Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) for Your School


"Multi-Tiered System of Supports is a best practice model for meeting the needs of students with disabilities that takes the more focused RtI/PBIS response and connects them to an aligned system across local and statewide educational settings."

-- Statewide Special Education Task Force, Successful Educational Evidence Based Practices Committee Report, page 6.

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What is MTSS?

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) refers to the organizational framework of a school that has aligned its entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources to address the needs of all students. MTSS requires that schools intervene early and often and that they look at the whole child at once, not just academics or behavior in a silo, in order to use students' response to intervention data to find solutions.

MTSS looks at both academic and social/emotional outcomes and address them on three increasingly directed levels:

Tier 1: Universal - high quality instruction and school support for positive behavior. If Tier 1 is working, most students at the school will be successful without needing additional help.
Tier 2: Targeted - additional interventions that smaller groups of students might get if they need extra help to learn specific skills.
Tier 3: Intensive - interventions that are designed to help individual students who need the most extra help on specific skills. Students might need this help for a short period of time or for a longer period of time. Any student in the school may, at some point, need tier two or three help in order to learn all the necessary skills at their grade level.

What MTSS isn't:

  • It is not a new initiative, it is a construct
  • It is not a place to go. Students cannot be "sent" to MTSS.
  • It does not "lead towards special education"
  • It is not a special education framework or construct
  • It is not led by the special education team--it involves all staff
  • The social emotional part of MTSS is broader than just behavior, it is anything that can affect a student's learning.

Watch this webinar for a full discussion of MTSS:

Critical Components for MTSS to be Successful

Robust Data System

  • Inventory the school's current data collecting systems and decide if they track everything the school needs to track. If they don't, find ways to track the remaining information. Most schools keep this information in an early warning system, but it could live on an excel spreadsheet. It doesn't need to be complex, just reliable and refreshable.
    Examples: a student information tracking system, KAHN Academy, an excel sheet marking absences, a list of students who have been referred to the office, NWEA assessments, information on students who have been bullied.
  • Collect data weekly, if not daily. The school will need a set of regular ongoing academic data, not just summative assessments. That data will need to be readily available to staff.
    Examples: daily exit slips, weekly assessments housed in one system, DIBELS, attendance data, behavior data, family life data, office referrals, etc.
  • Collect baseline academic and social emotional data when students enroll.
    Example: Spend the first few days collecting and filling out intake questionnaires for all students. Find out what is going on at home (who they live with, who else lives there, if there is housing instability), in their lives, their educational experiences up until enrolling at your school. It's difficult to set-aside time to do this, and it's a lot of work on the front end, but it ultimately pays off to have taken a few days at the beginning of the year to gather this data.
  • Build out systems to monitor the success of both academic and social emotional supports. Assess whether they work. Monitor any social emotional service providers for effectiveness.

Clear Understanding of Expectations and Process for MTSS Understanding, Shared by All Staff

  • Everyone is engaged and willing to help.
  • Student supports are based on student needs. Students who need intense support (regardless of special education status) are immediately given additional help. Whatever the student needs to be successful, intensify supports to ensure they get it.
  • Build thresholds--how long do we let a student struggle with a concept or subject before we intervene? When we intervene, how long does one intervention last before moving on to the next intervention/strategy?
    Example: A flow chart could be good way to communicate process.
  • Ensure that adults have personalized professional development.
  • Ensure that adults know the supports and services on the menu at the school that are available to all students.
  • Sometimes the specialized providers may need to provide supports at that universal level, because that could prevent referrals and services later in life.
    Example: One or two co-taught lessons between the SLP and Kindergarten teacher.

Time and Patience

  • For school staff to plan
  • For students to respond

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