The Orange County Department of Education has been awarded $30 million in state funding to assist schools and districts throughout California with the implementation of a proven framework of supports to address students’ academic, behavioral and social needs.

The investment by the California Department of Education positions OCDE as the lead agency on the California Scale-Up MTSS Statewide Initiative, or SUMS Initiative, which is designed to promote and expand the use of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports, or MTSS.

As the video below explains, MTSS is a framework that’s been successfully used by a number of schools and districts to identify students who need academic or behavioral support, implement response plans, evaluate the impact and make refinements over time. By coordinating a raft of new and existing student supports, MTSS can help increase attendance, prevent dropouts, lower disciplinary rates, improve school climates and boost overall performance. As such, several states have explored MTSS initiatives in recent years.

“California continues to take the lead on 21st-century learning, as well as addressing the needs of the whole child, and the Orange County Department of Education is well-positioned to further this important work,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares. “The California SUMS Initiative will leverage OCDE’s considerable experience leading successful intervention and support strategies to build a scalable and sustainable MTSS framework that promotes equitable access for all students, creates a culture of collaboration among stakeholders and aligns fragmented support systems.”

To implement the California SUMS Initiative, OCDE will partner with two highly regarded educational agencies — the Butte County Office of Education and the SWIFT Center at the University of Kansas.

The Butte County Office of Education will advance statewide communication and enable the sharing of professional learning resources through its Digital Chalkboard, an online access portal. Additionally, Butte staff will engage rural, geographically-isolated county offices of education, districts and schools to support their unique needs.

SWIFT is a nationally recognized technical assistance center that builds school capacity to provide academic and behavioral supports to improve outcomes for all students through equity-based inclusion. SWIFT will support the partnership by providing technical assistance and professional learning opportunities that focus on whole system engagement, building on the strengths of educators, students and their communities.

In December 2015, the California Department of Education announced it would accept applications from county offices of education to lead a new project called “Developing, Aligning, and Improving Systems of Academic and Behavioral Supports.” Funding for the project was appropriated in response to recommendations from a March 2015 California Statewide Special Education Task Force Report that cited the need for a unified MTSS framework capable of aligning the state’s educational systems and services, many of which remained uncoordinated.

Applications were due in February, and OCDE learned in March that its submission had received the highest score in the state and an initial $10 million in funding. In June, after OCDE had been selected to lead the SUMS Initiative, the governor’s budget allocated an additional $20 million to support the scope of work.

The Orange County Department of Education’s proposal calls for a coherent educational system based on the principles of implementation science, Universal Design for Learning and the whole child approach.

OCDE and its partners plan to establish four tiers of trainers to help school districts and county offices of education scale up their own MTSS programs. At the top will be a state team featuring experts from the California Department of Education, OCDE, Butte County and the SWIFT Center. The second tier will include 11 regional teams, which will work with 57 county teams. Numerous local teams will integrate the California SUMS Initiative at the district and school levels.

“The California SUMS Initiative has the potential to have a transformative impact on education in our state,” Dr. Mijares said. “MTSS is an evidence-based framework that is making a difference in our schools and in the lives of our students by addressing their academic and social needs. By working together to create a universal process for implementation, we can improve student outcomes at all levels.”

To learn more about MTSS, visit OCDE’s MTSS webpage, or check out the video below.