VIDEO: Nearly 3,400 educators gather in Orange County for sixth annual MTSS conference

The sixth annual California MTSS Professional Learning Institute kicked off on Tuesday, July 18, bringing 3,400 educational leaders from across the state to the Anaheim Convention Center.

That’s a new record for the three-day summer conference, which was created by the Orange County Department of Education and the Butte County Office of Education to equip educators and other school-based professionals with inclusive strategies and resources tied to the California Multi-Tiered System of Support framework.

“The PLI draws a diverse and dedicated audience from all across California and beyond, with sessions ranging from academic and behavior interventions to social-emotional learning, mental health and community schools,” OCDE Learning Supports Director Dr. Jami Parsons said. “This event offers valuable networking opportunities and fosters a sense of community among educators, counselors and other professionals committed to supporting the whole child through the California MTSS framework.”

MTSS conference table
OCDE employees staff the merch table at the sixth annual California MTSS Professional Learning Institute.

The California Multi-Tiered System of Support — or California MTSS for short — is a comprehensive framework that’s been increasingly embraced by schools and districts. It’s built on a “continuum of support,” referring to a range of interventions and services that are provided to students based on their individual academic, behavioral, social-emotional or mental health needs. The goal is to remove barriers by addressing and mitigating challenges that can prevent students from succeeding. 

In 2016, OCDE was selected by the California Department of Education to be the lead agency to scale up California MTSS statewide. To date, about 60 percent of all school districts in the state have received training, and about half of all schools have implemented the framework, according to Parsons. Meanwhile, the model’s growth has been credited with a number of positive outcomes, including fewer disciplinary referrals and suspensions.

As the California Multi-Tiered System of Support keeps evolving, so too does OCDE’s yearly Professional Learning Institute, which also set new records in 2023 for the number of speakers and sponsors. This year’s theme is “Equity in Action: Every Student, Every Day.”

Expanding knowledge

Starting with pre-conference sessions on Tuesday, educators could expand their knowledge of different approaches to the MTSS framework through a variety of workshops. One guest speaker covered the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, which encourages teachers to provide multiple means of engagement, representation and expression, while another shared best practices for providing students support through California’s Expanded Learning programs.

OCDE coordinators Dr. Rebecca Kopecky and Lara Kain helped kick off the conference with a discussion-based workshop on serving the whole child through high-quality classroom instruction that ties in with community efforts. 

MTSS signage at conference
“Equity in Action: Every Student, Every Day” is the theme of the 2023 conference, which set new records for the number of attendees, speakers and sponsors.

“We have more sessions than we’ve ever had before,” Parsons said, “and we have targeted sessions based on the feedback provided to us. We also have more networking opportunities that occur at the end of each day of the conference so people can bring their network and convene together.”

Staff turnover at schools also drives the need for ongoing professional learning opportunities, she said. 

“If you want to keep the momentum going with California MTSS, then you have to make sure that you have stakeholder capacity built at all times,” Parsons said. “You want 80 percent or more of your staff trained in this model for it to be successful.”

Keynote speakers

Headlining a roster of more than 200 presenters, Dr. Candy Singh, Roni Habib and Nicole Tucker-Smith were tapped as the keynote speakers for this year’s Professional Learning Institute. 

With a career that spans job titles from instructional aide to superintendent, Dr. Singh addressed the important roles that each school professional plays in delivering equitable education to all students in her keynote presentation, titled “Educational Leadership.”

“If we are going to move the needle to ensure that every child in our care makes progress, it’s going to take every single one of us,” Dr. Singh said Tuesday.   

Habib, the founder of EQ Schools, will take the stage on Wednesday to share his expertise on promoting happiness, resilience and purpose in education with a talk titled “Joyful and Effective Leadership.” 

The final keynote will be presented on Thursday by Nicole Tucker-Smith, CEO of Lessoncast, who will discuss “Ensuring Equity through a Healthy System of Support.”

The California MTSS PLI continues through Thursday. For more information on the conference, visit

Madeline Gray and Ian Hanigan contributed to this story.