Strategies to leverage MTSS in support of English learners

Recommendations for districts on ways to support English learners (ELs) most effectively are included in a recently released brief from the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools.

Leveraging CA MTSS to Support English Learner-Classified Students: Insights from Three CA Districts” covers findings from a study on how the state’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework serves English learners. Researchers analyzed interview data from district leaders and educators from three local educational agencies that, according to publicly available data, have EL student populations that are performing better than state averages. They represent LEAs diverse in geographical locations, size and linguistic demographics.

Key findings from the districts included:

  • Existing EL-related services were difficult to incorporate into the framework, particularly where designated English Language Development fits into the three tiers.
  • Educators with knowledge about best practices for supporting ELs and the cultural diversity within the group helped encourage shared responsibility for the students through advocacy during MTSS planning processes.
  • Engaging the families and caregivers of ELs in meaningful relationships was easier at the Tier 2 level.
  • The number of ELs in an LEA or school impacted how MTSS structures were organized.
  • Community partnerships were valuable for supplementing Tier 2 instruction when student needs quickly changed.
  • Educators mostly focused on academics when considering how they support ELs.
  • Focusing on ELs when developing tiered academic instruction can also benefit non-EL-classified students.

Two policy recommendations for districts were offered:

  • Ensure that all departmental areas are integrated in MTSS planning processes.
  • Consider what academic, socioemotional and behavioral supports can benefit all schools, so that individual schools can use their own resources to develop tiered supports that are tailored to their specific populations.

Policy recommendations for state leaders include providing more detailed guidance about how EL-specific funding, accountability and programmatic structures can be conceptualized in the MTSS framework; providing more guidance about how EL students fit into the tiered structure, given the varying populations of EL students depending on district; and providing more resources for districts and schools to think about how to make socioemotional and behavioral instruction culturally and linguistically relevant EL students.