I’ve heard it said that many school psychologists, case managers, and other student support team members have fallen into the position of reviewing student interventions that were tried but were not “evidence-based.” Or perhaps, having to explain to a colleague that there wasn’t sufficient data to qualify moving a student between tiers, much less qualify for special education.
In my experience, I found that utilizing MTSS processes ensured that before a student is ever evaluated for special education, the continuum of support based upon the student's identified needs has already been provided, documented, and it was already determined if the prior interventions were working.
That being said, it may not be easy for any school team member to remind a colleague to follow a process, and reiterating to my colleagues the critical need to follow the MTSS processes was one of the essential parts of my role. This discussion provided the opportunity for me to help teachers understand the process for supporting growth and meeting the needs of all students.
The Power of MTSS
What makes MTSS so powerful is that it’s a flexible, collaborative system, and most importantly, it allows us to support students thoughtfully, intentionally, and equitably. MTSS is grounded in thoughtful analysis of available data and intentional decision-makingusing the problem-solving process.
The challenge for me was not to define MTSS to teachers one at a time. Instead, I found that discussing MTSS processes was a great way to build internal relationships and provide support to my colleagues. When a robust and meaningful MTSS process is more transparent and user-friendly to all teachers, the overall culture and success of the school improves, and it’s far more effective when the school system works in the same direction by utilizing consistent procedures and common language.
MTSS Intervention Process Flowchart
We have developed a flowchart outlining MTSS processes that many teachers and school teams have found helpful. Although the flowchart is universally written and should work in most settings, we understand that each school is unique and has its own language and systems. Feel free to download our chart and use it in any way you find helpful.
As schools adopt MTSS processes similar to those outlined in this flowchart, many teachers will find comfort in knowing what to expect. Not only can they expect high-quality support for students at all tiers, but they can also rely on meaningful collaboration with their colleagues at all phases of the process.
MTSS truly relies on school teams working together and sharing ownership of student needs. There is tremendous evidence supporting the power of an effective MTSS system to improve student outcomes for struggling learners and improve student outcomes for ALL learners.
MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports): A multi-tiered support foundation that wraps around a school’s entire student body. Data is gathered and utilized to address academic and non-academic needs, such as attendance and social-emotional concerns, ensuring a holistic approach to support.
Core Instruction: The instructional strategies used routinely with all students in a general education setting are considered “core instruction.”
Differentiation: Tailoring instruction for ALL student's readiness levels, interests, strengths, and learning preferences.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL): The curriculum and/or strategies taught are specifically designed to develop the skillset for understanding and managing emotions, building resilience, problem-solving, and developing healthy relationships. Students learn from explicit instruction as well as from the actions and behaviors they are observing from others.
Intervention/Support: Intervention is a program or set of steps to help students improve in a specific area of need. Intervention can provide support with academic, behavioral, and/or social-emotional needs. The interventions provided to students should be research-based, explicitly matched to students’ needs, set for a certain number of weeks, and then frequently reviewed for progress.
Universal Screening: When universal screeners are used three times a year, they provide valuable information about each student's areas of strength and need and can offer a snapshot of progress over time. The data from universally screening students helps educators keep abreast of any changes in student learning.
Tiers: MTSS, as a foundation, provides academic, behavioral, and social-emotional interventions organized into tiers (or levels) of support.
Tier 1: Teachers provide differentiated core instruction to the whole class (ALL students);
Tier 2: Teachers provide differentiated core instruction to the whole class + additional targeted instruction for students in need (often in small groups);
Tier 3: Teachers provide differentiated core instruction to the whole class + additional targeted instruction (often small group) + intensive intervention (sometimes provided in one-to-one settings). The intensity/frequency and duration of the intervention are considered based upon need.
Progress Monitoring: Progress monitoring is used frequently (weekly/bi-weekly, depending on support) to assess a student’s progress to determine the effectiveness of support provided to a student.
Library of Thousands of RTI/MTSS Evidence-Based Interventions
Over 2000 evidence-based activities, strategies, tools, apps, and programs
At Branching Minds, we pride ourselves on having the most robust library of evidence-based K-12 interventions and accommodations of any online platform available to schools. Our library includes over 2000 evidence-based activities, strategies, tools, apps, and programs collected from the most trusted and respected hubs of evidence-based supports, including the Florida Center for Reading Research, What Works Clearinghouse, Evidence for ESSA, Intervention Central, the IRIS Center from Vanderbilt University, and Sanford Harmony. All of the supports have been reviewed by our team of learning scientists and sorted by ESSA guidelines for determining tiers of evidence. The supports include detailed descriptions to help teachers understand what each support is, why to use it, how to use it in alignment with the evidence, what the evidence is, and provide them with any materials necessary to implement the support.
Lauren Schutz is the Professional Services Manager at Branching Minds. She has been working in the field of education for over a decade as a teacher, school psychologist, executive functioning coach, and educational consultant. Lauren earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her M.A/EdS in school psychology at Tufts University. She most enjoys helping learners (child and adult) define their own goals for success, then encouraging them through the productive struggle that comes with growth. Ms. Schutz writes on a variety of education-related topics from her hometown in Chicago, IL.