Need to Know
- Multi-tiered Systems of Support, or MTSS, is a preventative framework that applies a whole-child lens to the intervention process.
- Data is the driving force for MTSS, but unfortunately, not all student-centered data is created (or captured) equally.
- Asking three essential questions can help ensure that collected student data is bolstering your school’s MTSS efforts.
A Closer Look
Multi-tiered Systems of Support, or MTSS, is a data-driven framework for supporting student success across multiple levels of engagement. MTSS grew from Response to Intervention (RTI), a structured system for identifying and addressing the academic needs of struggling students.
While MTSS draws its tiered application from RTI, there are many differences between the two approaches. For example, multi-tiered systems of support stretch well beyond academic performance to analyze the broader picture of a child’s school experience, including social and emotional well-being, access to services, and even school culture. “MTSS is a distinct approach that builds upon the original concept of tiered support, as with RTI, but is more proactive,” explains Novak Education. “MTSS, unlike RTI, addresses systematic barriers and conditions for both students and educators.”
MTSS is also distinguishable for its preventative approach. Indeed, MTSS targets students who may be struggling. But, it is also deeply concerned with identifying challenges that may present for individual students in the future. Having a close eye on where students are right now and where they may be headed puts educators, and kids, in a better position to sidestep potential socio-academic hardships before or as they arise.
There are three tiers in the MTSS framework. Briefly, those are:
- Tier 1-The whole class. All students in the class receive high-quality instruction. Students who may benefit from additional support may move to Tier 2.
- Tier 2-Small group interventions. These students still participate in Tier 1 learning but also receive targeted instruction in a small group setting. Those who demonstrate a need for even more intensive instruction may move to the next tier.
- Tier 3-Personalized, individual support. Tier 3 learning engages students through direct, highly tailored instruction in individual or small group settings. Scaffolds and supports decrease as learners progress toward their unique goals.
Keep in mind that MTSS frameworks are dynamic. Each school or district has different criteria or data values assigned to each tier. The process, nonetheless, remains consistent: develop a campus-wide plan, collect and analyze student data, collaborate to problem solve, and put it into practice (instruction and/or intervention).
Setting Our Sights on Data Collection
Let’s take a moment to focus on student data. After all, it’s the driving force behind MTSS. Unfortunately, not all student-centered data is created (or captured) equally. If an effectively implemented site-based MTSS framework is your goal, here are the data-based questions you should be asking.
- Does It Consider the Whole Child?
Effective MTSS data collection casts a net wide enough to take the whole child into account. Data should include, for example, insights into attendance rates, social and emotional needs, behavior, participation, and academic wellbeing (such as screeners, diagnostic, progress monitoring, and benchmark data). High-impact frameworks also center the students’ voice. They may include input from the learner and parents, caretakers, or other stakeholders in the student’s life.
- Is It Organized and Easily Accessible?
Organizing MTSS data, especially for multiple students, is no easy task. Therefore, deciding how to manage this information is critical. In fact, says the National Center on Intensive Education, “An effective and efficient data system is essential for successful implementation of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS).”
Some schools turn to data boards or data walls to help with this. But with so many moving pieces, organizations often opt for computerized management systems like Proliftic. Proliftic is a cohesive MTSS/RTI whole-child platform that goes beyond data aggregation to clarify important next steps. Integrated platforms like Proliftic can do a lot of the heavy lifting of data interpretation and communication, leaving more time for valuable student instruction.
- Can It Be Viewed Holistically?
From a whole-child lens, a comprehensive snapshot of where a student is at a given point in time isn’t just nice to have—it’s essential. Proliftic, as one example, allows users to set targets and receive alerts when students are at risk. Then, educators can quickly access a student’s full history of test scores, interventions, graphs, attendance, behavior, grades, and group participation for a holistic view to promote problem-solving. This ability to view learners’ goals, experiences, and progress over time lays the groundwork for collaboration, improved consistency, and student gain.
While MTSS frameworks can take many faces, the value of comprehensive, holistic, and accessible data is a common thread. These critical insights inform the most important decisions we make in a school day—those that impact learners’ short and long-term success.