MTSS: Multi-Tiered System of Support

What is MTSS? 

Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) is a collaborative, evidence-based, approach to differentiating and personalizing instruction and intervention, across academics, social-emotional learning and behavior for all students—so that every student can achieve academic and life success.

MTSS is one of the most effective ways to provide an equitable educational experience because it leverages collective knowledge and expertise to help teachers understand their learners' needs and make informed and strategic decisions that best support them.

MTSS begins with teachers assessing the skills of everyone in the class, to proactively identify who may need additional support in an area (e.g. reading, math, behavior). Students then receive support (research-based, targeted instruction or intervention) matched both to their skills and level of need. Those students’ progress is monitored closely to ensure that the additional support is helping. If the achievement gap has resolved, the additional support in that area is no longer required; if it does not improve, then the level of personalization increases, further problem solving to understand why each student struggles, and to design a customized plan to support their needs in a defined and systematic way.

MTSS is not new. There are many academic experts and learning scientists ready to share the dos and don’ts of supporting the diversity of student learning needs. There are 1000s of research-backed interventions to choose from, tons of best practices to keep in mind, and so many data points to inform our data-driven decision-making. There is tremendous evidence supporting the power of an effective MTSS system to improve student outcomes for struggling learners, but there is also solidly convincing research that it improves student outcomes for ALL learners. A rising tide raises all boats.

 What are the Essential Components of MTSS?

According to the Center on Multi-Tiered System of Supports, at the American Institute for Research, a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is a proactive and preventative framework that integrates data and instruction to maximize student achievement and support students social, emotional, and behavior needs from a strengths-based perspective. MTSS offers a framework for educators to engage in data-based decision-making related to program improvement, high-quality instruction and intervention, social and emotional learning, and positive behavioral supports necessary to ensure positive outcomes for districts, schools, teachers, and students. The MTSS framework is comprised of four essential components: 1) screening, 2) progress monitoring, 3) multi-level prevention system, and 4) data-based decision. Depending on state law, MTSS data may also support the identification of students with learning disabilities or other special education needs.

  1. Screening

Screening is generally conducted 3 times a year, to identify students who may be at risk for poor outcomes, and need additional academic, social, emotional and behavioral support. Screening is also used to identify patterns and trends of learning and achievement at the school- and grade-levels. 

  1. Multi-Level Prevention System

Multi-level prevention system includes a continuum (tier 1, 2, and 3)  of integrated academic, social, emotional and behavioral, instructional and intervention supports that are evidence-based and culturally and linguistically responsive

  1. Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring uses valid and reliable tools and processes, to assess performance, quantify the improvement of responsiveness to intervention and instruction, and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction, interventions, and support

Data-Based Decision Making

Data-based decision making includes data analysis and problem-solving through team meetings, to make decisions about instruction, intervention, implementation, and disability identification  (in accordance with state law)

 What are some of the Guiding Principles of MTSS?

MTSS is for ALL students.

  1. Educators must work proactively to support students’ learning needs. 

  2. ALL students can learn.

  3. ALL available resources are accessible to teach all students.

Scientific, research-based core instruction and intervention is the foundation for success.

  • Core Curriculum: To ensure students have the best chance at success, use strategies with a scientific, research-base. 

  • Tiered Levels of Support: Beyond the core curriculum, match students’ instruction/support to the level and intensity of their need. The levels of support provided to students are based on increasing level of student needs, which is organized through a tiered framework: 

  • Tier 1: whole class core instruction

  • Tier 2: whole class core instruction + additional targeted instruction (often small group)

  • Tier 3: whole class core instruction + additional targeted instruction + intensive intervention


To Learn More: Deeper Dive into MTSS