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Houghton teachers report on MTSS

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton-Portage Township Schools teachers Anna Bradfish and Traci Welch report on the district’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support program during Monday’s board meeting.

HOUGHTON — The percentage of classes failed during the first semester was vastly higher for virtual students compared to face-to-face at the high school, Houghton-Portage Township Schools teachers said during a presentation to the district board Monday night.

Special education teacher Anna Bradfish and social studies teacher Traci Welch spoke about the district’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, a support system used to address academic and behavioral needs for students.

The percentage of classes failed for virtual students was higher at every grade in high school. The largest gap came in ninth grade, where virtual students failed 25% of 108 classes, versus 3% of 510 classes for face-to-face students. The narrowest gap was in the 11th grade, where students failed 13% of possible virtual classes, versus 3% in face-to-face.

The virtual performance was consistent regardless of platform, Bradfish said.

Compared to previous years, there were more students failing across the board rather than in one or two classes, Welch said.

Once the semester began, the administration and counseling staff went into action to try to get students recovery credits to help them recover and graduate on time, Bradfish said.

“That’s what MTSS is all about, is to make sure that our students get to graduation, in this climate and culture where you feel welcomed and accepted,” she said.

One thing that helped, Bradfish said, was the exception made during the six-week shutdown of in-person learning in the winter to allow special education and other struggling students to attend in person.

“If that wasn’t something that was allowed, our numbers would have been far worse,” she said.

Bradfish demonstrated the MTSS approach with a three-tiered triangle. The bottom portion represents 80% of students, who are addressed through universal supports, such as caring interpersonal relationships and trauma-informed practices.

“When you walk through the building, you see our signs with GRIT (goals, respect, integrity, teamwork),” Bradfish said. “In our classrooms, you would see language related to GRIT, and all of our rules and expectations.”

The next tier up, representing about 15% of students, receives additional support, such as counseling or small group intervention. The top of the triangle, at around 5%, receives more individualized instruction.

That top tier can be closer to 15%. This year, that is driven largely by GPA or class failures, Welch said. Attendance, usually one of the main factors, isn’t being looked at as closely this year because of virtual schooling, she said.

As an example of universal supports, Bradfish pointed to the student council’s focus on mental health in March, including training on how to get through tough times.

The MTSS focus heading into next year will be on finding ways to address virtual learning, which will likely continue to play a role even after COVID, Welch said.

“By the data, we know that there’s some glaring problems that need to be addressed,” she said. “It might not necessarily be teachers’, students’, anybody’s fault, it’s just that there’s a need for some structural changes.”

In other action, the board:

* Heard from Athletic Director John Sanregret no students had tested positive as part of the rapid COVID testing for athletes. Students are already using the track, which will host a regional meet May 20.

* Heard from High School Principal Cole Klein the school’s theater class had put on a live production of “Alice in Wonderland” with family and friends in attendance. Longtime volleyball coach John Christianson will speak at this year’s commencement, which is planned to take place outside, possibly at the football field.

* Heard from Elementary Principal Anders Hill. Students logged 529,892 minutes for reading month in March, themed “Camp Out with a Good Book.” An average year will be somewhere in the 300,000s, Hill said. The Jump Rope for Heart program raised close to $3,000 for the American Heart Association.

* renewed the district’s COVID learning plan with no changes. Weekly two-way interaction rates for each school ranged from 90% to 96%.

* Approved a resolution to consider Nels Christopherson as the board’s electoral representative and Scott Leonard as alternate for the Copper Country Intermediate School District’s June 7 biennial election. The vote to approve will take place at the May meeting.

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