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Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)


A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is a framework for providing instruction to students. Many educators say, “We do MTSS.” However, the wide range of activities and models suggest that educators lack a common understanding. Our abstract on MTSS provides an explanation of what we view as the key elements of MTSS and how they apply to MIBLSI programs and training.

Key Elements of MTSS

Continuum of Evidence-Based Practices

MTSS includes three levels, or tiers, of instruction. Each tier has a set of evidence-based practices to meet the instructional goals.

Tier 1

For MTSS, a school must first establish its tier 1, or universal supports. Universal supports are the instructional practices that help all students in a school. Once the universal supports are in place, staff can use assessment data to determine which students need additional supports.

Tiers 2 and 3

The intensity and duration of supports increase for tiers 2 and 3. The appropriate level of support for each student is determined by assessment data.

Data-Based Decision Making and Problem Solving

Assessments provide data that can be used to determine the success of a practice or student support. If the data shows a weakness in a practice, or shows that a student is not responding to supports, staff can develop a plan of action to address the issue.

Universal Screening

Universal screening is the act of assessing all students in a consistent and regular manner. Universal screening is typically conducted three times a year to identify which students are at risk for behavioral or academic problems. Students identified as at-risk may require additional or alternative supports.

Continuous Progress Monitoring

Staff use progress monitoring for students that need additional supports in tiers 2 and 3. The students are assessed more frequently and the assessments match the instruction. The rapid and relevant feedback provided by progress monitoring allows staff to adjust instruction as needed in a timely manner.

Focus on Fidelity of Implementation

Successful implementation of MTSS requires a committed and consistent effort among school and even district-level staff. Implementing with fidelity means the practices and data-based decisions are conducted properly and are therefore more likely to be effective. Strong initial training and periodic monitoring of sustained implementation are critical.

Focus Areas of MTSS

MTSS can be applied to virtually any focus area. MIBLSI programs focus on behavior and reading, and ideally the strategic integration of both.


For behavior, MIBLSI uses the MTSS model of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). PBIS uses evidence-based practices for its continuum of supports for elementary school students. Many of the practices and assessments MIBLSI uses are supported by the Technical Assistance Center on PBIS, funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs.

For high school settings, MIBLSI uses Positive School Climate, which is adapted from the PBIS model.


For reading, MIBLSI supports schools in selecting evidence-based practices for its continuum of supports for students. The supports must work within an MTSS model and must align with valid assessments supported by MIBLSI. In MIBLSI programs, the MTSS models are called School-wide Reading in elementary schools and Content Area Reading in secondary schools.

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