History of MLSS
In the years leading up to the initial MLSS stakeholder engagement launch in 2018, educators across the state expressed the need for a newly designed and fully comprehensive student support system that removes administrative barriers to providing timely evidence-based supports and focuses on holistic student success through robust family partnerships. During the 2018-2019 school year, PED engaged with a variety of stakeholders through working group sessions that focused on soliciting input from educators that included teachers, school nurses, counselors, special education directors, SAT coordinators, superintendents, and principals. Before March of 2019 alone, 20 in-person stakeholder meetings were held with a total participation of 559 attendees. PED spent the following months leading into the next school year compiling this feedback and using it to make updates to guidance and tools.
During the 2019-2020 school year, MLSS partnered with the Striving Readers and Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) grant through a target pilot program that involved technical assistance meetings driven by implementation science experts, systems implementation feedback, data collection, and guidance refinement.
During the 2020-2021 school year PED worked closely with LEA level leadership to develop data collection, needs assessment, and program planning protocols that align with school-level implementation progress measures contained within the compact MLSS Online Self-Assessment (rubric). In order to deliver on the promise to provide robust supports to districts and schools, the PED hired a team of school and district administrators as MLSS Coaches to work with each district and state authorized charter in New Mexico on developing systems and policies that ensure all students have access to universal grade-level standards and instruction while always having access to more individualized interventions regardless of whether or not the student is currently receiving individualized services through and Individualized Education Plan (IEP), Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP), Academic Improvement Plan (AIP), or is receiving services through the Student Assistance Team (SAT). Additionally, PED conducted optional MLSS Virtual Implementation Support Interviews wherein a team of two professional school administrators collaborated with 187 schools in each district and state charter in New Mexico. Each school completed the MLSS Self-Assessment, received detailed classroom observation notes that focused on universal instructional supports, and gathered teams of educators and community members to participate in targeted interviews.
Origins of MLSS
MLSS was developed in response to a growing concern from educators and administrators throughout our state that educators and administrators did not have a comprehensive and holistic framework for providing students with holistic academic, behavior, and wellness in a timely manner. Furthermore, school principals began to voice concerns about the growing number of students being referred to SAT teams that overloaded personnel with documentation, decreasing the amount of time and attention spent per student. Prior to the Martinez and Yazzie case, the PED interviewed teachers and principals from Results Driven Accountability (RDA) schools during school site visits regarding student support systems, such as the Response to Intervention (RtI) and referral processes. Data from these site visits demonstrated that the intervention systems used failed in their purpose to provide educators with a framework evidence-based decisions (data point A) and identify students in need special education services (data point B).
- Below is a summary of data gathered from participating schools prior to the pilot launch of MLSS in 2019:
- 86% remained in targeted intervention services throughout the year
- 63% of students referred for testing did not qualify for services
- 93% remained in targeted intervention services throughout the year
- 68% of students referred for testing did not qualify for services
- 95% remained in targeted intervention services throughout the year
- 75% of students referred for testing did not qualify for services
The need for PED to collaborate with educators on developing a more comprehensive and inclusive system was further noted in the Martinez and Yazzie v. the State of New Mexico Consolidated Lawsuit. In her expert testimony, Dr. Margaret McLaughlin noted key concerns with the RtI framework:
- RtI delayed the identification of students in need of special education services;
- RtI contributed to the over-representation of Hispanic, Native American and English Learners in special education;
- RtI did not provide resources and supports to assist in the implementation of evidence-based academic and behavioral interventions;
- Students receiving intensive interventions under RtI were often denied access to universal core curriculum and supports because the established system of interventions required pulling those students out of the general education classroom, often for frequent and/or extended periods; and
- RtI lacks the flexibility that would allow districts to implement new programs or adjust Individual Education Plans (IEP) as student needs change.
This led New Mexico to develop a new MLSS framework that incorporated goals such as:
- Moving away from tiered interventions to a more fluid, layered model designed to meet the needs of the whole child
- Allowing teachers and health-and-wellness staff to quickly respond to the needs of students without delays and imposed timelines
- Creating a system in which supports at lower layers are maintained at higher layers
- Removing administrative barriers for educators and administrators