Michigan State Story

Michigan's Intensive Intervention Implementation Story

Setting the Stage

In 2016, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Office of Special Education applied to receive technical assistance from the National Center for Intensive Intervention (NCII) to develop state capacity in methods for intensifying instruction. Michigan's MTSS (MiMTSS) Technical Assistance Center (formerly Michigan's Integrated Behavior Learning Support Initiative (MiBLSi)) was the primary recipient of NCII's capacity-building effort. The Office of Special Education allocated funds for MiBLSi to provide technical assistance to Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in either the effective use of an integrated behavior and reading MTSS framework or the behavioral components of an MTSS framework that uses Positive Behavioral and Intervention Supports (PBIS). MiBLSi was one option for ISDs, LEAs, and schools to receive MTSS related professional learning and supports during this time.

Concurrently with the request for NCII's support, senior leadership from the Michigan Department of Education were pursuing intensive technical assistance from the State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices Center (SISEP). The MDE wanted technical assistance to learn how to apply implementation science to an educational innovation to scale its effective use and sustain its use over time. They selected MTSS as the educational innovation.

From 2016-2019, MDE worked with cross-office staff, two Intermediate School Districts, a number of constituent districts, MiBLSi staff, national MTSS researchers, and state stakeholders to outline the essential components of an MTSS framework. This broad collaboration resulted in the MDE MTSS Practice Profile, which is a research-informed document that includes operationalizing each of the five MTSS Essential Components. The Practice Profile informs MTSS implementation supports (e.g., professional learning, coaching, data utilization) to address the child's needs. SISEP, MDE, and MiBLSi staff guided the ISDs within the Transformation Zone by designing professional learning, technical assistance, and evaluation supports related to the MTSS Essential Components. This was a usability test to determine the capacity needed at the state, ISD, and district levels to effectively implement and scale-up evidence-based practices within an MTSS framework.

MiMTSS Technical Assistance Center

In July 2019, MDE senior leadership acknowledged the capacity MiBLSi had built over the past 19 years to ensure high-quality MTSS supports to educators in ISDs, districts, and schools across Michigan. Having MiBLSi be the provider of MTSS related technical assistance meant there would be one entity responsible for differentiating MTSS related technical assistance on behalf of MDE that is aligned with the contents of the MDE MTSS Practice Profile. MiBLSi went through a rebranding process and became the MiMTSS Technical Assistance Center under the umbrella of Michigan's Multi-Tiered System of Supports or MiMTSS. Concurrently, MDE worked to coordinate and align roles and responsibilities across offices to support MTSS. The MDE formed the MTSS Leadership Team, and its membership represented seven offices whose work directly connected MTSS through practice and legislation. The team's vision is to have "a responsive and comprehensive, tiered service delivery system aligned through state and local capacity that is sustainable and scaled across Michigan to meet the needs of all learners." The Chief Deputy Superintendent is the Executive Sponsor for MTSS and the Leadership Team.

Data-Based Individualization, MTSS, and the State-Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP)

To ensure an MTSS framework resulted in improved outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities, MDE adjusted the evidence-based practice outlined in its SSIP to Data-Based Individualization (DBI). This change allowed Michigan to broaden its state-wide capacity-building focus on intensifying instruction for the advanced tiers (Tiers 2 and 3) of an MTSS framework applied to literacy. The MiMTSS TA Center would be responsible for this capacity-building effort and, by doing so, would leverage technical assistance from NCII and the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center.

A group of national experts worked with the MiMTSS TA Center and the MDE Office of Educator Supports, Literacy Unit to conceptualize essential practices to intensify literacy instruction. They developed the document, Intensifying Literacy Instruction: Essential Practices, which served as the foundation for defining intensification methods to improve reading and writing outcomes. The state-wide technical assistance (professional learning, technical assistance, and data utilization) would align with the five practices:

  1. Knowledge and use of a learning progression for developing skilled readers and writers
  2. Design and use of an evidence-based intervention platform as the foundation for effective intervention
  3. Ongoing data-based decision making for providing and intensifying interventions
  4. Adaptations to increase the instructional intensity of the intervention
  5. Infrastructures (systems) to support students with severe and persistent literacy needs

The steps of the DBI process are woven throughout the five practices and are going through usability testing on a smaller scale before state-wide scale-up. This "model demonstration" approach allows MDE and the MiMTSS TA Center to determine the "just right" level of professional learning and technical assistance necessary for educators and leaders, resulting in meaningful reading outcomes for students. The TA Center hired a DBI and intensification expert to help implement the model demonstration and coordinate the broader intensification capacity-building effort outlined in the SSIP.

DBI and its Connection to State-wide Literacy and Dyslexia Guidance

While leaders and educators reviewed the draft version of the Intensifying Literacy Instruction: Essential Practices document in spring 2020, other literacy-related efforts were underway. Members were writing a bi-partisan dyslexia bill package of the Michigan legislators. The writing team was working on behalf of the Senators and was participating in the MiMTSS TA Center-sponsored professional learning focused on DBI and dyslexia and sought out expertise from the TA Center to shape the contents of the bills. A couple of individuals even participated in the formal review that was currently underway for the Intensifying document. There was significant alignment between the Intensifying Literacy document and the contents of the dyslexia bill package, such as the sections focused on class-wide and intervention supports for decoding and word recognition needs, MTSS, and methods to intensify intervention instruction.

The Michigan Department of Education was also applying for a Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) grant. The literature review and proposed project design aligned with the reading and writing frameworks presented in the Intensifying Literacy Instruction: Essential Practices guide. The Simple View of Reading and Simple View of Writing framed what learners needed to know and do to be skillful readers and writers. Additionally, the grant narrative outlined intensification methods as needed professional learning for potential grant recipients. MDE was awarded the CLSD grant in August 2020. This federal funding opportunity, coupled with the other state priorities (dyslexia bill package, SSIP, MTSS scale-up, etc.), further demonstrated an intentional focus on a robust MTSS framework predicated on evidence-based practices and methods to intensify instruction.

What has resulted from this work multi-faceted but two significant outcomes include: (1) improved coherency in efforts/initiatives across Michigan responsible for the state-wide architecture in which intensive intervention and MTSS are delivered (e.g., State Systemic Improvement Plan), and (2) increased capacity to ensure high-quality MTSS supports and implementation of intensive intervention to educators in ISDs, districts, and schools across Michigan.