Michigan's Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative (MiBLSi)

Terri Metcalf works as a Technical Assistance Partner for Michigan's Response to Intervention grant titled Michigan's Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative or MiBLSi.  MiBLSi (funded by the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services) began in 2000 with five model demonstration schools and currently includes over 500 buildings.  Ms. Metcalf has previously been involved with MiBLSi as a reading coach and state trainer.  Her current role is to coordinate all MiBLSi activities (including professional development for teams, coaching support, principal support, and consultation) for a region in the western part of the state.

What did you do?

The mission of MiBLSi is to help students become better readers with the social skills necessary for success.  In order to carry out that mission, we provide schools with technical assistance in establishing an RTI model that focuses on school-wide reading and behavior systems. We have a wide range of schools in our initiative varying from rural buildings in the upper peninsula of Michigan to buildings within the Detroit Public School System.  Our schools are involved in a training cycle for approximately three  years.  Throughout their time with us, we provide professional development, specific training and support for reading and behavior coaches, support for principals, and assistance in developing RTI leadership teams at the building as well as district level.

The MiBLSi professional development process has a series of phases.  Phase 1 focuses on developing universal foundations in  reading and behavior. We work on strengthening staff commitment for the RTI process, establishing and maintaining leadership teams, conducting an audit of school-wide reading and behavior practices, and establishing information systems for reading and behavior.  In  Phase 2, we focus the training on secondary and tertiary intervention supports in reading and behavior.  We also facilitate data review trainings three times a year to assist teams in using the outcome and process data they have been collecting to make meaningful instructional changes.  This process is aligned with Michigan’s School Improvement Framework.  For Phase 3, we focus the training on continuous improvement of their RTI model and planning for sustainability over time.  All of the power point materials and handouts that we use for these phases are available on our Web site under Training Sequence.

What challenges did you face?

There have been many challenges as we have grown from five buildings to 500 in nine years.  Some of our challenges have been in constructing meaningful training content for a wide variety of building needs, supporting RTI implementation in buildings after that content is delivered, and evaluating our effectiveness as a state project.   We have found that investing in regional coordination, building the leadership skills of principals, coaches and building teams, and being intentional about planning for RTI at the district level is helping to maintain the model after schools have completed the MiBLSi training cycle.

What was the outcome of your effort?

Systems change is always difficult for staff, but once the bumps are ironed out, RTI seems to be working really well for a lot of buildings.  We use DIBELS and SWIS as well as a variety of self-assessment checklists to track student and systems performance.  Overall, we are seeing the reading scores go up and the office discipline referrals go down.  We are also seeing that when schools have their systems in place, their outcome data improves.

I hear a lot of success stories.  A special education director recently emailed me pages of information on how RTI is working in his district.  He was so enthusiastic, and said, "The RTI bus is gaining some serious speed!" He went on to list 25 positive RTI changes in the district, such as progress-monitoring for all intensive and strategic students, the addition of effective data sharing and planning at grade-level meetings, and the impact of effective secondary and tertiary interventions on their overall student outcomes.

Finally, schools are finding that there is a powerful connection between their school-wide reading and behavior models.  For example, one of our middle school principals told me that he now has time to create a school schedule that includes a reading intervention block, because he doesn’t have 10 to15 students outside his door every day for discipline problems.


What advice would you give others?

Think about RTI for the long term.  A good way to address and overcome inevitable challenges with RTI models is by investing resources in  building and district leadership teams.  These teams are responsible for providing funding, vision and political support for the RTI model that the building staff is working so hard to implement.  Think about support for the building every day, not just at a workshop.  We invest heavily in developing RTI leadership with coaches and principals.  Once coaches are in place in districts, they have the local capacity and knowledge. Along with administrative leadership, they can effect change.

Think about how to communicate RTI both vertically and horizontally. Along with district RTI leadership teams (vertical communication), it is important to facilitate communication among teachers (horizontal communication).  We have found it beneficial to get staff to share RTI ideas not only with other staff members in their buildings, but also outside of their districts.  Communication is a key piece of ensuring that RTI is implemented effectively.

Think about the whole system, not just one piece (e.g. the data or the intervention).  That has been another key piece for us — slowing down and making sure that all of the many pieces of the school-wide systems for reading and behavior are operating effectively.

For more information, visit the MiBLSi Web site.

Back To Top