What Is MTSS MultiTiered System Of Supports Explained

As educators, we want students to keep progressing and developing into individuals with lifelong positive attitudes towards learning.

However, the school system is not one-size-fits-all, and it cannot meet everyone’s needs.

The most vulnerable group of students are those who can’t keep up and who struggle with their studies. They’re at risk of developing an aversion towards learning or even forming an overall negative image of their capabilities.

A multi-tiered system of support is one that tracks student progress in order to mitigate any setbacks.

A multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) consists of four key elements:

* Screening
* Multi-level prevention system
* Progress monitoring
* Data-based decision making

The MTSS framework is a preventive system that ensures students who are struggling are noticed early on and given instruction before falling behind with their studies.

How do key MTSS components prevent setbacks that affect student performance and attitudes toward school?

Collecting Data With Universal Screening
Screening is the first part of preventive support that identifies students who are at risk of having poor educational outcomes. It includes collecting data on factors that impede learning in the long run.

Factors that affect learning are different for every student. Such factors might include an unsuitable environment for learning at home, negative social surroundings, poor attitudes toward learning, or mental health disorders.

In school, students’ achievements are measured with the same yardstick. However, all children start school with both initial advantages and disadvantages.

Screening is the first step to leveling the ground in the classroom by identifying students who need additional assessment and instruction.

Screenings are conducted three times a year because multiple screenings ensure every student is helped. Furthermore, all students are screened since even students who perform well at the beginning of the year may need help later on.

Systematic screening includes two stages:

1. Universal screening which includes a brief student assessment at the beginning of a school year, in winter, and in spring
2. Additional in-depth testing of those with poor results from the universal screening may be necessary to further determine whether they are truly at risk of poor educational outcomes

What should teachers assess during screening?

Common areas of screening for elementary school include math, reading, and behavior. However, every school’s students face distinct challenges—which raises the need for school-specific screening.

Each school designs its screening by detailing:

* Target students—which school, which grade level, and specific school groups are involved
* Desired outcomes—behavioral, post-school, or academic
* Part of a curriculum or program that needs evaluation

Laws on screening differ from state to state, and some schools may also screen for students with special needs.

Taking Action With a Multi-Level Prevention System
Following the screening, educators form a multi-level prevention system. The MTSS framework supports students as whole people—covering behavioral, academic, emotional, and social areas.

Multi-level prevention is conducted in three tiers in consecutive order.

The tiers gradually increase in their complexity, the intensity of instruction, and reduce the percentage of students taking part.

Each tier is accompanied by an appropriate intervention on a group or individual level.

Below you can discover the three tiers of the MTSS prevention system.

Tier 1
This Level Includes

* All students
* Core programs as prescribed in the curriculum
* Utilizing evidence-based support and practices that have worked for most students in past

Results In

* Desirable learning outcomes for most students
* Positive school climate
* Optimistic attitudes toward learning

Tier 2
This Level Includes

* Smaller groups of students who are identified as those at risk
* Dealing with targeted issues from behavioral, social, and academic areas (e.g. support with mental health or academic interventions)
* Intervention that is aligned with specific student needs
* Intervention programs combined with standardized academic intervention

Results In

* More chances for students to receive corrective feedback
* Chances for students to get more practice

Tier 3
This Level Includes

* Intensive intervention for students who have persistent and severe learning or behavioral problems
* Students with disabilities
* An individualized approach for students or working in pairs

Results In

* Support that’s tailored to specific student needs on an individual level
* Accounting for a small group of students who usually fall through the cracks, e.g. students with disabilities or mental health disorders

Finding Room for Improvement With Progress Monitoring
Progress monitoring refers to the process of using reliable tools to measure improvements that occur within the previous three tiers of the preventive system. The purpose of monitoring progress is to collect data on said improvements and provide further feedback.

To be reliable and successful, progress monitoring must include:

* The initial monitoring design which is used to define the purpose, frequency, data storage method, and exact tiers that will be monitored
* Reliable and valid tools for monitoring behavioral and academic progress in the context of school
* Ongoing staff training that ensures all members of the team understand the purpose and process of monitoring. They must also have the necessary skills to trace progress in their schools and use the data to alter instruction if needed
* Thorough detailing of the plan for monitoring students, including exact data revision dates, rules for further decisions, and setting goal strategies
* Accurate data collection and graphing to avoid any errors linked to data entry or fidelity within the progress monitoring process
* Progress data analysis which informs the next steps of intervention based on collected data concerning student responsiveness and progress

Teams of teachers conduct progress monitoring. To be effective, they have to be frequent. Monitoring should occur at least once a month, but the best-case scenario would be to check in with students every week.

Collected data allows the teacher to see whether general instruction and additional measures worked for targeted students or not. Graphs demonstrate whether students have caught up with their studies or not, i.e. if they’re competent in measured areas of the grade-level curriculum.

Schools have limited time and resources. Monitoring ensures that additional resources and time for individualized instruction are allocated to students who need them the most. The majority of students can make progress with general research-based instruction.

By monitoring progress, educators can conclude if students:

* Benefited from additional instruction in tier two or tier three levels
* May return to tier one or two levels of instruction after receiving tier three support
* Make the most of the core (tier one) level of instruction

Using Data to Make Informed Decisions
Data-based decision-making occurs at every level of the MTSS model. The process involves data analysis and working in teams to solve problems and make decisions at the school or district level. It follows six steps:

1. Forming multiple MTSS teams that use data from monitoring and screening to determine the efficacy of instruction and decide on further action
2. Establishing effective written processes that teams have to follow during meetings delegated to work on collected data
3. Training staff to analyze the data collected from the MTSS network and use it to upgrade instruction and recognize how they can implement changes in the classrooms
4. Monitoring teaming fidelity by following the fidelity checklist
5. Analyzing data following the pre-set rules that include setting measurable goals and monitoring the impact of implemented changes
6. Evaluating the MTSS system in the context of school (based on short and long-term goals) to pinpoint barriers and meet current student needs

Decisions that are made in this part of the MTSS framework can refer to individual students or the entire school district, but they have a long-lasting impact on students.

Therefore, it’s important to follow these steps. They ensure that the teams who decide on students’ futures are trained to make the best decisions, have in-depth knowledge of procedures, and understand their responsibilities within the MTSS framework.

Note: Check the laws for your state when implementing this component of support. State laws differ, and for some schools, this means that collected data must be used for disability identification.

Making Positive Changes That Last a Lifetime
Children gain more than core concepts in classrooms. They also form ideas about themselves, their capabilities, and learn to manage their time. These ideas and skills remain deeply rooted and can last a lifetime.

This is what makes the MTSS framework so important in the education system. It views students as whole people who need to grow and develop on multiple levels—including academic, mental, and behavioral.

What’s more, students develop in relation to others. While interacting with others, they need guidance on how to work with others and communicate in a respectful, kind, and cooperative manner.

Want to make positive changes in your classroom? We developed toolkits for social and emotional learning that are ready for you to make a positive change.

How has Positive Action worked for others?

We’ll leaving you with a graduation speech by a sixth-grade student who was introduced to Positive Action in the fourth grade:

“School is a joke.” I thought to myself, “What a waste of time.” School was a prison to me and teachers were just trying to keep me locked in. The truth is that I was ashamed because I felt like I couldn’t learn.

School is no longer a joke to me. “Be a leader, not a follower.” Fourth grade is where I changed my life around. I felt like I wasn’t being threatened; safe. I made new friends and didn’t care to fight. I realized I’m great at science, math, and of course, PE. It’s a lot more fun to be in class, not the office. By sixth grade, I was the Positive Action Sumo and felt like the little ones looked up to me.

I took lead in different activities like reading groups and motivating my class at PE. To all my future lunch ladies – I will not cuss you out. My sixth teacher told me, “You get what you give.” My last report card was two As and three Bs. I share what I have with others and am generous to those who need my help. Whenever I do something good, I feel appreciated. I trust that others will be there to help me when I am down. Every Monday, I go to therapy. The counselor asks me, “How have you been in life?” Next time I see him, I will say, “I’m proud of what I have accomplished. Everything has been worth it. I‘m ready for the next move.”