Every learner walks into a classroom with a world of experiences, strengths, and learning opportunities that are uniquely their own. As Impact Teams-PLCs, we hold the sacred responsibility to nurture and promote their learning growth by meeting them exactly where they are. But what happens when 30% or more of a school’s students are in need of intervention? What if a school has an inverted MTSS pyramid? Well, when the Response to Intervention (MTSS) pyramid is upside down,” it means that a disproportionate number of students require Tier 2 or even Tier 3 interventions. This phenomenon requires Impact Teams to think “outside of the box” so students get what they need to succeed. Many schools have adopted “WIN” time or “What I Need Time” as an approach to support more learners with data-driven targeted instruction.

What is MTSS?

MTSS is a multi-tiered approach to the early identification and support of students with academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs. The MTSS process begins with high-quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom (Tier 1). Struggling learners are provided with interventions at increasing levels of intensity to accelerate their rate of learning. Those not making progress are then provided with increasingly intensive instruction usually in small groups (Tier 2). If still no progress, then students receive individualized, intensive interventions that target the students’ skill deficits (Tier 3). The RTI-MTSS process has the potential to get a .74 effect size via Visible Learning. This means that it has the potential to close to double the speed of learning when implemented with quality.

An inverted pyramid clearly means that school needs to strengthen their instructional core, but what do the students do in the meantime to get support? Ideally, the MTSS model is represented as a pyramid with the broadest base being Tier 1 (general education interventions and differentiation for all students) and the topmost point being Tier 3 (intensive interventions for a small percentage of students). In a well-functioning system, most students’ needs are met at Tier 1. However, if a large number of students are in need of Tier 2-Tier 3 interventions, several implications and challenges arise.

What is WIN Time?

How do we rise to this occasion when faced with the diverse spectrum of learners in a single classroom? The solution might be simpler than you think: WIN Time. WIN Time stands for “What I Need” time. Many of our partner schools and systems are adopting WIN time (What I Need Time) so they can support more students at their point of need. It is a dedicated period within the school day where students receive targeted instruction based on their individual needs. Instruments like iReady and NWEA Map support educators in understanding what students need specifically; many instruments even group students according to need.

WIN Time is intended to provide differentiated instruction to students, allowing them to either catch up in areas where they’re struggling or to extend their learning in areas where they excel.

Key features of WIN Time include:

1. Flexible Grouping:

Students are grouped based on specific skills they need to work on or areas they can further explore. These groupings can change frequently, based on the latest assessment data or teacher observations. We use a standard treatment protocol (STP) to support large groups of students with similar needs. A standard treatment protocol (STP) is used when all students struggling with a similar area receive the same support plan.

If large groups of students need the same thing, the grade level or course teachers can create flexible groups based on their specific needs and scholars can “walk to learn” to the specific group that targets their needs. During this time, baseline data will be collected and teachers will monitor progress and assess for impact.

Amistad Elementary in Kennewick, WA used the WIN philosophy to close the reading foundation gap for K-5 readers; they also used WIN time to support English language development for ELLs. PS-IS 180 in Harlem, New York used the WIN approach for grades K-8 to give targeted support for ELA and Math. Both schools made a positive impact on standardized measures.

2. Data Target Instruction:

Activities and lessons during WIN Time are designed to address specific needs. For students who might be struggling in certain areas, this could involve remediation or reinforcement of foundational skills. For those who are excelling, it might mean diving deeper into topics or exploring enrichment activities. If students are in need of reading foundation support we typically recommend a systematic, evidence based program like SIPPS that is designed for small group differentiation.

3. Data-Driven Decision Making:

Decisions about which students participate in specific WIN Time groups, and the focus of those groups, are generally based on multiple measures (assessment data). This ensures that instruction is responsive to each student’s current need. We can use a combination of perception data, observation and formative assessment to determine impact and the Impact Team Evidence-Analysis-Action framework to build collaborative expertise.

4. Flexible Schedule:

While WIN Time is a dedicated period, its frequency and duration can vary based on the school’s schedule and the needs of the students. Some schools might have daily WIN Time, while others might schedule it a few times a week. Even if the schedule is flexible it needs to be scheduled at the same time for 30-60 minutes daily.

5. Incorporation of Evidence Based Interventions:

For students who need additional support, WIN Time can be an opportunity to incorporate evidence-based interventions in a more focused manner without pulling them out of core instruction time. We recommend using evidence-based interventions that support a high level of differentiation (like SIPPS for science of reading foundational skills intervention or LLI to support comprehension)

6. Collaboration Among Educators:

WIN Time requires quality collaboration among educators to plan, assess for impact, and execute. This will involve general education teachers, specialists, and interventionists working together to ensure that each student’s needs are met led by a trained Impact Team peer facilitator using the Evidence-Analysis-Action protocol.

WIN Time: When Students Thrive!

WIN Time is a proactive approach to ensure that all students receive the support and challenges they need to succeed. By dedicating time to targeted, individualized instruction, schools aim to help every student progress and thrive. Turning an “upside-down” RTI pyramid right-side up is a substantial endeavor that requires collaboration, resources, and a sharp focus on students’ needs. But with concerted effort, schools and Impact Teams can create an environment where students thrive and flex their agency during WIN time.