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The International MTSS Summit (IMS): A Relevant and Timely Professional Learning Opportunity

By Dr. Joan Schumann
The International MTSS Summit (IMS): A Relevant and Timely Professional Learning Opportunity

As international schools embrace a more diverse student population, the need for an equitable and inclusive approach to education is growing (Ochan-Powell, 2020). While many schools have recognized a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) as a model of choice, collective understanding and further professional learning is required for effective implementation. The International MTSS Summit (IMS) aims to build school capacity in the implementation of MTSS, specifically within international school settings.

Contrary to what many consider a service delivery model, MTSS is a school-wide framework to approach decision-making about instructional intensity (Brown-Chidsey & Steege, 2010). MTSS is equally rooted in the utilization of evidence-based instruction, assessment and curricular materials. As a result of MTSS implementation, schools are likely to see an increase in overall academic performance (Hattie, 2017) as well as a reduction in referrals for student support services (Burns, Appleton & Stenhouwer, 2005).

With a clear focus on developing systems-level expertise, IMS has partnered with Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI), the Special Education Network and Inclusion Association (SENIA) as well as the American Institute for Research (AIR) to offer a robust professional learning experience for school teams across the world. Last year, the RtI for International Schools Summit (RISS) was received with great success. Nearly 50 schools and 200 participants agreed to transition towards MTSS terminology for the following year’s Summit so as to promote the understanding of systems that support both academic and social-emotional learning (McIntosh & Goodman, 2016). This year, the IMS Online Forum Series has attracted nearly 300 participants spanning across 25 countries in 6 continents, representing nearly 100 schools.

Using an ongoing and virtual learning format, participants benefit from multiple connection points to engage in targeted professional learning in a strand of their choosing. Within the Creating Supportive Learning Environments strand, school teams engage in thinking about how a school culture can promote student wellbeing through organizational change, universal screening and high quality support services. The Reading Comprehension for English Learners strand provides an opportunity to consider effective practices that develop literacy and content learning for diverse learners in every classroom. Finally, Systems for Instructional Improvement focuses on the development of systems and infrastructure that leverage quality assessments to guide decision-making at the school-wide, classroom and individual student level. Within each strand, Featured, Invited and School Presenters offer a healthy balance of clarifying misconceptions about What the Research Says; offering professional consultation and guidance; as well as, highlighting examples of international school implementation.

In an effort to provide quality technical assistance directly to international school teams, IMS has recruited several lead researchers in the field of MTSS. What’s more, international school leaders have spent time providing insight on international school context with IMS Featured Speakers so their consultation and guidance is most impactful. As an example, IMS Conference Keynote Speaker and prolific reading researcher, Dr. Sharon Vaughn has published more than 35 books and 250 articles; served on the Advisory Council for the Office of Overseas Schools; and, consulted with several countries to provide support in their nation-wide efforts to implement an MTSS approach for multilingual learners. Along with Dr. Marcia Davidson, who works on behalf of USAID to advise developing nations on their early literacy programs; and, Dr. Young-Suk Kim, who received President Barack Obama’s Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, IMS Reading Strand participants have the opportunity to engage in small groups and ask literacy experts directly, “What does the research say?”

Regardless of strand selection, IMS participants have access to an incredible line-up of speakers each focused on relevant and timely topics. Within the SEL-focused strand, IMS participants have the opportunity to learn from Dr. Rhonda Nese, whose scholarship centers on school-wide disciplinary responses that prevent trends rooted in systemic racism. Equally relevant, Dr. Steve Kilgus is a leading expert on universal screening for mental health concerns and school-based interventions to address depression and anxiety. In January, Dr. Clay Cook will set the focus for the weekend centered on implementation. Using what we know about leading school-wide change efforts (Hagermoser Sanetti & Collier-Meek, 2019), guided action planning sessions are designed to address four key questions:

  • What are our priority outcomes
  • What are some essential practices that will lead to those desired outcomes?
  • What are some systems that need to be in place in order to support these practices?
  • What data will be most important for us to collect and review?

    In April, the culminating weekend of the IMS Online Forum Series will provide an opportunity for schools to share their learning and continued challenges with the wider community as well as influence the agenda for next year’s Summit experience. As distributive school leadership teams engage in this exciting new professional learning endeavor, we strengthen our educational program for a growing diverse student population. Using an MTSS approach, we can address questions related to whether or not our instruction, curriculum and school culture meet the needs of various subgroups within our community. We hope you join us in this journey towards MTSS implementation so we can create more equitable and inclusive learning environments for all learners.


Brown-Chidsey, R., & Steege, M. W. (2010). Response to Intervention, Second Edition: Principles and Strategies for Effective Practice (The Guilford Practical Intervention in the Schools Series) (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press.

Burns, M. K., Appleton, J. J., & Stenhouwer, J. D. (2005). Meta-analytic review of responsiveness-to-intervention research: Examining field-based and research-implemented models. Educational Psychology, 23(4), 381 - 394. 

Hagermoser Sanetti, L. M., & Collier-Meek, M. A. (2019). Increasing implementation science literacy to address the research-to-practice gap in school psychology. Journal of School Psychology, 76, 33–47.

Hattie, J. (2017). Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement. Retrieved from

Kusuma-Powell, O. (2020). Inclusion in International Schools. UK: ISC Research

McIntosh, K. & Goodman, S. (2016). Integrated Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: Blending RTI and PBIS. New York, NY: The Gilford Press.

Dr. Schumann is the Director of Professional Learning and Instruction at the International School of Beijing (ISB) and the Executive Director of the ISLES Collaborative, official organizer of the International MTSS Summit (IMS). Prior to joining ISB, she served as the Director of Student Support Services for Stamford American International School in Singapore.

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