Changes ahead for Naperville School District 203 student support program   

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Over the years, officials in Naperville School District 203 have introduced a variety of strategies and approaches to provide all students with the tools necessary for long-term success. As new methods and techniques have been introduced, the overall concept has been periodically tweaked.

For the year ahead, District 203 administrators announced several new steps and concepts through the existing program, which is known as the multi-tiered system of support, or MTSS.

Work on refinement taking place

At a board of education meeting on Monday, April 15, Jayne Willard, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and Lisa Xagas, assistant superintendent for student services, provided an overview of how MTSS has fared in the years following COVID-19.

Throughout the current school year, Willard and Xagas indicated a team of 45 staff members, collectively representing all K-12 schools, have been meeting with administrators to discuss adjustments to the program through a variety of methods — including, but not limited to, academic, social-emotional and behavioral interventions.

The work taking place this year is expected to provide the foundation for training this fall.

“Each school within our district will take significant steps forward by establishing a MTSS building leadership team,” Willard said. “These teams will receive comprehensive training on the students’ success platform.”

Panorama Student Success is the platform Willard referenced. The new system, which the board approved earlier this year, is designed to travel with each student, from one grade level to the next, and give teachers pertinent, customized data aimed at helping the professional at the head of each classroom make tailored instructional decisions.

Multi-tiered system of support introduced five years ago

MTSS was officially introduced in District 203 nearly five years ago, at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. But behind-the-scenes planning on the initiative stretched back to the 2016-17 school year.

It replaced a different program, response to intervention — or RTI — which was geared toward a smaller segment of the overall school population. MTSS, by contrast, has a far wider application.

“It’s important to note that MTSS is a general education system — it is not a special ed system,” Willard said. “It might lead there one day, but what we are talking about is general education supports, not special education supports.”

Amid the refinements ahead, Xagas said the core principles within MTSS remain in tact in the long road ahead.

“This systemic, prevention-focused and data-informed approach ensures that we are responsive to the needs of all learners, emphasizing that all means all — all students, all educators and all families,” Xagas said.

The goal, Willard said, is for MTSS to be fluid and flexible, so instructors’ strategies throughout the district can be adjusted, as needed. She pointed to the use of federal pandemic-era ESSER funds on employing math specialists as an example.

“We definitely thought that was something we needed to use some of our ESSER funds on, as a result of the pandemic, knowing that in math, we saw that dip,” Willard said. “We’re starting to level back up. It’s trending nicely.”

District 203 board members give feedback 

On the whole, the board of education has given high marks to administrators for their work on MTSS.

“The minimum to meet the public act is never what we do,” board member Donna Wandke said, referring to state standards. “To see how much you’ve taken that past the requirements and evolved it into what it is today is just wonderful.”

Board President Kristine Gericke said she has seen fruitful results from the program within her own household.

“The one thing that excites me about MTSS is that it’s for every kid, when they need it,” Gericke said. “I know I saw benefits with my own kids, who were very different students. There were times when they needed it, and they got what they needed.”

Board member Melissa Kelley Black, however, said she believed District 203 should be making greater strides to meet students’ needs — particularly for those on IEPs. She said she has heard from parents who are struggling with supports and resources.

“I would love to have a board committee or set up something that we have open to anyone because not all parents are going to ask the same questions,” Kelley Black said.

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