UCLA CTS Co-Leads Pilot Effort to Better Address the Needs of All Students

UCLA's Center for the Transformation of Schools supporting the use of California’s Multi-Tiered System of Support Framework to improve schools’ conditions and climate.

Fourteen school sites from seven school districts across California have been selected to deepen their Multi-Tiered System of Support with a focus on improving their school conditions and climate. This pilot project, co-led by the Butte County Office of Education (BCOE), Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) and UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools (CTS), aims to address the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of students statewide. The selected school districts include Center Joint Unified, Fort Bragg Unified, Madera Unified, Morongo Unified, Oroville City Elementary, Pittsburg Unified, and Pomona Unified. 

“This is a continued effort to address the needs of each and every student in our schools,” says Rindy DeVoll, CA MTSS Director for Rural California. “Our school-level approach is framed by providing coaching guidance to school leaders to improve school conditions and climate. All students, regardless of zip code, deserve equitable access to high-quality learning and supports. Teachers and school leaders in rural communities face unique factors in their school systems, and this pilot will allow our partnerships to develop tailored approaches to support any school. We look forward to working with these pioneering schools, the districts that serve them, and our statewide partners.” 

For the past year, a design team of over 50 individuals, representing various educational stakeholders (teachers, administrators, students, policy makers, researchers, and educational non-profits) created an approach to addressing school conditions and climate for PK-12 educators that creates safe and equitable learning environment for all students and adults. The design team approach will guide the efforts of the participating school districts and will focus on four key areas (Identity, Structure, Learning, and Readiness) that need to be addressed in order for site leadership teams to improve their school’s conditions and climate. The school-level MTSS approach is driven by the belief that schools must establish a shared identity and vision for readiness that has been co-created with students and community members and values academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning outcomes. 

“This important step is a very ambitious effort to improve student learning and school conditions and climate for students across our state, says Joseph Bishop, Director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools. It’s exciting to see so many educators come together in an effort to better serve the needs of kids and begin to address the very real challenges faced by students and schools. Hopefully their work will shine a light on what works and what doesn’t. At the end of this we want these sites to stand as an example for other school districts and schools as they work to achieve a more equitable future for California students.” 

The seven school districts participating in the pilot are representative of California’s seven  Geographic Lead Agencies  and are reflective of the states demographics and various enrollment sizes. Districts were selected from a pool that participated in foundational training on California’s MTSS framework. Consideration was given to school districts with high and/or disparate suspension rates for willful defiance and disruption, high free and reduced lunch numbers, and are eligible for differentiated assistance as designated by the California Department of Education. Selected districts identified two schools within their purview to participate in the pilot.

“We are really excited to partner with these sites to help deepen their implementation of CA MTSS” says Christine Olmstead, Associate Superintendent, Orange County Department of Education. “We look forward to learning from and supporting the participating school districts and schools as they work to develop an identity that informs the organizational structures that support approaches to learning that empower student readiness.”

Schoolsite, district, and county office representatives gathered in early October for a two-day kickoff in Sacramento to begin the pilot phase of the project. The participants reviewed the CA MTSS framework, engaged in root cause analysis work, and devised an improvement cycle plan. 

Each participating school will be supported by their district, county office, the pilot leadership team (BCOE, OCDE, and CTS) and various coaches. With the support of the coaching teams, schools will implement their improvement plans, put effective practices into action, study the results, and continue to improve their school systems in order to achieve the most desired outcomes for students.

California’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (CA MTSS) is part of the statewide system of support and led by the Orange County Department of Education, Butte County Office of Education, and UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools. California’s Multi-Tiered System of Support framework aims to address the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of students statewide. The pilot and the partnership is funded by the state as part of a five-year, $15 million dollar allocation from the state legislature and administered through the California Department of Education to expand the state’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework to foster positive school climate in both academic and behavioral areas.