MTSS Essentials

What is MTSS?

Led by the principal, MTSS is a whole-school, evidence based, prevention focused framework for improving learning outcomes for the whole child through a layered continuum of practices and systems that are responsive to the individual needs of each school.

The Essential Components:
Shared Leadership

Effective MTSS Classroom Teacher-  Viewing learning through a culturally responsive lens, a highly effective MTSS classroom teacher has a deep understanding of the whole child and acts upon the belief that every child can succeed. Teachers use a variety of research based collaborative approaches to respond to individual needs of each student.

Effective MTSS School Team- The school-based MTSS team members are a cadre of committed people who work collaboratively, from a focused vision, with the facilitator and staff to implement the multi-tiered support system that empowers each student to shape a successful future.

The Team will:

  • Establish an aligned teaming infrastructure with fidelity over time by building upon existing strengths, and responding to challenges.

  • Define membership:

- standing members to include: administrator, at least one classroom teacher, and others based on building needs

- rotating members: based on individual student or fluctuating needs based on data.

  • Schedule and agendas for MTSS team meetings are created in order to respond to school needs

  • Determines needs and coordinates training, coaching, resources, and evaluations to support the development and implementation of MTSS through shared decision-making by a group of individuals who represent the school

MTSS Facilitator Job Description

MTSS Team Job Description

Examples of Referral Process, Flow Charts, Team Structures,  Meeting Structures

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Data-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making

Step 1Define the Problem

PURPOSE: To define the problem as the measurable difference between the desired outcome and the actual behavior or performance.


What is the desired outcome? 

What is the actual performance? 

Step 2—Problem Analysis

PURPOSE: To gather relevant information in the domains of instruction, curriculum, environment and the learner(s) through the use of reviews, interviews, observations and tests to determine contributing factors to the problem.

  • Have we collected data about variables that are educationally relevant and alterable? 
  • Is there something we could change to increase the probability that learning will occur?

Step 3—Plan Implementation

PURPOSE: To select and implement a system support or an intervention that is focused on what to teach, how best to teach it, and how to monitor progress.

What is the simplest thing that can be done that has the greatest impact?

• System supports or interventions must be based upon data and knowledge gained through the steps of problem definition and problem analysis.

Step 4Evaluate Response to Intervention

PURPOSE: To determine the effectiveness of implemented system supports or interventions and make appropriate educational decisions.


  • Was the system support or intervention successful? 

  • Does the plan require more time and monitoring or modification? 

  • Was the system support or intervention implemented with fidelity? 

  • Do we have the resources to sustain these supports? 

Root Cause Analysis

Layered Continuum of Supports

Tier 1 refers to classroom instruction for all students. This universal level of instruction should meet the needs of at least 80% of the students. At this level, all students are receiving research-based instruction that is high quality. Core instruction is implemented with fidelity utilizing curricula that are viable, rigorous, relevant and standards-driven. Core instruction should also offer sufficient depth, breadth, and complexity to meet the needs of all students in a classroom. Tier 1 includes universal supports that are available to all  students in academics and behavior.

Tier 2 includes targeted supports for students with more significant academic and/or behavior concerns or who have been identified as underachieving, that are implemented in conjunction with Tier 1 instruction. If a student continues to demonstrate insufficient progress and  the gap  between  the  student‘s achievement and expected achievement increases, a more intensive intervention plan should be put in place with the assistance of the MTSS Team. Evidence-based instructional strategies and strengths-based interventions in Tier 2 are developed based on the student‘s specific learning and/or behavioral needs. The classroom teacher, while being responsible for providing targeted instruction, may be supported by other teachers, related service providers, or other staff.

Tier 3 intensive supports are intended for students with significant and/or chronic gaps as well as for students with significant underachievement who require the most intensive services available in a school. Moving to a Tier 3 intervention is determined by the Instructional Support Team after several individualized interventions have resulted in limited progress, based on the achievement gap between the student‘s progress and the expected benchmark. The interventions in Tier 3 are skill-specific interventions that can be delivered by a variety of providers. The interventions increase in intensity and often require one-on-one or small group instruction (e.g.: 3–5 students). The specific nature of the interventions is based on progress- monitoring data and/or diagnostic assessment information. Interventions may occur outside the general classroom based on student need. It may also require that students receive an additional short-term curriculum that is focused on accelerating learning.

Evidence-Based Instruction, Intervention, and Assessment Practices

Research-based Practice

Evidence-based Practice             

A broad term used to describe programs or practices that have been studied but not necessarily using all of the quality indicators

of scientifically-based research which include systematic cause and-effect research design, replication and peer review.

The use of practices, interventions,

and strategies which have been proven through scientifically-based research and a comprehensive collection of studies. These studies demonstrate a strong, positive

cause-and-effect relationship between the intervention and  improved outcomes for

individuals when implemented with fidelity.

The selection of practices teachers use is one of the most important factors in student achievement.

When selecting an intervention it is critical to align it with what the data indicates is most important. Work to identify the factors that contribute to the problem or potential future problem.

Selecting Evidence Based Practices:

  • Identify the intervention that BEST aligns

  • Try to determine how likely the intervention will work or not work with this student(s) and within the given context and environment

  • Make sure the staff are prepared to execute the intervention with FIDELITY

  • Make sure the team is equipped to monitor the intervention and make tweaks to the intervention to maximize the impact of the intervention

Core Considerations for Evidence Based Practices:

  • How should the practice be delivered?

  • Are there outcome and fidelity measures?

  • For whom is the practice intended?

  • What supports need to be in place for the staff?

(Paraphrased from George Segai on CDE MTSS resource website)

*APS instructional models, frameworks, and resources reflect recommended Evidence-Based practices for Universal (tier 1) Instruction Insert Link to Instructional Models

Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring

Universal Screening

UUniversal screening is also the first step in identifying students who may be at risk for learning difficulties. It is a preventative mechanism for identifying students who are not currently performing at expected targets and adjusting instructional practices accordingly.

Current APS Universal Screening Tools:

Universal Screening data can be used to:

  • Evaluate the quality, equity, and efficiency of a school’s Universal instruction and supports in order to create a responsive system

  • Provide progress information on students’ performance compared to expected levels or targets.

  • Identify students in need of additional instruction or support

Progress Monitoring

Schools that use evidence-based progress monitoring tools are able to build decision-making practices that are explicit and specific, continuous across tiers, and scientifically-based.

Examples of Current APS Progress Monitoring Tools:

Tier of Instruction

Frequency of Monitoring

Examples of Progress Monitoring Tools

Tier 1: differentiated universal instruction

Every 3-4 Weeks

Acuity, BAS, CFAs, CLP, PALS, Place Value Assessment

Tier 2 : targeted instruction

Every 2 Weeks

PALS quick-checks, Running Records, CFAs

Tier 3: intensive, individualized instruction


CBMs (Curriculum based measures, EX:Dibels, MAZE, Early Numeracy, Concepts and Applications)

Click here for Available CBMs and Directions for Administration

More on CBMS

Progress Monitoring data can be used to:

  • Examine student performance frequently, over time, to evaluate response to instruction and intervention

  • Provide a basis for evaluating instructional programming as the instruction is occurring

  • Proactively guide the process of matching and adjusting goals, materials, levels, and grouping to student needs

  • Aid in communication with students, families, and other professionals regarding student progress

Questions to Guide Student Response to Instruction and Intervention:

  • Does something need to be tweaked?

  • Can we do fewer things that will have the same effect?

  • How can we better make use of the resources we have?

Family, School, and Community Partnering
  • Families are active partners in the entire MTSS process

  • Families are valued stakeholders in improving student success on the individual, classroom and school level

  • Community is leveraged to support school needs

When families, schools and communities work together, students are more successful.

Partnerships create recognition of shared responsibility and shared ownership of student challenges and successes and achieve mutually desired outcomes.

Effective partnerships include:

  • Establishing and sustaining trusting relationships

  • Engaging in collaborative problem-solving

  • Coordinating learning at home, school and in the community

  • Using data to guide decisions

Effective practices include:

  • Understanding and integrating family and school culture

  • Maintaining two-way communication

  • Acknowledging and celebrating student progress

Key expectations of parents or guardians:

  • Collaborate with teachers regarding identified need

  • Share information about child and family as appropriate

  • Support student learning at home

  • Attend problem‐solving team meeting and partner in intervention planning and progress monitoring.

Recommended practices for families to support them in the family‐school partnerships in the MTSS Process:

  • Request basic written information about the MTSS framework for the school/district, including answers to commonly asked questions and specific school implementation facts

  • Request to be kept informed of all meetings about your child that are part of the MTSS/Problem‐Solving Process and ask for detailed notes of any meeting that you are unable to attend.

  • Request that all your child’s data is shared with you and establish ongoing communication

  • Request to be included in the intervention planning and monitoring of your child’s progress and request tips for supporting your student at home.

  • Request copies of detailed intervention plans, diagnostic/prescriptive assessment results, progress monitoring information and other MTSS/Problem‐Solving Process documents;

  • Access a liaison from the school such as a family liaison, school psychologist, social worker, or counselor to support you throughout the MTSS/Problem‐Solving Process.

Additional Resources: