What is Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS)?


Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a proactive, holistic tiered system of support designed so that all students have equitable access to high-quality instruction and interventions to meet all student needs.

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. Utilizing an MTSS framework approach helps educators prepare, monitor, and improve their interventions for supporting students academically, behaviorally, socially, and emotionally.

→  Use Our Guide to Effectively Implement MTSS!

What are the Components of MTSS?

Multi Tiered Systems of Support or MTSS have a few components that ensure its success. School districts may prioritize them differently, but these are the essential elements that characterize the approach.

MTSS Framework for Instruction and Intervention

MTSS is a comprehensive framework or multiple tiers of instruction and support in which teachers provide quality instruction across three tiers.

  • Tier 1 is whole group instruction for 80-85% of students
  • Tier 2 is small group instruction for 10-15% of students
  • Tier 3 is 1 on 1 instruction for 1-5% of students

Tier 1

Tier 1 is high-quality, universal instruction aligned to content standards appropriate for all students, including Bilingual and English Language Learners composed of 80-85% of the student population. This is essentially “great teaching” that all students receive in the classroom each day. The majority of learners should make sufficient growth in this tier. Teachers should use differentiated instruction and best evidence-based practices in Tier 1.

Tier 2

Tier 2 is more strategic and targeted 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. Students in Tier 2 have been identified through assessments as struggling in a particular area and should receive interventions in a small group with students based on that same need.

Tier 3

Tier 3 includes the most intensive interventions and support services and is appropriate for about 1-5% of the student population. Here, students received more individualized 1-on-1 support suited for their unique needs with a teacher.

Data-Based Decision Making

MTSS focuses on collecting and using data-based decision-making from the assessment system: universal screeners, state test scores, diagnostics assessments, progress monitoring tools, and teacher observation records to inform decisions about tiered support placement.

After teachers administer diagnostic or universal screeners in the MTSS process, they must analyze the data to help them in identifying students who are struggling. From there the essential components of Tier 2 and 3 interventions can be crafted: the specific intervention chosen, goals set, group creation, location chosen, teacher assignments, progress monitoring tools chosen or created, and frequency of progress monitoring and analysis.

School Culture

MTSS is a school-wide proactive approach to student supports and expectations which feeds into a positive school culture. There is an increased level of relationship building, collaboration, and teamwork among the staff members in a school that uses MTSS. Teachers, counselors, psychologists, and other specialists work as a team to assess and address student needs. Student culture is more positive because the way teachers and students interact and speak is more positive because of the positive language used and the rewards given for positive behavior like Kickboard points.

Supporting Tier 1 Instruction

MTSS is a framework that improves student outcomes by ensuring the highest level of instructional expertise for teachers and service providers. Tier 1 instruction is comprised of high-quality, differentiated core instruction where teachers are using best strategies for 80-85% of students to be successful.

Teachers should be trained first in best evidence-based practices and teaching strategies for whole group instruction. Subsequent support for Tier 1 instruction should focus on how to collect formative data during instruction and ways to differentiate instruction for struggling students and excelling students during lessons.

Supporting Struggling Students at Tier 2 and 3 Instruction

Educators should receive training in how to read, analyze, and action plan from data. Teachers need practice and support in determining what specific skills, strengths, and deficits different data sets show like word accuracy, segmentation, blending, calculation, frustration from being corrected for behavior in front of peers, etc.

Districts need to train their staff in how to determine which intervention is necessary to support each student, resources needed, and small groups creation. This work is essential in identifying students early who need support to catch them up to their peers.


For an MTSS framework to be successful, districts must hire and train staff in their tiered system of supports. For sustained success, schools must build the capacity of their staff and build leadership within their staff to lead small teams and trainings in MTSS. Trainings are emphasized to ensure that educators are prepared to address a wide range of student needs throughout the three tiers of instruction.

Educators will constantly be progress monitoring their students to assess if interventions are working and what additional supports are needed. Leadership should be present in classrooms giving support and coaching during Tier 1, 2, and 3 instruction to teachers and students.

Teacher Reflection

MTSS data should be used in analyzing teacher effectiveness and help teachers make the necessary adjustments for all students to reach their academic and behavioral goals in the classroom. For example, if less than 80%-85% of students are successful in whole classroom instruction, or Tier 1, this data shows that Tier 1 instruction needs to be strengthened. Teachers should make adjustments to their whole group lessons based on data collected and analyzed from Tier 2 and 3 interventions.

Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports

Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports are integrated into MTSS practices. Because MTSS sees the needs of the “whole student,” the supports extend to addressing behavioral challenges to improve student outcomes. This approach encourages and develops positive behavior for student success because students are acknowledged for their positive behavior instead of just reactively addressing negative behaviors.

Read more: What Is PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports)?

School Climate

MTSS supports a positive school climate because it is an umbrella term that includes PBIS. Schools that use PBIS values relationship building as an important component of their school climate. Using key components of PBIS in a positive way supports student academic and behavioral success.

Community Engagement

Many schools that engage their community partners are more successful in meeting student needs because students know they have a whole community of support working together to help them. Positive relationships with families and community partnerships support students in their behavioral and academic performance because there is constant communication about where the student is currently at and what needs to be done at home, school, and in the community to help students be successful.

How does Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) and Response to Intervention (RTI) Differ?

It can be easy to confuse the 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 who don’t qualify for special education. MTSS may include a wider range of services within its tiers, focusing not only on 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 an MTSS approach. It ensures that professional development is aligned across the school and district and encourages collaboration between general education and special education.

→  Download our RTI meeting protocol to help your team run & improve your RTI program.

How Kickboard Supports MTSS Implementation

Districts and schools that use a multiple tiered system of supports increase their effectiveness and efforts. Educators benefit from using the essential components of the MTSS framework and how they work cohesively together to help students be successful. Kickboard helps with MTSS implementation because educators can log, track, analyze academic and behavioral data at different tiers of instruction. Kickboard is used in the data collection and analysis at the school, network, and district levels to clarify system-wide shifts that will sustain student growth over time.

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.