Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) include behavioral intervention strategies with academic and learning-based techniques to support the whole child. These are the key components of our system.
Before these supports can be put in place, we need to assemble a comprehensive picture of where the student is in their learning journey. This process starts with universal screening of all students early in the school year. We then compare this data with the last 3 years of data, measuring the students’ growth trajectory over time.
These screenings include reading, math, and other traditional academic assessments. Pupils are also encouraged to share feelings, frustrations, or challenges in all aspects of their life through integrated Social Emotional Learning framework. Developing a complete understanding of each student enables educators to determine the source of learning challenges, and provide appropriate supports to produce systemic improvements.
Deploying Initial Supports
Now, we can assign supports to the necessary areas. Below, you can see a few examples of how a set of MTSS interventions might be set up. Each of these supports can be amplified and strengthened in response to levels of need.
Universal supports are built on high-quality instruction encompassing all areas of a subject as part of a coherent curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for students and does not underestimate their potential for learning. Tier 1 also establishes a positive school culture and sets clear expectations for behavior and learning. This includes culturally responsive teaching practices, implicit bias education for staff and awareness of systemic racism impacts.
Research shows that Tier 1/ universal supports implemented with fidelity should meet the needs of approximately 80% of students, in a typical year.
Targeted Supports identify students who need interventions. These include things like small group reading work, additional math lab classes, or self-regulation/coping groups.
Research shows that typically 15-18% of students need Tier 2 interventions and supports in order to demonstrate expected educational progress in one or more areas.
Individualized, intensive interventions are based on a careful analysis of a student’s data to determine individual needs and strategies. Tier 3 may look like Tier 2 interventions, but with increased duration or overall intensity. Additional assessments may be required before assigning specialists and services. Tier 3 i s led by the Student Assistance Team in a collaborative process to clearly define and prioritize concerns and monitor progress while supporting teacher and parent capacity. Teacher partners and building on student strengths are paramount to success in Tier 3 interventions.
A review of multiple research studies by the National Center for Intensive Intervention (NCII) indicated that 3-5% of students (3% with behavioral needs, 5% with academic needs) will need Tier 3 intensive interventions and supports in order to demonstrate expected educational progress in a typical year.
Maintaining and Adapting to Changing Needs
Effective supports are not “set it and forget it” solutions. Teachers and Intervention Specialists observe the students growth and achievement on a day by day basis, collecting data and continually assessing progress and improvement,
A Culture of Support
It is vital that students actually feel supported by these interventions, and not isolated because of them. Creating an environment where support is welcome and not stigmatized is essential. A schoolwide approach to expectations and supports makes this possible. However, we cannot develop acceptance alone. The culture of support has to extend beyond our walls, into the homes and neighborhoods where students live the rest of their daily lives. Parent involvement is hugely important, and community engagement further increases a student’s level of comfort with receiving help.
Our support tools include different levels of support that can be elevated or reduced as required. All students begin with the base level of support, and are elevated to higher levels of support as needs are identified. This traditionally looks like a pyramid. Responding to the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and other social changes, we have seen a significant shift toward the higher tiers of this system.