- MTSS is a framework that many schools use to provide targeted support to struggling students.
- It screens all kids and aims to address behavioral as well as academic issues.
- The goal of MTSS is to intervene early so students can catch up with their peers.
A multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) is a phrase you may hear about at school or from other parents. You may hear it called the MTSS framework, the MTSS process or the MTSS model.
No matter what it’s called, MTSS has a very important goal. It’s designed to help schools identify struggling students early and to intervene quickly.
MTSS is a framework that many schools use to provide targeted support to struggling students. It focuses on the “whole child.” MTSS supports academic growth and achievement, but it also supports many other areas. This includes behavior, social and emotional needs, and absenteeism.
The multi-tiered supports are a huge part of MTSS. These tiers of support increase in intensity from one level to the next. For example, some kids receiving small-group interventions may need to “move up” to one-on-one help.
MTSS isn’t a particular “curriculum.” It’s a proactive approach that has several key elements:
- Universal screening for all students early in each school year
- Increasing levels of targeted support for those who are struggling
- Integrated plans that address students’ academic, behavioral, social and emotional needs
- The use of evidence-based strategies
- A school-wide approach to student support. Teachers, counselors, psychologists and other specialists work as a team when they assess students and plan interventions.
- Professional development so staff can deliver interventions and monitor progress effectively
- Family involvement so parents can understand the interventions and provide support at home
- Frequent monitoring of students’ progress so educators can use this data to help decide if more interventions are needed
Some school districts use a system with four tiers of support. But it’s more common for districts to use three tiers. Here is a basic outline of how a three-tiered system works.
- Tier 1: The Whole Class. All students are taught with methods that research has shown to be effective. All students are screened to see who is and isn’t responding to these strategies. Kids may be broken into small groups that address different strengths and areas of need.
- Tier 2: Small Group Interventions. Some students receive more targeted support in small groups. The scheduling of these interventions is important. The goal is to keep students from missing any core instruction or other Tier 1 activities that might make it harder to catch up.
- Tier 3: Intensive, Individualized Support. A few students who move up to this most intensive level of support continue with Tier 1 activities. Their break-out groups are smaller than in Tier 2. And these sessions last longer and are more narrowly focused.
MTSS is an “umbrella” term. It includes some multi-tier systems of support you may know already:
- Response to Intervention (RTI) focuses on academics. It identifies kids who are struggling. And it provides increasing levels of support to help them catch up. Tier 1 is class-wide instruction and support. Ideally Tier 2 interventions are scheduled so students won’t miss any core instruction. The same is true for Tier 3.
- Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a school-wide system. All students are taught how they are expected to behave. And these expectations are described in a positive way. (“Be respectful” instead of “Don’t talk back.”)
There may be incentives or rewards for good behavior. And a tiered system supports struggling students. The focus overall is not on punishing kids. It’s on helping them meet expectations and contribute to a positive learning environment.
MTSS and Special Education
A special education evaluation is usually the next step if students don’t make enough progress in Tier 3. But they reach this point with lots of documentation. And data from the MTSS process can be helpful when developing an .
The goal of MTSS is to screen early and to deliver targeted support quickly. It can also help schools tell the difference between kids who have not had good instruction in the past and those who truly need special education.
But parents don’t have to wait for their child to go through all phases of MTSS before they request an evaluation for special education. They can ask for an evaluation at any point.
The school can refuse to conduct an evaluation. But it must notify the parent in writing. And the parent could then file a complaint or seek due process. MTSS can’t be used to delay or deny evaluations of students suspected of having a disability.
writes for digital and print, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping, and Martha Stewart.
Melody Musgrove, EdD
served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.
Considering Tier 3 Within a Response-to-Intervention Model
by Ruth A. Ervin, Ph.D., University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Schools can be viewed as intervention systems focused on promoting outcomes (e.g., literacy, social-emotional competence, etc.) deemed important to society (Deno, 2002). This is a complex task considering the nature of learning and development and the growing diversity of problems and issues facing school-aged youth.
Research on child development informs us that children learn and develop skills at different rates. Specifically, children enter the learning environment with different skill sets, and an individual child’s Response to Intervention (RTI) is unique and dependent on biology, social learning history, and context.
To reach desired outcomes in school, some students may require additional or unique instructional strategies or interventions beyond those typically available. Thus, for schools to meet the needs of all students it is important to establish a comprehensive continuum of multi-layered or multi-tiered systems of prevention/intervention services.
This continuum should include intervention options of varying intensity that can be linked to the specific learning needs of students who are experiencing difficulties.
To ensure that prevention and intervention strategies are provided in a timely manner and to students who need them, schools should establish a clear process for a) determining which students are experiencing difficulties, b) selecting intervention strategies or supports and matching these supports to students, and c) evaluating whether the intervention strategies are helpful to students.
One common multi-layered arrangement involves three tiers of prevention or intervention supports to students. At Tier 1 (i.e., primary prevention/intervention), universal (i.e., school-wide) prevention efforts are established to promote learning for all students, anticipating that most students (e.g.
, 80%) will respond to these strategies and will not require additional intervention.
For example, a school considering Tier 1 activities might adopt a research-based reading curriculum and screen all students for reading problems three times per year to determine which students might need supports beyond the school-wide reading curriculum.
At Tier 2 (secondary prevention or strategic intervention), students who are identified as being at-risk of experiencing problems receive supplemental or small-group interventions. For example, when school-wide screening reveals that some students (e.g.
, 15%) in Grade 3 are at risk of developing reading problems, the school might provide supplemental reading support through a classwide peer tutoring intervention.
Similarly, when school-wide data indicate that higher rates of office discipline referrals are occurring on the playground, the school improvement team might look into interventions that promote appropriate playground play (e.g., Ervin, Schaughency, Matthews, Goodman, & McGlinchey, 2007).
At Tier 3 (tertiary prevention), an additional layer of intensive supports is available to address the needs of a smaller percentage of students (e.g., 2%–7%) who are experiencing problems and are at risk of developing more severe problems. At Tier 3, the goal is remediation of existing problems and prevention of more severe problems or the development of secondary concerns as a result of persistent problems. For example, at Tier 3, a student whose reading performance falls significantly below that of his or her peers, despite intervention, might receive intensive reading support from the learning assistant four times per week with close monitoring of his or her progress.
The purpose of this article is to provide a general overview of special considerations pertaining to the provision of Tier 3 prevention and intervention efforts. Specifically, this article describes a self-questioning process to guide decision making at Tier 3. For each step of the process, readers are referred to additional references and resources.
Establishing a Process to Guide Decision Making at Tier 3
As noted earlier, within a multi-tier RTI approach it is important to establish a process for a) determining which students are experiencing difficulties, b) selecting intervention strategies or supports and matching these supports to students, and c) evaluating whether the intervention strategies are helpful. At each tier along the continuum, the process may vary in its intensity, yet it will always follow a consistent series of questions or steps. Practitioners can guide their decision making by adhering to a self-questioning process wherein they ask themselves the following questions:
Who is experiencing a problem and what specifically is the problem?
What intervention strategies can be used to solve the problem or reduce its severity?
Did the problem (or problems) go away or decline in severity as a result of the intervention(s)?
This self-questioning process is familiar to most educators and is used formally or informally by many effective teachers as they proactively work to assess the progress of students in their classrooms.
For example, teachers who are responsive to the individual needs of students in their classrooms regularly assess students’ skills and responsiveness to instructional strategies, providing additional supports and remediation at a whole-class, small-group, or individual level as necessary.
In school-wide, multi-tier approaches to RTI, a similar, but often more formalized, process is applied at a whole-school, classroom, and individual student level. Across tiers, the nature of services and support provided are differentiated on the basis of the intensity of the problems and the magnitude of need.
At Tier 3, efforts focus on the needs of individual students who are experiencing significant problems in academic, social, and/or behavioral domains. Thus, the process at this level is more intensive and individualized than it is at other levels.
In the sections that follow, considerations during each step of a Tier 3 self-questioning process are discussed.
Step 1: Who is experiencing a problem and what, specifically, is the problem?
A Three-Tiered Approach to Good Writing
1. Know Your Topic—And Your Audience
For most good writing, a key first step is research. This doesn’t just apply to academic writing—being informed about your subject matter and your audience is important no matter what your subject is. Even a half hour of online research can go a long way toward avoiding mistakes or incorrect assumptions, and it will give authority to your writing.
For instance, if you’re writing a cover letter for a job or school application, make sure you’ve done your homework on what the job is or why the program appeals to you.
Then use what you learn to offer specifics: “Your business school’s international experience program is of interest to me because I hope to someday work in digital marketing for an international company.
” Adding in these types of specifics will not only impress your reader, it makes for more interesting writing—vague equals dull.
As a bonus, doing your research will make the writing process itself much easier and may actually save you time. Instead of struggling to crank out flowery language, the words will flow because you’ve educated yourself and truly have something valuable to say on the topic.
2. Trim the Fat
Usually, the first version of any sentence you write can benefit from some trimming. Show that you respect your reader’s time and his or her need for clarity by putting thought into whether each of your words serves a purpose.
- Watch for words that are frequent space-wasting culprits. For example:
- ● Very, really, actually: You really actually never need these words.
- ● In order to: Just “to” usually does the job.
● Currently, now, at this point: Your sentence should already be in present tense if you’re using one of these words. For instance, “I am currently a graduate student in biology” = “I am a graduate student in biology.”
The Pick Essay Volume 42: A Response to Intervention: An Overview
- Drenean M. Francois-Brown
- Course: Education 654
- Instructor: Dr. Cynthia Elliott
- Assignment: Language Arts Writing
In an effort to respond appropriately to the needs of their students, many districts have implemented the Response-to-Intervention approach to provide assistance to struggling students.
Response-to-Intervention (RTI or RtI) is a method of academic intervention aimed at providing effective instructional support to students experiencing difficulties in reading, mathematics, and/or behavior. The RTI approach allows students to receive intervention services early on by screening students beginning in kindergarten.
The approach is a proactive response to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Federal laws have directed schools to focus on helping all children learn by addressing problems early on, before the child is so far behind that a referral to special education services is warranted.
These laws include the NCLB of 2001 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004. Both laws emphasize the importance of providing high quality, scientifically-based instruction and interventions, in addition to holding the schools accountable for the progress of all students in terms of meeting state grade level standards.
In this overview, the reader will learn about Response-to-Interventions and the tiers of interventions, the use of a collaborative team, and the benefits of the RTI approach.
Response-to-Intervention is a multi-tiered approach of providing specific interventions to struggling learners at increasing levels of intensity. It is a systematic process focused on providing high quality instruction combined with careful and frequent monitoring of student progress (LDOE, 2010).
The data gained from an RTI process is used by school personnel and parents to identify the educational needs of the student and create an instructional plan. Response-to-Intervention is also used as one part of a data-based process of identifying learning disabilities and is a big part of a referral process for student evaluation.
RTI seeks to prevent academic failure through early intervention, frequent progress measurement, and increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions for children who continue to have difficulty.
A school-wide or district-wide universal screening of academics and behavior is completed in order to determine which students need closer monitoring or additional interventions.
RTI is a multi-tiered approach to providing intervention. There are multiple tiers of increasingly intense, research-based interventions that are matched to the needs of the student.
A commonly used three tiered approach includes: Tier 1-core classroom instruction and differentiated instruction, Tier 2-targeted interventions, and Tier 3- intensive intervention and comprehensive evaluation. In Tier 1, regular education students, who are identified after the approach as “at-risk” receive supplemental instruction, or interventions.
The interventions are generally delivered in small groups during the student’s regular school day in the regular classroom for about six to eight weeks with progress monitoring every two weeks.
Students who do not make adequate progress in Tier 1 are provided with more additional services and moved to Tier 2 interventions with progress monitoring administered weekly. These services are provided in addition to instruction in the general curriculum and are usually provided in a small group setting.
A longer period of time may be required for this tier, but it should generally not exceed a grading period. Students who continue to lack progress at this level of intervention are then considered for more intensive interventions and are placed in Tier 3.
Interventions are provided more often for longer periods of time and progress monitoring is typically twice a week. Collaboration, discussion, and decisions regarding each student’s progress are on-going throughout the RTI process. Students who do not respond to these targeted interventions are then considered for review by the RTI team as eligibility for individual evaluation is determine as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The use of a collaborative team by school staff for development, implementation, and monitoring of the intervention process is a necessity. Collaboration is at the heart of making the RTI approach successful. Each member’s active participation can ensure students are receiving the appropriate interventions necessary to encourage growth.
A typical team should consist of the student, regular education teacher, interventionist or instructional coach if available, parents, principal or principal designee, and student services personnel. The purpose of the RTI team is to facilitate a collaborative approach to problem solving. This team is extremely important to implementing the RTI process.
The validity, fidelity and integrity of the intervention are dependent upon the team (Intervention Central, 2011). All members must be able to effectively collaborate and ensure that policies and procedures regarding RTI are followed.
One of the most important functions of the RTI team is for the members to gather and use data to develop interventions to target academic and behavioral problems. The team also supports the teacher by providing suggestions for implementing interventions within the classroom, and providing appropriate tools or methods to monitor student progress.
The students and parents are best served within the RTI process when an RTI team is in place to make important decisions regarding the student’s educational needs and deficits, tier-to-tier placements, and safeguard the fidelity of implementation.
Tiered Approaches to the Education of Students with Learning Disabilities
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By Kyle Robinson and Dr. Nancy L. Hutchinson
The expression “tiered approaches” has been used in two distinct but related ways with reference to the education of students with learning disabilities (LDs). Each of these approaches is described below.
First, the Ontario Ministry of Education has advocated the use of what it calls the Tiered Approach to Early Identification and Intervention in both Education for All (2005) and Learning for All (2013) as a method of instruction and early identification of students with exceptionalities.
Specifically, the Ministry defines it as “a systematic approach to providing high-quality, evidence-based assessment and instruction and appropriate interventions that respond to students’ individual needs” (2005, p. 22). The Ministry has devised a three-tier system, as shown in Figure 1.
This is often referred to as Response to Intervention (RTI) outside of Ontario, a process whereby sound, evidence-based, differentiated teaching is used to instruct all students, but students who do not respond to this instruction, or who need further help, are moved up through a series of increasingly intensive interventions.
The second ‘tiered approach’ is used when designing classroom lessons and assessments. Students are grouped and then taught and assessed on different levels of content on the same general curricular topic, in fluid groupings. Students may choose or teachers may assign students to one of a number of levels of challenge in classroom learning tasks and associated assessment.