Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) is a comprehensive framework used to provide targeted support for all learners. It is rooted in supporting the “whole child”, whether an advanced or struggling learner, through academic, behavioral, social and emotional services. The supports also extend to services such as improving chronic absenteeism and developing rigorous learning plans for high achievers.
MTSS includes researched-based principles and practices that increase the effectiveness of instruction for all students. The MTSS framework uses universal screening data to develop appropriate student interventions. Additionally, data is analyzed at the school, network and district level to clarify system-wide shifts that will sustain student growth over time.
Multi-Tiered System of Support is a schoolwide approach to student support. Teachers, counselors, psychologists and other specialists work as a team to assess and address student needs.
MTSS has a few components that ensure its success. Districts may prioritize them differently, but these are the essential elements that characterize the approach.
MTSS is a multi-tiered system of instruction and support in which teachers provide quality instruction across three tiers. Tier 1 is core instruction aligned to content standards appropriate for all students, including Bilingual and English Language Learners. This is essentially “great teaching.” The majority of learners should make sufficient growth in this tier.
Tier 2 is more strategic support that includes specialized services for 10-15% of the population. These students are in need of supplemental resources that extend beyond the range of Tier 1 services. Tier 3 includes the most intense support and is appropriate for about 1-5% of the student population. Here, students received more individualized support suited for their unique needs.
MTSS focuses on collecting universal screening data, reviewing state test scores, administering diagnostics, progress monitoring, and using teacher observations to inform decisions about tiered support placement.
MTSS improves student educational outcomes by ensuring the highest level of instructional expertise for teachers and service providers. Ongoing professional development is emphasized to ensure that educators are prepared to address a wide range of student needs.
Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports are integrated into MTSS practices. Because MTSS sees the needs of the “whole student”, its supports extend to addressing behavioral challenges to improve student outcomes.
It can be easy to confuse Multi-Tiered System of Support and Response to Intervention since both approaches are rooted in maximizing student learning in schools. Some schools use the terms interchangeably. Both include a multiple-step approach to addressing student needs, but MTSS is a more comprehensive approach that has been further developed in recent years.
Schools began using RTI as an alternative to overpopulation in special education. The process gave schools a multi-tiered approach to identifying student learning and behavioral needs early, thus giving schools an opportunity to intervene. Like MTSS, RTI includes universal screening, data analysis, intervention, assessment of progress, and revised practice. It may result in a student either continuing intervention to prevent a learning need from worsening or a referral to special education services to get more intensive support.
MTSS emphasizes multiple levels of instruction. However, it focuses on all learners, including higher performing students and students that don’t qualify for special education. MTSS may include a wider range of services within its tiers, focusing not only academics, but also behavioral, social and emotional supports.
MTSS is also not solely student focused. It ensures that practices, policies, and programs are aligned on classroom, school, and district levels. Additionally, MTSS emphasizes professional development and instructional support for general education and support staff to maximize effectiveness.
Some districts are encouraging schools to shift to a MTSS approach. It ensures that professional development is aligned across the school and district and encourages collaboration between general education and special education.
Let Kickboard support your school as you develop a Multi-Tiered System of Support to expand student outcomes. We have seen schools develop and improve MTSS systems using our mobile app, web platform and professional development services.