Over the past year, as the leadership team at South Junior High in the Anaheim Union High School District worked on MTSS implementation, they realized how challenging it is for large schools to know the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of each and every student that walks through the doors. Further, the team struggled to provide additional support across multiple domains in a just-in-time format because most interventions are delivered through an additional course (“double dose”) or through an alternative course (exclusionary practice).
To address this need, the leadership team at South is considering how to use instructional teaming in order to know their students and provide opportunities for students to receive just-in-time support. To implement this model, they are thinking strategically about ways to restructure their master schedule, with the intent to support groups of students, carve out instructional team time, and provide time for additional support.
The South leadership team has partnered with Epic School Partnerships (ESP) for the past year, during which time, ESP’s Executive Director, Matt Coleman, has shared examples of how schools he has worked in/with have implemented instructional teams. The following describes one middle school’s approach that South is currently considering as inspiration as they decide how to implement teaming in their school.
Hamlin Middle School in Springfield, Oregon, moved from a traditional seven-period day to a six-plus-period day (6+) that prioritized instructional teaming by placing students with teams of teachers during defined instructional blocks of time. The following illustrates the change:
Providing instructional collaboration time for teachers involved in teaming does result in a slight increase in class size. In schools with more than 500 students, the increase is about 1.5 students per class. The effect on class size varies in schools smaller and significantly larger than 500.
In the 6+ model, teams of teachers share a group of students over blocks of instructional time (periods 1–2 and 3–4). The model includes a “plus period” where the team of teachers is able to flexibly group students to provide additional support. This model allows teams of teachers to use the instructional blocks creatively and to differentiate support during the additional period. As students engage in elective programming (periods 5–6), teachers on the instructional teams use one period for individual planning and the other period for collaborative planning to include MTSS decision-making processes for individual student and whole-team interventions.
Hamlin has realized significant gains using the 6+ model, and has moved out of School Improvement Status (as one of the lowest-performing schools in Oregon) after just two years of implementation.
South is strongly considering what this type of shift in the master schedule would mean for their students and staff. In a school serving more than 1,500 students in Grades 7 and 8, this is a process that will take time and require engagement with multiple stakeholders. Over the course of the next year, the MTSS team at South is committed to engaging in such a process, as it looks to transfer the responsibility of individual decisions currently residing within the MTSS team, to multiple instructional teams who will work with students directly every day.