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Filtering by Tag: MTSS

Precision Teaching Meets Response to Intervention: A Scientific Investigation

Kerri Milyko

When describing our services to educators, we say that we are a Tier 4 intervention to the Response to Intervention (RtI) frame work that the school employs for student who are struggling with learning in the typical classroom setting (Tier 1) (see our blog for more information about RtI, PBS, and MTSS:  It is rather tongue-in-cheek since RtI consists of only Tiers 1-3, with Tier 3 being the most intensive intervention.  While working on a grant at USF, our own Samantha Spillman, M.A., completed her thesis looking at how Precision Teaching and Direct Instruction serve as beautiful Tier 3 interventions to children struggling with math in the public schools.  We would like to take this month’s blog to describe her study with the hopes that some teacher and/or RtI Team would implement this or something similar with their students.

Five exceptionally struggling 1st graders were recruited to participate in the study.  All five students were “failing” their math class and required intensive intervention.  They met the study’s inclusion criteria of being significantly inaccurate and slow at answering simple addition facts.  These students were pulled from their class for no more than 10 min, 3 days a week to participate in the study.

Two interventions were examined with respect to students’ accuracy and fluency (speed + accuracy) on addition facts.  The first intervention was simple error correction following the practice interval.  The second intervention required a direct instruction, multi-sensory (multiple learning channel) 1-min priming.  Therefore, the students said, pointed, and wrote answers to addition problems they heard or read.

When compared to baseline classroom performance, the first intervention of error correction improved the accuracy for four of the five participants.  However, their speed at answering math facts was still quite low (ranging from 5-8 facts correctly answered per minute).  Upon intervention of the direct-instruction, multi-channel warm-up, all students not only performed at 100% accuracy on these math facts, their speed immediately jumped to 10-20 correctly answered facts per minute, rising to 25-45 per minute at the end of three weeks (9, 10-min sessions). 

Precision teachers for years have been preaching about the powerful effects of our technology; so, the robust effects of the multi-learning channel intervention were not a surprise to our community.  What was more powerful than the improvement on the trained skill (math facts, adding with 3’s) were the results on untrained skills.  Spillman assessed the application of these students’ learning on inverse addition facts (e.g., Commutative Property), math facts containing larger numbers, and grade-level addition/subtraction facts on a Curriculum Based Measurement assessment.  For all five participants, accuracy and speed increased on all of these untargeted measures. 

There are numerous implications of this study, with the most basic of them all being that Spillman created an effective Tier 3 intervention to aid with improving grade-level computation skills for 1st graders.  This intervention could be slightly edited to have a small group participate in the multi-learning channel warm-up on possibly new or troublesome math facts prior to their math lesson for the day.  Even a slightly few more revisions to the intervention could entail a Tier 1 intervention of having all of the students pointing, saying, writing to math facts that they see or hear, collectively as a group.

Even more generally, a global implication is that refined behavior analysts are trained at not just solving behavior crises.  BCBAs are equipped with the knowledge and techniques to participate in creating interventions to improve academic performance.  The BCBAs who are employed by school districts spend most, if not all, of their time dealing with problem behavior.  However, they are being underutilized.  If education could open its doors to allowing behavior analysts, particularly precision teachers, to participate in Response to Intervention teams, we could really make a profound impact on student performance.   We would love a seat at the table; all they have to do is ask.


It Takes a Village: MTSS in Schools

Kerri Milyko, Ph.D. BCBA

This summer, we have been writing about how it takes a village to help a student excel in school.  We mentioned things that you can do at home to help build motivation and set clear, consistent expectations and consequences for your child’s performance.  Now that it is August, your child will be going back to school where his/her teachers will spend the majority of time working towards making your student proficient at various academic skills.  This month, we will address the school’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) used to aid struggling students in general education to catch up to their peers. 

The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) defines MTSS as “a term used to describe an evidence-based model of schooling that uses data-based problem-solving to integrate academic and behavioral instruction and intervention. “  This is a relatively new term that combines Response to Intervention (RtI) (a systematic intervention to aid students academically) and Positive Behavior Support (PBS) (a systematic intervention to aid students behaviorally).  As a critic of the traditional school system, I must applaud FDOE for pioneering the way to include data-based decision-making in the schools.  MTSS’s origins are rooted in Behavior Analysis - the branch of psychology we use at Precision TLC – and when used with fidelity, the students’ performance thrives. 

Let’s look at the academic side to MTSS.  There are 3 tiers of support that increase in intensity of intervention: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.  Tier 1 is a mild, blanketed intervention that is used for all students in a general classroom.  It ensures that if academics are not inline with the new Common Core Standards, the teacher can implement a mild intervention to help raise performance.  This can simply be a basic positive reinforcement intervention included in the classroom, for example a token economy.  In this example, the teacher would walk around the classroom with little plastic coins and distribute them to all students working diligently.  At the end of the day, the students could exchange their coins for little prizes.

After Tier 1 has been implemented for a time, and some students are still struggling with their performance, an additional layer of intervention would be added to Tier 1.  Tier 2 is a supplement to Tier 1 and is a bit more focused on the problem at hand.  For example, let’s say a teacher introduced a new lesson about fractions.  She already has a token-economy in place to make sure each child is focused when completing their class work.  However, a group of 5 students just are not grasping the difference between adding and multiplying fractions.  For a Tier 2 intervention, the teacher could take these 5 students to the side and give them more instruction and/or practice to allow their performance to rise to the levels of the other students in the classroom.   Therefore, the general classroom teacher or a supplemental teacher, in or outside of the classroom, can administer Tier 2. 

The last level of intervention is Tier 3.  Again, in addition to Tiers 1 & 2, Tier 3 serves to remedy the barrier to academic proficiency.  Tier 3 is very similar to Tier 2; however, Tier 3 is simply more intense.  Therefore, the teacher could still pull a few students to the side for more time or more focused instruction.  Yet, the time will be longer and the instruction will be more precise with Tier 3.  Further, the group will be smaller (1-3 students) allowing for specific instruction and error correction for each individual student.

When MTSS is administered with fidelity, data are taken at each level to ensure teachers and their supervisors are doing all they can to be flexible with student learning while not allowing any student to fall between the cracks.  You can ask for these data during your meetings with teachers to see how your child responds to these various levels of intervention.  So, when you ask the teacher, “How is my child doing?” you can now talk about various forms of interventions with respect to the 3 Tiers of MTSS.  You can probe the teacher by asking what type of intervention is currently in place for Tier 1 and does my student need to be elevated to a Tier 2 level of intervention? 

Unfortunately, many schools are not implementing MTSS with fidelity.  There are extensive tests and checks that are being conducted within the school district to see if even Tier 1 is being used, let alone the other tiers and other aspects of MTSS we did not mention in this article.  Therefore, you may need to take matters into your own hands and provide supplemental academic services to enhance your child’s skills so that he/she can be successful in the classroom.  We at Precision TLC would love to help you with that! 

Click here to read more about MTSS