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Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Frequently Asked Questions

What does MTSS stand for?
MTSS is an acronym for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support.

What is the purpose of MTSS at the campus level?
MTSS is a framework for all instruction and support within a school campus and includes components to improve outcomes for all students—those who are struggling academically and/or behaviorally, those who are progressing within normal limits, and those who exhibit gifted/talented characteristics in one or more areas. Supports are developed and assigned in layers, or tiers, based on intensity of student need. Using a MTSS framework is intended to maximize instruction for all students by engaging in a continuous process of problem-solving based on data.

What is the purpose of MTSS at the district level?
The MTSS framework aligns and organizes supports across all district departments to optimize effective campus support. The district framework mirrors the campus framework, with support for students who are performing below grade level, on grade level, and above grade level. Additionally, supports available to campuses are layered (tiered) based on intensity.

Is MTSS primarily for students who are struggling academically?
No. MTSS is for all students—those who are struggling as well as those who need accelerated or enriched instruction. MTSS is a framework to maximize instruction for all students.

Why should schools use a common framework?
A common MTSS framework will strengthen implementation by helping schools engage in continuous problem-solving based on data to provide increasingly intensive supports and interventions. This helps schools develop and classify practices as primary (Tier 1), secondary (Tier 2), or tertiary (Tier 3.) These distinctions will help campus administrators and teachers assign staff, allocate resources, and create schedules in the most effective and efficient way.

How is MTSS different than RtI?
While RtI and MTSS are both structured into three tiers and sometimes used interchangeably, RtI has traditionally referred to academic interventions while PBIS referred to behavior interventions. MTSS is a comprehensive system that includes consideration of the whole child—academically, socially, and behaviorally. Examining all components of instruction is necessary; students whose academic needs are not being met may display behavior issues to mask those needs, and students whose behavior needs aren’t being met may begin to develop academic concerns. It’s important to consider both facets to address all students most effectively.

Which students are impacted by MTSS?
Because MTSS includes core instruction and practices, all students are impacted. At Tier 1, school staff engage in a continuous process of data collection and analysis to maximize core instruction, improve instructional practices, and provide differentiation strategies across the campus. A quality MTSS framework will improve instruction for all students.

What is universal screening?
NCRTI defines universal screening as brief assessments that are valid, reliable, and predict which students are likely to develop learning or behavioral problems. Screeners are conducted with all students to identify those who are at risk and may need intervention to supplement primary prevention (i.e., the core curriculum).

What is student progress monitoring?
NCRTI defines student progress monitoring as repeated measurement of performance over time to inform instruction of individual students. These tools must be reliable and valid for representing students’ development and have demonstrated utility for helping teachers plan more effective instruction. Progress monitoring is conducted at least monthly to measure rates of improvement and identify students who are not showing adequate progress.

What is student differentiation?
Teachers use student assessment data and knowledge of student readiness, learning preferences, language and culture to offer students in the same class different teaching and learning strategies to address their needs. Differentiation can involve mixed instructional groupings, team teaching, peer tutoring, learning centers, and accommodations to ensure that all students have access to the instructional program. Differentiated instruction is NOT the same as providing more intensive interventions to students with learning problems.

What is the MTSS Framework?
The MTSS Framework is a three-tiered system for delivering increasingly intensive interventions when students are not having their educational needs met. Tier 1 is considered “universal” and includes the quality academic, social-emotional, and behavior instruction and expectations for all students on a campus. Tier 2 provides “targeted” interventions to some students, usually in small groups. Tier 3 is intensive and individualized for the few students who have demonstrated a need for the most support.

Is MTSS primarily for students who may need a special education evaluation?
No. The purpose of MTSS is to engage in a continuous cycle of problem-solving based on data to provide immediate support when students have unmet educational needs. When effective, MTSS reduces the need for more restrictive educational placements for many students by intervening early. For students performing below grade-level, movement to less intensive Tiers is a high priority, when appropriate to the needs of each student. All school staff (teachers, administrators, counselors, social workers, interventionists, parent specialists, etc.) should work together to implement the MTSS framework for the benefit of all students on a campus.

Can students receive different levels of support in different areas at the same time?
Yes. Students should move back and forth across the levels based on their demonstrated success or difficulty at the intervention level, based on data. Also, students can receive intervention at one level while also receiving intervention or instruction at another level in a different area. For example, a student may receive Tier 2 intervention for reading, Tier 1 instruction for math, and Tier 3 behavior support.

Is MTSS a process where students progress sequentially from tier to tier?
Not necessarily. Movement among tiers should be fluid and based on level of need. A student with acute needs does not have to progress through the tiers to get intensive, individualized support. The level of intervention should match the level of need. Additionally, a student who is performing below grade level and needs additional support should not miss the core instruction provided in Tier 1.

How do students “qualify” for Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports and services?
Students are identified for intervention support through a careful process of problem-solving using data. School staff analyze results from universal screeners and diagnostic tests to determine students who need additional academic and/or behavioral support to maximize their potentials. Depending on the student’s level of need and how they have responded to previous efforts, the problem-solving team decides to continue at Tier 1 with differentiation and extra support, begin a Tier 2 (targeted) intervention, or begin a more intensive and individualized Tier 3 intervention. The decision is made by campus staff and based on student need.

How long should a student receive Tier 2 or Tier 3 supports?
A student should receive intervention as long as there is a demonstrated need. Some students will require intervention for a short period and return to Tier 1 supports. Other students may need Tier 2 or even Tier 3 interventions for a long time. One of the main components of an effective MTSS system is the on-going cycle in which school staff engage in a continuous process of problem-solving based on data. As students receive interventions, teachers periodically collect data to measure their response. For students who are performing below grade-level - when data indicates a student has reached a proficiency level that no longer needs the current intervention, the campus team will implement a less intensive intervention or return the student to Tier 1 supports only. If data indicates the student is making reasonable, slow, or no progress, the team will continue or intensify interventions. There are no set time limits for receiving interventions.