What is MTSS?
The Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework that helps educators identify students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional strengths and challenges and provide differentiated support for students based on their needs. MTSS is grounded in the belief that all students can learn, and all school professionals are responsive to the academic and behavioral needs of all students. MTSS focuses on evidence-based practices, relies on student progress data to inform instructional decisions, and ensures that each student, based on their unique needs, receives the level and type of support necessary to be successful (Every Student Succeeds Act, NYSED).
An MTSS framework is composed on three tiers:
Tier 1: whole class data-driven differentiated core instruction
Tier 2: whole class differentiated instruction + small group targeted instruction (in addition to the core instruction)
Tier 3: whole class differentiated instruction + small group targeted instruction (often small group in addition to core instruction) + intensive support
At Tier 1, all students receive scientific, research-based core instruction implemented with integrity and emphasizing grade-level standards and school-wide behavioral expectations. Instruction at Tier 1 should be explicit, differentiated, and include flexible grouping and active student engagement. High-quality instruction is essential to ensure that at least 80% of students’ needs are met at Tier 1. Features of high-quality, research-based instruction include (Chard et al., 2008):
Systematic Explicit Instruction
Active Student Engagement
Classroom Behavior Strategies
At Tier 2, students identified as being at-risk academically or behaviorally through universal screeners are provided scientific, research-based interventions in addition to the core instruction at Tier 1. Approximately 5-15% of students will need supplemental instruction at a Tier 2 level of support to become proficient. Tier 2 interventions are implemented with groups of students demonstrating common skill deficits or social/emotional/behavioral risk characteristics. Student data should be monitored via a platform or a system where a collaborative intervention plan is developed, monitored, and documented. Targeted group interventions typically involve additional blocks of instruction (outside of core instruction) provided each week.
Students who have not demonstrated adequate progress with targeted group interventions at a Tier 2 level of support require more time more intensive interventions. Tier 3 interventions are distinguished from Tier 2 interventions because they are individualized based on data collected and occur with smaller student-teacher ratios (e.g., ideally 1-on-1, however, groups of 3 to 5 students or a larger group broken into a few groups of 3-5 students, is acceptable for middle and high schools), and possibly occur for a longer duration of time (e.g., more daily minutes or more weeks spent in intervention). Typically, about 1-5% of students will require this level of intensive support. This can vary year to year based on student need.
Tiers of support can be delivered by classroom teachers, intervention teachers, academic support instructors, mental health providers and teaching assistants, under the supervision of a teacher, depending on the programming and level of support need.