How to Implement a Successful MTSS Approach


MTSS is defined as a whole-school, data-driven, prevention-based framework for improving learning outcomes for EVERY student through a layered continuum of evidence-based practices and systems. There is no one way, approach, or curriculum for MTSS, it is rather a system and thought vehicle for schools to brainstorm and evaluate academic, behavioral, attendance, social, and emotional data and the supports that are in place for student success in all areas.

→ Learn how to implement schoolwide MTSS & RTI

Schools setting up an MTSS system engage in a thinking process around academic RTI (Response to Interventions) and behavioral PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention & Supports), their intensity based on student need and data-driven decision making for how each student responds to their interventions and how to make their interventions better. 

The MTSS tiers are: 

Core Classroom

      • Teachers effectively teach and differentiate research-based curriculum resulting in around 80% proficiency

 Small Group Interventions

      • Teachers use research-based, targeted small group interventions to support students who are not responding effectively to whole group instruction 

 Individual, Intensive Supports

      • Individual 1:1 support given to students needing intensive, research-based interventions

Administer Multiple Universal Screeners Each Year

MTSS uses universal screeners for all students to help schools make data-driven decisions, progress monitor their evidence-based interventions, and involve all stakeholders in decision making processes. These screeners should be administered three times per year. The first screener is essential to determine which students are behind or struggling in order to start interventions sooner rather than later. 

Create Strong Tier 1 Instruction 

Schools must ensure that their Tier 1 instruction is being implemented at the highest level. Teachers should be supported in understanding the curriculum, standards, and assessments for their grade level and content area. In addition, teachers should have ongoing professional development and coaching on how to provide scaffolding and differentiation of their grade level content and culture expectations. In distance learning, this will look like how to check for understanding virtually, ways to increase the cognitive lift of students, increasing student output, and how to scaffold and provide assistance to students who are either struggling or excelling. 

Uncover Student Motivations

MTSS helps equip students with the support they need to meet their academic and behavioral goals by focusing on two important things; motivation and interventions. Teachers must build meaningful relationships with students that will help them uncover what drives, motivates and inspires each student to learn and grow. Using these motivations will make school a fun and engaging place for each child to thrive.

Tier 2 and 3 Progress Monitoring Data Collection

For successful implementation, data needs to be documented and tracked for tier 2 and 3 interventions to measure their validity and reliability. It is important to track which interventions are and are not working for each student and how to adjust or modify the interventions accordingly. The school leadership team needs to work intimately with teachers to provide training on interventions, the materials needed for interventions, coaching in the classroom of their delivery of the interventions, and how to collect, analyze, and action plan from the data. 

This process will look different based on whether it is in-person interventions or online interventions. Leadership teams can provide expectations around how to deliver tier 2 and 3 interventions and schedule meetings with teachers to analyze intervention data and plan for action. 

Schedule Feedback Loops with Stakeholders

Schools already collect and track intervention data for students. However, too often, there is limited time dedicated for the teachers who are delivering the interventions to discuss their experience and feedback on the interventions, themselves. Asking questions like, “What worked well with this intervention? What was challenging with this type of intervention? What has helped you deliver this intervention? How did this impact student learning? What ideas do you have on how to improve this intervention?” This type of feedback loop paired with the progress monitoring data will help schools more successfully implement MTSS. 

Focusing on these areas will help schools not only implement a MTSS approach but do so successfully to where all students are learning and growing in all areas.