The MTSS Model: What You Need to Know

  (Updated May 12, 2022)
Emily Coleman
Emily Coleman
English language development teacher for a cyber charter school; Ph.D. candidate in Strategic Leadership and Administrative Studies with Education concentration

Teachers and administrators have created many different methods and strategies to improve student success throughout time. Some have lasted the test of time while others have not. Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) model is at the forefront in many school districts.

What is the MTSS Model?

The MTSS model supports students and teachers at all grade levels. MTSS is a data-driven model to look at all students and identify those who may have behavior or learning needs. MTSS provides individualized instruction to help facilitate the fullest potential of learners.

Typically, teachers and administrators review achievement and progress to ensure a successful school experience. The MTSS model of intervention team meets and develops a plan to address these gaps when weaknesses or deficiencies are found.

What are the Main Components of the MTSS Model?

Some of the components of MTSS have come from the Response to Intervention (RTI) framework and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) implementation. However, MTSS goes even further with identifying and supporting students.

All students fall into three tiers in the MTSS model.

Tier One

Students in Tier One are considered the Core Instruction group. These students learn at roughly grade level or above and are least likely to fall behind or need intervention. Schools use data to identify and ensure that those students in this group do not need extra support. Progress monitoring or benchmark testing can give the required data to show why certain students are identified as Tier One.

Tier One supports are known as “universal” supports. These are provided to all students to ensure high-quality instruction and the opportunity for social-emotional learning. A goal of Tier One is to have a positive school climate for all.

Tier Two

Tier Two is Group Instruction. These students need a little extra support in meeting academic and behavioral goals. Around 15 to 20 percent of students fall into this category. Schools may have these students meet weekly small group sessions, drop-in centers, or reading groups. These types of support assist these students in catching up to their peers in Tier One and seeing response in intervention.

Additional Tier Two supports would include working with students on their study skills and finding what works best for them. Another would be helping a student set goals and make a plan to reach those goals.

Tier Three

Tier Three is Intensive Intervention. Students placed into Tier Three lag their peers academically or behaviorally by two or more years. One to five percent of students receive this level of intervention. They need individualized support and assistance and have not responded to interventions in Tier One or Tier Two. These students may receive one-on-one tutoring, have a reading specialist, or meet with a behavioral therapist.

What are the Benefits of Using the MTSS Model?

The MTSS model is an excellent framework for teachers and administrators to identify students’ needs and then create strategies to get students to reach their fullest potential. MTSS helps teachers and students make better academic choices and focus attention on specific student needs. MTSS helps enhance learning by addressing students at-risk with instruction that adjusts and meets their educational needs.

These multiple tiers of instruction, intervention, and support can increase student success, leading to positive outcomes for all. Districts will have more positive environments, resulting in compassionate schools. Students will feel as though they are more “cut out” for school, see their potential, and have the tools to reach it.

What Challenges did Remote and Hybrid Learning Present?

The MTSS model needs teacher, parent, and student input. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, many relationships among families and the schools were shut off. Students who had difficulty accessing technology needed to suddenly switch to online learning. Teachers could not get their students to meet in small groups or individual sessions in person.

Providing the needed behavioral support was challenging during remote and hybrid learning. Students were used to working with behavioral specialists weekly and some missed many weeks before they were set up to meet virtually. Additionally, some therapists and behavior specialists may not have been trained to work with students over the computer, which would present a challenging time identifying new problems that a student was facing.

Remote and hybrid learning also posed challenges for crisis response teams in school districts. Early in the pandemic, no one was allowed to make house calls. It was very difficult for teams to reach students and their families. It was even more challenging for educators because more and more students were needing Tier Two and Tier Three supports. Teachers could see that their students were struggling with online learning, yet they did not have the tools to support them during this time.

Remote and hybrid learning due to the pandemic exposed many needs in school districts. They saw that they did not have the tools ready to go to work in a virtual world. Luckily, many have come up with ways to ensure that all students receive the support and interventions they need, whether face-to-face or in a virtual setting.

Finally, for MTSS to function appropriately, there needs to be adequate and appropriate staff. Small groups and one-on-one sessions may require extra staff and proper scheduling. For MTSS to be beneficial and meaningful, a school must have support and staff in place.

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*Updated May 2022

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