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February 25, 2020

5 Tips for Ed Leaders to Build Stronger Student Supports

In every educational organization, we are consistently met with concerns for how to help students be successful in their academic settings. We worry and stress about being able to provide what students need. Schools dissect dashboard results and reflect. As districts and schools collectively, we have spent years learning and putting into practice a plethora of systems. Systems for Response to Intervention (RTI), Positive Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS), Multiple Tiers of Student Success (MTSS), and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in addition to being responsible for rigorous curriculum instruction and student engagement to demonstrate proficiency and mastery on state standards. Each of these systems provide specific responses by adults to support students in their charge, all important aspects of our current status in education.

How can we possibly do it all, and better yet, do it all well? SOLUTION: We do it as a TEAM!

Know where you are and where you want to go! 

Understanding what students need is one part of the educational equation. Knowing what to do with that information is the other. Magnificent Teams for Student Success is our school’s spin on MTSS, Multiple Tiers of Student Support. Our Magnificent Team for Student Success helps to drive the types of support we offer at our school, Standard Middle School in Bakersfield, California. It doesn’t happen overnight. We were deliberate about making sure our LCFF/LCAP matched the needs of our students and staff. A great deal of thoughtful discussion with all stakeholders helped us secure support in the areas we needed it most. Addressing student social-emotional and academic needs became our highest priority. Don’t be afraid to advocate for what you need at your school or district.  We have lead stakeholder input sessions which include staff, students, and families. Additionally, we share our thoughts with district administration and department leads to build support for our processes and goals. 

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Take risks and give new ideas life! 

Stepping into the unknown and taking risks works when you use a team. Our school MTSS team believes in the mission and method to combine all of our supports into a strong, flexible, and responsive system that epitomizes the growth mindset at the very core. We firmly believe that through creativity, drive, and compassion we can build systems to support all students. Through our teams (MTSS, Leadership and PBIS), we design interventions to support ALL students at all 3-Tiers of support. We have worked to develop support systems for behaviors, academics and attendance. One common phrase we frequently use is, “Maslow before Blooms. Take care of the heart to reach the head.” Working to make sure a student is emotionally ready to engage in the learning process is key. Students who struggle academically may be dealing with issues at a much deeper level. That level of stress prevents them from opening their minds to connect with the learning process. 

Be creative with academic and enrichment opportunities for students! 

What is it about your school that makes it unique and draws students in every day? At  Standard Middle School we regularly make time for fun, and we’ve found it helps keep our students engaged and in attendance. Together with student leadership, we are intentional about creating positive experiences at school for our students. Our PBIS team and student leadership team plan days to celebrate with rallies, dances, and lunch time games to demonstrate to students a “work hard-play hard” attitude about school. 

Share your successes and build on them! 

We are proud of how far we have come and look forward to where we are headed. Often we are asked how we do it. “How do you swim the ocean? One stroke at a time!” Our district has been increasingly active and diligent in creating a supportive school structure. In fact, our district theme is “We Care!” and this mindset permeates our culture. With extensive training and support for trauma-informed practices and PBIS at every site, our schools are all now recognized by the PBIS Coalition of California. Our middle school is currently recognized as a GOLD status school! Our firm belief in the Restorative Practices and in being well-trained in trauma-informed practices has transformed our school and mindset. 

Believe in the power of relationships! 

Without trust, students will not respond to any intervention, even as well-planned and those created with the best of intentions. Trust with students comes through building positive relationships in the classroom and on the campus. Connecting with students helps us communicate that we want them to know we have a growth mindset to make changes that have their best interests at heart. We make sure to purposefully train staff on the topics of learning for students of poverty, as well as trauma-informed practices that help to increase student learning. Leaning in to social-emotional or learning problems help us create solutions where we can affect real change. It is our goal to ensure that we are focusing every effort to improve student behaviors, including providing clear expectations (PBIS); social-emotional curriculum; common respect; redirection, reteaching and practice; positive relationships; multiple opportunities for success; recognition of success; understanding the student. 

Our hope is that through the power of relationships and seeking to do what is best for the whole-child, our leading teams will continue to create systems of support for the students and families we serve. Through the dedicated adults and stakeholders, we bring all of our support systems together. It truly takes a Magnificent Team for Student Success!

We would love to hear from YOU! How are you practicing transparency and reinforcing creativity within your school or district? Share with us in our comments section below.

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