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A whole-child framework

Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a framework used by schools to identify and provide immediate intervention for students with academic and behavioral needs.   

Some educators use the terms, MTSS and Response to Intervention (RTI) interchangeably; however, they are not the same. In 2004, the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act allowed the use of RTI as an option to identify and support students with learning disabilities. 

Although RTI and MTSS share many components, RTI focuses on academic success, while MTSS considers the whole student.  MTSS focuses on academic success, plus behavior and social-emotional needs. 

MTSS lays out a multi-tiered structure that schools can use to organize their existing staff, assessments, instruction, and resources. MTSS does not require using a specific core reading program. Although each school’s MTSS framework may look different, one aspect remains unchanged: an array of evidence-based instruction to be delivered consistently that is aligned with assessed needs will drive student success.   

The goals of an MTSS framework are to:

  • Prevent academic and behavior failure
  • Identify struggling learners early
  • Identify social-emotional and behavioral needs of students
  • Promote high quality instruction for all students
  • Provide immediate access to intervention 
  • Meet the needs of students with disabilities

Watch the RTI Action Network video as Colleen Riley explains Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS)

The essential ingredients of MTSS include:

  • School-wide model to prevent academic, social-emotional, and behavioral failure
  • Universal screening to identify students who need help
  • Diagnostic tools to identify learning  and behavior needs
  • Organizing learning and resources by tiers:
    • Tier 1 — General classroom instruction
    • Tier 2 — Small-group targeted support for at-risk students
    • Tier 3 —  Intensive individualized intervention delivered by a reading specialist or special educator
  • Use of ongoing progress monitoring tools to guide instruction and interventions
  • Checks to insure consistent, timely, and coordinated instruction and intervention
3 RTI tiers

Screening and Assessment

Learn more about the four types of reading assessments: universal screeners, diagnostic tests, progress monitoring tools, and summative assessments. It’s important to begin by asking yourself: “What do I want to know about my students? What do I want to assess?

Similar terms 

Here are two similar terms that you may hear in your school. Don’t get confused! Both RTI and PBIS fall under an MTSS framework.