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Shaping mindsets and implementing policies and practices that are equity- and inclusion-focused is primarily an adaptive, rather than a technical, challenge. As such, these actions require broad partnership and investment, collective action, and continuous learning and improvement cycles. The Colorado MTSS framework can guide the implementation planning process and build the structures necessary for continuous improvement.

Colorado Multi-Tiered System of Supports (COMTSS) is a prevention-based framework using team-driven leadership and data-based problem solving to improve the outcomes of every student through family, school, and community partnerships, comprehensive assessment, and a layered continuum of supports. Implementation science and universal design for learning are employed to create one integrated system that focuses on increasing academic and behavioral outcomes to equitably support the varying needs of all students.

Using systems level thinking to equip staff, teachers, and families will ensure that all students are afforded the opportunity to obtain an equitable education to succeed academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally over their lifespan.

COMTSS includes five Essential Components that create a more efficient and effective system of supports that benefit the outcomes of all students including those in low performing schools:

  1. Team-Driven Shared Leadership: Teaming processes and structures that focus on distributing responsibility and shared decision-making across and within regions, districts, and schools to effectively design and use systems of training, coaching, resources, implementation, and evaluation.
  2. Data-Based Problem Solving and Decision-Making: A continuous improvement process used by teams to collect,analyze, and evaluate information to inform decision making at the system and student levels.
  3. Family, School, and Community Partnerships: Families, early-childhood programs, schools, and communities actively partnering to develop, implement, and evaluate effective and equitable practices to improve educational outcomes for children and youth.
  4. Comprehensive Screening and Assessment System: A Comprehensive Screening and Assessment System is the coordinated effort of gathering information across multiple measures to support decision making at the system and student level for the whole child.
  5. Layered Continuum of Supports (LCS) (Evidence Based Practices, Instruction, and Interventions): Ensuring that every student receives equitable whole child supports that are evidenced based, culturally responsive, matched to need, and developmentally appropriate through layered supports.

Colorado’s approach to improvement planning is “that by engaging in a continuous improvement cycle to manage performance, districts and schools will be more effective and student outcomes will improve” (Colorado Department of Education Unified Improvement Planning Handbook, April 2023). Specifically, Colorado describes the following four activities: 


Colorful arrows in a circle. From the top and moving right and down: evaluate, plan, implement.




  • Focus attention on the right things (performance indicators)


  • Evaluate performance by gathering, analyzing and interpreting data about performance

  • Plan improvement strategies based on performance data and root cause analysis


  • Implement planned improvement strategies

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What can I learn in this section?

This section of the toolkit aims to support you in implementing continuous improvement cycles with a renewed or sharpened focus on equity toward the following goals:

  • Ensuring action is taken (empowering others, initiating change, locating resources) toward creating and sustaining a more equitable and inclusive learning environment
  • Designing, refining and implementing policies and practices that respect families’ languages, race/ethnicity and neighborhoods and recognize diverse families as partners
  • Identifying and breaking down barriers to success for all student populations by creating conditions for underrepresented groups to participate fully while maintaining their cultural differences
  • Harnessing aspects of culture to optimize effective teaching, learning and leadership
  • Promoting community building to achieve common goals among disparate constituents

Importantly, understanding ourselves, others and the context we work in are essential steps in taking action to effectively solve a challenge. Implementing an equity-focused plan is not possible without first engaging in the work of Understanding Self, Understanding Others and Understanding Context. Content in all those sections is relevant to the continuous improvement process.

Planning and action that happen without work to understand yourself and others in your school community may inadvertently regress equity. If you have come directly to this Implementation section, please refer back to the first three sections before proceeding. 

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Self Assessment

Take the assessments below to evaluate where your strengths and opportunities for improvement lie when it comes to understanding the context you’re working in. 

Likert Scale: Never (1), Rarely (2), Sometimes (3), Frequently (4), Always (5) 

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Where to begin?

Regardless of where you and your school are in your current continuous improvement cycle, it is always the right time to infuse equity-based decision-making into work that supports students and school staff.

If you are in the midst of implementing an already finalized improvement plan and want ideas for continuing to implement with equity in mind, Entry Point 1 may be the most helpful. If you are looking forward to planning your school or districts next strategic improvement plan from scratch, Entry Point 2 provides more comprehensive guidance and examples.   

Entry Point 1

Entry Point 1: Implementing a current improvement plan with an equity mindset

For administrators who are in the middle of implementing their district or school’s UIP or a 90-day plan, Colorado READ Act strategies or any other improvement plan.

Entry Point 2

Entry Point 2: Designing a future improvement plan with equity in mind

For administrators who are drafting or considering future improvement plans. 

In addition to ongoing, system-level equity work, you may find yourself at Entry Point 3, needing a plan to respond immediately to a specific incident of racial harm or other identity-based harm. While we often see harm occurring in schools based on a student’s race, harm can occur based on a wide variety of student-identity characteristics. 

For example, a student may be targeted due to being a native or indigenous person, living in poverty, having a disability, identifying as LGBTQ+, being a refugee or immigrant, speaking a particular language, belonging to a particular religious group or being of a particular sex or gender, among others. These harms can occur during or between classes, outside of school and online via social media.

 Planning a response protocol ahead of time ensures administration can respond quickly and effectively when an incident arises. Some suggestions for creating a response are available in Responding Immediately to Racial and Other Identity-Based Harm in the Resource Appendix. After addressing any specific incident that arises, school or district leadership should think about how to address the problematic behavior at a system level, utilizing Entry Point 1 or Entry Point 2. 

Go back to the Understanding Context page.

Go to Entry Point 1 page.

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A-Z Glossary

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