School Improvement, Strategic Planning, ESEA, and Multi-Tiered Services: An Anthology of Previous Blogs

Integrating Successful Research-to-Practice Strategies into the New School Year (Part I of II)

Dear Colleagues,


   While some of you are starting to “trickle” back to your schools, districts, or other employment settings, other educators are still off “for summer vacation.” 

   As for me. . . I am writing this while traveling to my second school consultation of the new school year (I did a training last week in Mississippi).  In fact, this current two-week trip brings me to Kentucky, Philadelphia, and Chicago. 

   My Kentucky district actually starts school on Wednesday August 6th, and I will be able both to train different staff in the District before the school year begins (Monday and Tuesday), and then watch the training being implemented of the first day of school (Wednesday).  This is an ideal situation, because I can support the teachers on Wednesday as they move from training to implementation and ensure that the training transfers to effective and high-fidelity practices.

   In Philadelphia, I am helping a kindergarten through high school charter school district create and implement a comprehensive, multi-tiered social, emotional, and behavioral (PBSS/SEL) school-wide system.  Here, I am working with the Leadership and SEL/MTSS Teams this week, and then returning next week to work with their entire staff.

   Another “effective practices” professional development situation.

   Finally, in Chicago, we are beginning a multi-year MTSS process—helping all of the staff in this high-school-only district to utilize systems-level and student-level (ESEA, academic, and social-emotional-behavioral) data to make effective instructional decisions.

   Next Monday, I work with the Administrators and MTSS Teams (especially their related services professionals).  Then, I return next month to begin the school-by-school MTSS training and implementation.

   All of this contrasts with my full-day of professional development last week in Mississippi. . . which was a “one and done” training for a random group of elementary through high school teachers.  The District’s Professional Development Director had three or four similar sessions (on different topics) occurring simultaneously and was expecting participants in each session to return to their schools and share the content from each session.

   My prediction?  This approach was a recipe for failure.  There was no way for those participating in my session to be able to go from science to effective practice. . .  much less understand my multi-layered content so quickly and so well that they could successfully communicate it to colleagues.

   I am not being disrespectful in any way to my audience.  I am simply reflecting the principles of effective professional development and adult learning.

   Reinforcing the effective PD approaches in Kentucky, Philadelphia, and Chicago:  It is critical that the professional development— received by teachers and others immediately before the new school year begins—is implemented with coaching, mentoring, and consultation.  This facilitates helps to ensure both implementation fidelity and science-to-practice intensity. 

   But. . . with all of the competing perspectives and “pitches” in today’s educational “marketplace,” we need to begin with sound science

   And so, as we enter (or approach) the new school year, I thought that it would be useful to review some of the most popular Blog articles that I have written over the past year or two.

   Making this topic-driven, I have organized the Blogs into four clusters:

  • School Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Effective School and Schooling Practices
  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/ESSA) and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
  • School Climate, (Disproportionate) Discipline, Safety, and Classroom Management
  • Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness

   In today’s Blog, I will briefly overview the first two areas above—and then chronologically provide the Dates and Titles of the most important past Blog messages.  In Part II of this “series,” I will address the last two areas. 

To read one of the Blogs cited below:

   Go back to the Blog “Home Page” on this website, or CLICK HERE

   Look at the right-hand side of this Blog page and click on the year when the Blog article was written.

   Find the desired Blog on the resulting web-page and click on it.  Each year’s Blogs are listed in reverse chronological order.

School Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Effective School and Schooling Policies

   Strategic planning processes should anchor virtually everything that we do when working to continuously improve our schools.  Over the past three years, a number of my Blogs have discussed how to conduct effective strategic planning processes, make sound leadership decisions, build staff cohesion, and minimize the impact of (sometimes routinely) losing superintendents, administrators, and instructional staff.

   In addition, I often analyze and critique, from a science-to-practice perspective, programs and strategies that have become “educational bandwagons” despite their poorly-researched or unproven claims.  Related topics here include approaches addressing teasing and bullying, chronic absenteeism, reading and grade retention, the length of the school day and when it starts, and even the mindfulness “epidemic.”

Research-to-Practice Lessons Learned

  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/ESSA) has virtually replaced the No Child Left Behind term “scientifically-based” with the term “evidence-based”— providing a specific statutory definition.
  • Educators need to recognize that they must independently validate any program, intervention, or strategy that claims it is “research-based”—as the research could be sound, unsound, or non-existent.
  • Even when research validly supports a specific program, intervention, or strategy, educators still need to validate that (a) it is applicable to the students, staff, schools, or situations that they want to change/affect, and (b) it can be realistically implemented “in the real world” (as opposed to a controlled or “laboratory” setting).
  • As but one example:  John Hattie’s research significantly contributes to educational decision-making. . . but educators need to fully understand the decision rules and outcomes inherent in his meta-meta-analytic methods and outcomes.
  • Even when Hattie’s research provides a programmatic, intervention, or strategy-related “recommendation,” educators need to understand that (a) meta-analytic research often pools research focusing on the same approach, but using different methodologies; and (b) it is effective methodology, implemented with fidelity, that ultimately determines student, staff, and/or situational success.

   Here is a summary of the Blogs in this Area:

School Improvement and Strategic Planning

January 28, 2018  How Strategic Planning and Organizational Development is Done by Every School . . . Every Year: An Introduction to Successful School-based Strategic Planning Science-to-Practice [Part II of II]
October 21, 2017   Improving Student Outcomes When Your State Department of Education Has Adopted the Failed National MTSS and PBIS Frameworks: Effective Research-to-Practice Multi-Tiered Approaches that Facilitate All Students' Success (Part II of II)
October 7, 2017  Improving Student Outcomes When Your State Department of Education Has Adopted the Failed National MTSS and PBIS Frameworks: Effective and Defensible Multi-Tiered and Positive Behavioral Support Approaches that State Departments of Education Will Approve and Fund (Part I of II)
September 25, 2017  Hattie’s Meta-Analysis Madness: The Method is Missing !!! Why Hattie’s Research is a Starting-Point, but NOT the End-Game for Effective Schools (Part III of III)
September 9, 2017   “Scientifically based” versus “Evidence-based” versus “Research-based”—Oh, my!!! Making Effective Programmatic Decisions: Why You Need to Know the History and Questions Behind these Terms (Part II of III)
August 26, 2017  The Top Ten Ways that Educators Make Bad, Large-Scale Programmatic Decisions: The Hazards of ESEA/ESSA’s Freedom and Flexibility at the State and Local Levels (Part I of III)
March 18, 2017  What Happens When School Leaders Make Decisions Not for the Greater Good, but for the Greater Peace: “You Can Please Some of the People Some of the Time. . . But You Can’t Please All of the People All of the Time”
March 5, 2017  The Revolving Door of the Superintendency: A Case Study on Resetting the Course of a School District. . . When Mission, Vision, and Values Count More than Resources, Requirements, and Results
January 17, 2016  The Seven C's of School Success (Part II): The Ultimate Staff Strategies to Build Strong, Cohesive Relationships and Effective, Productive Teams
December 19, 2015  The Seven C's of School Success (Part I): The Ultimate Organizational Strategies for School Success
October 3, 2015  Is Your Strategic Plan Focused on Outcomes. . . or Just a Direction? There are "Many Roads to Rome"- - But You Need an Address and a GPS to Get There
July 25, 2015  The Seven Sure Solutions to School Success: How Many do You Need?
May 31, 2015  School Improvement? The Questions your Department of Education Needs to Know
May 9, 2015  The Beginning of the New School Year Starts in April
April 4, 2015  Planning for Next Year's Successes THIS Year: Addressing Your Professional Development, On-Site Consultation, and Technical Assistance Needs at the System, School, Staff, and Student Levels
March 28, 2015  March Madness: How Effective Schools are Like Successful Basketball Teams
March 1, 2015  Stop Your Best Teachers from Leaving the Field: Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Recruiting, Training, and then Losing Your Best Teachers
December 13, 2014  Rich District, Poor District: Common Sense Practices to Maximize Resources and Improve Student Outcomes
November 8, 2014  A New Federal Report Documents What Low-Performing are NOT Doing to Succeed: 12 Questions that WILL Guide School Improvement Success
October 26, 2014  School Improvement Succeeds only with Shared Leadership: A Field-Tested Blueprint

Popular School and Schooling Policies and Practices

July 21, 2018  Hattie Haters and Lovers: Both Still Miss the Effective Implementation that Practitioners Need. Critical Questions to Ask your “Hattie Consultant” Before You Sign the Contract
June 4, 2018  Making Mountains Out of Molehills: Mindfulness and Growth Mindsets. Critical Research Questions the Impact of Both
December 27, 2017  The Year in Review: What We’ve Learned about Effective Educational Practices to Increase Student, Staff, and School Success. . . Reflections on Policies, Practices, Pronouncements, and Progress
February 19, 2017  Federal and State Policies ARE NOT Eliminating Teasing and Bullying in Our Schools: Teasing and Bullying is Harming our Students Psychologically and Academically—Here’s How to Change this Epidemic through Behavioral Science and Evidence-based Practices
November 13, 2016  Beating Kids in Schools: How Corporal Punishment Reinforces Bias, Violence, Trauma, Poor Social Problem-Solving, and the Fallacy of Intervention. . . The Alternative? Eliminate Corporal Punishment by Preventing its Need, and Implementing Interventions that Actually Change Student Behavior
June 12, 2016  How to Improve your Chronically Absent Students' Attendance. . . During the Summer
March 20, 2016  Grade Retention is NOT an Intervention! How WE Fail Students When THEY are Failing in School
February 13, 2016  Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs (Part II). More Bandwagons that Need to be Derailed?
January 30, 2016  Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs: Have We Just Lost our Minds? (Part I). Why Schools Sometimes Waste their Time and (Staff) Resources on Fads with Poor Research and Unrealistic Results.
November 28, 2015  Start the School Day Later? How Students Use their After-School Time, Media and Smartphones, and Opportunities to Sleep
September 7, 2015  When Kids Can't Read: Policy and Practice Mistakes that Make It Worse
August 9, 2015  Donald Trump, Negative Campaigns, and Social Skills: Modeling Intolerance for our Students?
April 25, 2015  Extending the School Day? Is it Due to Ineffectiveness, Disengagement, or Enrichment?


A Project ACHIEVE Press Electronic Book

by Howard M. Knoff, Ph.D.

NEWLY UPDATED, Copyright 2018  (158 Pages)

   Shared Leadership is an important characteristic of an effective school. It is best accomplished through school-level committees that match the evidence-based components of continuous school improvement. This document describes these components, presents a school-level committee blueprint, and discusses how to successfully implement the process—resulting in more collaborative, productive, and meaningful outcomes.



The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/ESSA) and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

   The Elementary and Secondary Education Act/Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA/ESSA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in December 2015.  It makes states, districts, and schools more responsible for designing and implementing effective school improvement strategies (and their own accountability) than ever before.

   Written to work “hand-in-hand” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), ESEA/ESSA has a number of specific provisions related to the delivery of multi-tiered systems of support.

   Over the years, I have discussed how the U.S. Department of Education (and a number of its funded National Technical Assistance Centers) have misled educators as to what is (and is not) mandated by federal law relative multi-tiered and other special education services. 

   Specifically, ESEA/ESSA and IDEA discuss “positive behavioral interventions and supports” as a generic approach, and it appears in both laws in lower case letter without an acronym (i.e., PBIS). 

   Similarly, ESEA/ESSA discusses “multi-tiered systems of support” as a generic approach, and it too appears in the law in lower case letter without an acronym (i.e., MTSS).

   And yet, the U.S. Department of Education and its funded PBIS and MTSS National Technical Assistance Centers often make it appear that ESEA/ESSA and IDEA require their uppercase versions of the required generic services.

   I have also discussed some large-scale research studies and national evaluation reports that question whether the PBIS and MTSS frameworks advocated by the U.S. Department of Education produce consistent, sustained, and needed student outcomes.

   To conclude:  Just as ESEA/ESSA has given states, districts, and schools more responsibility for designing and implementing effective school improvement strategies, it similarly encourages them to create multi-tiered systems of supports that are personalized to the needs and circumstances of their own students.

   Here is a summary of the Blogs in this Area:

Federal Law:  ESEA/ESSA

June 26, 2018  Learning from Another Gates Failure: It's Not Just the Money--It's What You Accomplish with It. How to Spend ESEA's Title IV Money Wisely
February 10, 2018  The Folly and Frustration of Evaluating Schools and Staff Based on the Progress of Students with Significant Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Challenges: Understanding the Student, Home, and Community Factors that Impact Challenging Students
January 13, 2018   Every School is in “School Improvement” Every Year: Preparing for ESEA/ESSA--What Effective Schools Do to Continuously Improve . . . and What Ineffective Schools Need to do to Significantly Improve [Part I of II]
February 4, 2017  ESEA/ESSA, School Improvement, Race/Ethnic Status, and Students with Disabilities: We Need to Differentiate Disability Just as We Differentiate Race and Ethnicity
January 22, 2017  ESEA/ESSA Tells Schools and Districts: Build Your Own Multi-Tier System of Supports for Your Students’ Needs--- Focus on Your Principles, Students, and Staff. . .and Verify the ESEA/ESSA “Guidance” Advocated by Some National Groups
July 24, 2016  Rethinking School Improvement and Success, Staff Development and Accountability, and Students' Academic and Behavioral Proficiency: Using ESEA/ESSA’s New Flexibility to Replace the U.S. Department of Education’s Ineffective NCLB Initiatives
March 4, 2016  The New ESEA/ESSA: Discontinuing the U.S. Department of Education's School Turn-Around, and Multi-tiered Academic (RtI) and Behavioral (PBIS) System of Support (MTSS) Frameworks
April 10, 2015  The NEW ESEA Draft: Tell Congress that Capital Letters Make a Difference

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

May 14, 2017  The Endrew F. Decision Re-Defines a “Free Appropriate Public Education" (FAPE) for Students with Disabilities: A Multi-Tiered School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management Model to Guide Your FAPE (and even Disproportionality) Decisions (Part III)
April 22, 2017  The Endrew F. Decision Re-Defines a “Free Appropriate Public Education" (FAPE) for Students with Disabilities: A Multi-Tiered Academic Instruction-to-Intervention Model to Guide Your FAPE Decisions (Part II)
April 2, 2017  Special Education Services Just Got Easier. . . and Harder: The Supreme Court's Endrew F. Decision Re-Defines a “Free Appropriate Public Education” for Students with Disabilities (Part I)
December 18, 2016  What the Next Director of the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Needs to Do: My “First 100 Days” if I was Appointed the New OSEP Director
September 25, 2016  U.S. Department of Education Reminds Educators about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports for Students with Disabilities: But. . . Watch Out for Their Recommendations and References
September 5, 2016  Political Doublespeak, Students with Disabilities, and Common Sense: A Legal Case Study on Students’ Rights and Standards-based IEPs. . . How Departments of Education Use Language, Fear, and Ignorance to Get their Way
March 4, 2016  The New ESEA/ESSA: Discontinuing the U.S. Department of Education's School Turn-Around, and Multi-tiered Academic (RtI) and Behavioral (PBIS) System of Support (MTSS) Frameworks
November 14, 2015  New U.S. Department of Education Report: Students in RtI Tier II Interventions are Losing Ground. What the Report Says. . .Why RtI is Not Working. . . Recommendations for Improving the RtI Process
October 20, 2015  Want to Improve Student Learning? Look at your "Instructional Environments" - - Standards Don't Teach . . . Teachers Do !!!
February 15, 2015  Your State's Guide to RtI: Some Statutes Just Don't Make Sense- - What your Department of Education isn't Sharing about its Multi-tiered/Response-to-Intervention Procedures
January 31, 2015  Correcting the Flaws: The Feds’ Thinking on Academic Proficiency and Results Driven Accountability
November 22, 2014  Academically Struggling and Behaviorally Challenging Students: Your Doctor Wouldn’t Practice this Way


   As the new school year approaches (or has already begun), and as districts and schools begin to implement their strategic and/or continuous improvement plans with a clear eye on ESEA’s requirements, the importance of effective science-to-practice approaches cannot be understated.

   The new school year gives us an opportunity to reboot, recalibrate, or renew our efforts to maximize all students’ academic and social, emotional, and behavioral competence and proficiency.  I hope that one or more of my Blogs can be part of your efforts to reach your “next levels of excellence.”

   Meanwhile, I always look forward to your comments. . . whether on-line or via e-mail.

   And . . . if I can help you in any of the area of school improvement (please visit the other areas of this website), I am always happy to provide a free one-hour consultation session to help you clarify your needs and directions on behalf of your students, staff/colleagues, school(s), and district.