The Core Components of MTSS
Education models are constantly in a state of development and change. Over the past few years, many well-known and supported models such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Response to Intervention (RTI), and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) have been effective in addressing many of the issues that students and school systems face while growing academic achievement. Today, though, more schools are incorporating a system-wide approach that encompasses many programs, rather than relying on a singular solution. This Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) helps educators see a fuller picture and ensures that all students are given the same opportunity to succeed.
What is MTSS?
MTSS is a system-wide model that provides a continuum of supports to address the academic and non-academic needs of all students. It provides opportunities to identify at-risk students in academic areas and pinpoint barriers to learning that may impact a student’s success. The core components of MTSS include:
Multi-tiered system for interventions and supports
System-wide implementation and collaboration
Using a comprehensive set of services, resources, and cohesive strategies, districts around the country are utilizing the MTSS framework to meet the needs of all learners. These encompass both academic (including reaching state testing requirements) and non-academic (including behavior and social/emotional needs).
One of the key components of MTSS is the tiered structure that offers a range of interventions based on the needs of individual students. Once a skill deficit or need is identified, students are given the targeted interventions or the appropriate additional supports. A student’s responsiveness to the provided support is monitored, then a determination is made about whether they need additional support or if that supplemental support can be removed.
Tier 1: The first tier consists of high-quality, universal (core) instruction for all students. In this tier, educators are responsible for delivering engaging and effective differentiated instruction, as well as behavior strategies and supports to maximize achievement for all students.
Tier 2: When students identified as having a need or skill deficit are not responding to Tier 1 strategies, they may be designated for Tier 2 interventions and support. These interventions are supplemental to the core instruction and strategies used in Tier 1, and are often delivered in small group settings for students with similar needs.
Tier 3: More intensive interventions may be necessary for the few students who are not responding to the instruction and interventions in Tier 1 and Tier 2. Tier 3 interventions are highly individualized to address the specific needs and barriers to success that students encounter.
Universal screening and progress monitoring
Universal screening helps identify students making appropriate progress, those who may need extra support, and those requiring more intensive interventions. For struggling students, universal screening allows for early detection and intervention to reach these grade level benchmarks. However, MTSS is comprehensive in that it addresses students who are high achievers as well as those who need support.
Progress monitoring is done on a frequent basis and is used to make decisions in a timely manner rather than waiting for mid-year or end-of-year exams. Due to this ongoing monitoring, students are able to receive variable tiered supports as needed. In practice, this may be a student who has been successful in mastering a skill and no longer requires an intervention. On the other hand, early detection may show a student is in the early stages of struggling and may require more intensive instructional support than what is provided in their current placement.
Under the MTSS framework, all decisions are based on data collected through assessments. This includes a multi-step decision-making process that takes into account gathering and analyzing data, implementation of meaningful changes, and an evaluation to determine effectiveness. Data also provides helpful insight into the effectiveness of the instruction and curriculum for high-quality Tier 1 instruction and supplemental interventions.
MTSS requires a dedicated team approach. Teams meet to create and embed systems of support, as well as to provide training and resources for those who will be implementing the systems. Additionally, problem-solving and decisions regarding student performance and needs are conducted through a team. Some of these teams include:
District and building leadership teams
Cross-school student support teams
Grade-level or academic teams
Teams have regular and ongoing conversations about what is happening, what the data is showing, and what needs to be changed in order to promote achievement. Additionally, the administration has the responsibility under MTSS to provide support not only to students but also to educators through professional development, time to work with teams, resources, and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues on strategies.
According to District Administration Magazine, collaboration between family/community and school is also a major factor in the success of MTSS. This is particularly important for identifying and supporting students' non-academic needs, including those that may adversely impact attendance, behavior, or other factors that could influence a student’s ability to learn.
MTSS serves as an umbrella for numerous programs, strategies, and interventions to address the academic and non-academic needs of all students. With proper implementation, utilizing this system of supports can make a significant and sustainable difference in student achievement.
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