Massachusetts has developed a blueprint outlining a single system of supports that is responsive to the academic and non-academic needs of all students. This blueprint, the Massachusetts Tiered System of Support (MTSS), provides a framework for school improvement that focuses on system level change across the classroom, school, and district to meet the academic and non-academic needs of all students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who are academically advanced. It guides both the provision of high-quality core educational experiences in a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and academic and/or non-academic targeted interventions/supports for students who experience difficulties and for students who have already demonstrated mastery of the concept and skills being taught.
Schools and districts are encouraged to work toward an integrated approach to support students' academic and social-emotional competencies. All students receive academic instruction and behavioral supports that include differentiation and extension activities and are guided by the three Universal Design for Learning principles (multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expressions, and multiple means of engagement).
Much of the SSCA Center's work is guided by and reflected in the MTSS framework. As can be seen through the examples below, the Center includes a number of Units with programs and initiatives that aim to assist schools, students, parents, the business sector, and communities in identifying and promoting strategies to address barriers to learning. The guiding vision is to help all students (children, youth, and adults) gain the knowledge, skills, and values needed to be well prepared for further education, career options, and citizenship.
ACLS is charged with disseminating the Massachusetts Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals. Developed by the Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education with input from several advisory councils including the English Language Learners/Bilingual Education and Special Education advisory councils, the Fundamentals are a tool to help schools and districts build their capacity for quality family and community engagement as envisioned in the MTSS framework. The Fundamentals are based on the premise that family and community engagement is a shared responsibility where schools and community partners and providers engage families in meaningful and culturally respectful ways and where families actively and continuously support their children's development and learning in multiple settings (e.g., homes, early childhood programs, schools, after-schools, playgrounds, etc.) beginning in infancy and extending through college and career preparation. The Fundamentals, each of which has three to four indicators and descriptions of implementation at the initiating, progressing, and mastering levels, are:
- Welcoming All Stakeholders
- Communicating Effectively
- Supporting the Success of Children and Youth
- Advocating for Each Child and Youth
- Sharing Power and Responsibility
- Partnering with the Community
There is a direct correlation between the work of the C&CR Unit and the MTSS framework. Several C&CR initiatives are anchored in the premise that all students must have access to a rigorous core curriculum, however, some students require additional supports and interventions to be successful in pursuing postsecondary education and training options in preparation for navigating economically viable career pathways. The C&CR initiatives that address this premise most directly are:
- MassCore - a rigorous program of study that will help provide all students with the academic and career development preparation required for success in postsecondary education and the workplace;
- Mass Model for Comprehensive School Counseling Programs - a model designed to support guidance departments in raising student achievement levels in the academic/technical, career readiness, and personal/social domains;
- High School Graduation Initiative (MassGrad) - supports new and expanded programs to decrease the statewide dropout rate through seven research-based strategies and interventions designed to engage students most at-risk for dropping out in their education;
- Early Warning Indicator System - a data-driven system to identify students K-12 that are potentially off-track for reaching academic milestones (e.g., 3rd grade reading, high school graduation). This early identification allows schools/districts to intervene with necessary supports;
- Academic Support - provides academic support and remediation services to middle and secondary school students scoring in warning/failing and needs improvement on the Math, ELA and STE MCAS; and
- School to Career Connecting Activities - supports school-wide career development and work-based learning activities tied to academic support with priority given to students most at-risk of dropping out.
The OLSEL Unit promotes a comprehensive and collaborative approach to developing all students' academic, social, emotional, and physical competencies, and to reducing barriers to learning. Unit programs and initiatives that support of the goals of MTSS include: academic support programs, extended learning opportunities (state-funded ASOST grants and federally funded 21st CCLC programs); quality full-day kindergarten supports, service-learning, and safe & healthy learning environments (including but not limited to bullying prevention and intervention, guidelines on social and emotional learning curricula, safe and supportive learning environments, and integrated comprehensive resources for schools).
MTSS provides a flexible system of supports to address the specific academic and non-academic needs of individual migrant and homeless students. These students' high level of transiency causes educational gaps and lack of connection to community resources that is best addressed through a fluid tiered system of instruction and support. MTSS allows for immediate needs to be met and builds on existing strengths without locking migrant and homeless students into more intervention than necessary. Program funding and activities support professional development, community collaboration, resource coordination, and supplemental academic support services at all tier levels.