacardi Mayfield-Harris said. “Some schools have provided training/information sessions on how to use the books.”
The OIS mission to include parents led to schools becoming more intentional about engaging with families. Some schools include a parent as part of the leadership team meeting. Most schools designate a staff member as a parent liaison who works closely with families to ensure that their concerns are addressed and to provide them with access to necessary resources. Most schools also dedicate space in their buildings where parents can come to use computers and read literature that helps them support their children’s education. Schools also have content-related family nights to help families understand and get more involved in their children’s education.
“On one of my visits to the school, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the parents,” Dr. Mayfield-Harris said. “She talked about how she felt welcomed in the school and how teachers were patient working with her child. She knew that her child needed additional support in math and they took the time to show her different strategies she could use at home.”
The Mississippi Board of Education’s 2016-2020 Five Year Strategic Plan includes an Early Warning System to identify students who need assistance in order to graduate. The Early Warning System ensures that appropriate interventions are provided in order for each student exiting high school to be ready for college or career.
One way SWIFT schools are implementing the Five Year Strategic Plan is by focusing on Strong and Engaged Site Leadership (SESL) to strengthen use of student achievement data to support instructional decision making. According to SWIFT, SESL is a foundation for implementing, transforming, and sustaining systems throughout a school. The principal and leadership team empower educators and families to contribute to core school decisions resulting in improved teaching and learning.
One important aspect of SESL is to establish regular meetings and agendas, something the school leadership team originally struggled to implement. They solved the problem by using the SWIFT Fidelity Integrity Assessment (SWIFT-FIA). SWIFT-FIA guided the leadership team in thinking about where they were with the implementation of SWIFT’s evidence-based framework. As a result, the team was able to discuss the positive implications if they completed implementation with fidelity, as well as kept leadership meetings at least twice a month as recommended, and developed key agenda items.
The team faced other challenges in implementing SESL — analyzing the data with depth and developing a review cycle to ensure continuous improvement, not just in theory, but also in strategic action. The improvement cycle, initially utilized to establish the priorities, had to be duplicated during the data review phase in order to be effective and progress toward the team’s goals. Answering various questions on the SWIFT-FIA helped the team understand and refine their priorities and planning efforts.
Finally, Mississippi is in the process of scaling up for SWIFT in the Jackson Public Schools. The schools under consideration heard a brief overview of the SWIFT framework and are being assessed for SWIFT implementation.
“I am most excited about the strategic moves being made that are focused on key data points to include student outcomes, fidelity measures of instructional delivery, implementation of initiatives, and effectiveness in respect to desired goals,” Dr. Mayfield-Harris said. “This great push for data-based decision making can be a vehicle to uncharted territory with great leaps and bounds of student achievement.”