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Achieving MTSS Success with the Right Data and the Right Tools

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February 24th, 2022

At Wahoo Public Schools, continuous improvement isn’t just a goal, it’s reality. The district uses a combination of data-driven tools to support its multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), improve data literacy, and inform meaningful decisions where they matter most—at the classroom level.

MTSS as the Glue that Holds Everything Together

During the 2017–18 school year, district leaders began creating and implementing their MTSS. Their goal? “Strengthen our core practices and place a continued focus on systems development,” explained Dr. Josh Snyder, Director of Learning at Wahoo Public Schools. “We view MTSS as our district’s matrix—the glue that holds everything together.”

As an essential building block to their MTSS, Wahoo Public Schools needed an assessment solution to replace their discontinued screener, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), that would also support frequent progress monitoring.

“Having a strong, comprehensive system of assessment and protocols was a priority for us,” Snyder explained. “When we started putting our MTSS process together, we considered what the best way to get data that are useful at the classroom level and can help inform instructional decisions would be.”

Leaders within the district desired a platform that would not only collect the data they needed, but also provide context to help make better decisions.

“Our district needed a systematic way to use data to inform and drive action, and an improved tool to do it,” Snyder said. “We needed a tool that would enable us to collect assessment data throughout the year, and also help determine whether student interventions are really working.”

Adopting a “Tremendous” System of Assessment

So, Snyder and other district leaders set out on a mission to find an assessment tool that could provide the depth and breadth of data they needed to assess student growth, guide impactful student supports, and make smart decisions for students and schools.

The district ultimately decided to pilot FastBridge, a universal screening and progress monitoring solution from Illuminate Education, in half of Wahoo’s elementary schools for the 2018–19 school year.

“When we stopped using DIBELS, we didn’t have any type of curriculum-based measures in place at our elementary schools,” Snyder said. “We piloted FastBridge, and received great feedback from staff, who said the usability of the system and data it provided was tremendous.”

Central Hub for MTSS Processes

To further strengthen its MTSS, Wahoo Public Schools implemented Illuminate’s eduCLIMBER, an MTSS collaboration and management solution, during the 2020–21 school year.

Data from FastBridge sync seamlessly into eduCLIMBER, which has become the central hub for MTSS processes. Staff members lean on eduCLIMBER to access whole child student data quickly and consistently, enabling them to consider factors like student attendance and behavior and adjust core instructional practices accordingly.

“We were notorious for ‘passing on the folders,’ and looking at data had become more of an autopsy, or post-mortem practice, rather than happening in real-time,” Snyder said. “eduCLIMBER allows us to access data consistently and in a timely manner, which can be used to inform the practices we have in place.”

Staff members use eduCLIMBER’s Collections tool to store large-scale data in easy-to-navigate folders. Information is organized by grade, department, and measures to monitor student growth at the district, school, and classroom levels, providing a unique “whole child” view of progress.

Wahoo Public Schools has also taken advantage of smartFORMS, a feature within eduCLIMBER that enables their educators to create and store forms and templates that can be customized for data collection, entry, meeting notes, and more. The district is transitioning all existing forms and other relevant documents into smartFORMS, which has improved efficiency during staff, 504, and problem-solving meetings.

Wahoo Public Schools has also configured eduCLIMBER’s Thresholds feature, an early warning system, around their MTSS decisions rules for grades K–2 and 3–5, which are partially based on FastBridge screening data. With this tool, staff members can automate a variety of “if this, then that” type notifications, which are used to flag both student accomplishments and early warnings

Having a “home base” for its MTSS has helped to encourage usage of the tools across the district. It’s also making teachers’ jobs easier.

Whether the topic is attendance, behavior, or academic performance, the district is pulling real-time data to make smart decisions, Snyder said. “eduCLIMBER helped us prioritize where we were at and how we might be able to move forward.”

Using Dashboards to Bring the Big Picture Together

Lastly, Wahoo Public Schools leverages eduCLIMBER’s real-time dashboard tool, Achievement Dashboard, to create and track custom initiatives related to their MTSS, such as the district’s COVID-19 response, results from professional development staff surveys, and other key performance indicators (KPIs).

Using eduCLIMBER’s dashboards, the district’s FastBridge data—and all other whole child data—can be easily brought into visualizations to monitor district-level progress toward high-level improvement goals and student progress.

“eduCLIMBER is a great tool that we’re using to support initiatives like our district’s continuous improvement process, accreditation visits, and strategic planning,” says Snyder. “We just finished up our five year accreditation visit, and have plans to utilize eduCLIMBER’s dashboards for that purpose moving forward. We’re also using dashboards to put together action plans.”

Achieving MTSS Success

Used together, Illuminate Education’s FastBridge and eduCLIMBER solutions are streamlining key processes in their MTSS and enabling faster, more targeted data-driven decision making at the district, classroom, and student levels.


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Illuminate Education equips educators to take a data-driven approach to serving the whole child. By combining comprehensive assessment and MTSS management and collaboration tools, the Illuminate Solution enables educators to accurately assess learning, identify needs, align whole child supports, drive system-level improvements, and equitably accelerate growth for every learner.

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