In almost 20 years of experience in education, good intention when it comes to intervention or specifically Response to Intervention (RtI) has never wavered or lacked. As educators, we are passionate about our students and we know that with the “perfect prescript” of support all students can grow. However, at times we may find ourselves settling with our intent as “good enough.” We become overwhelmed with the tasks involved in developing, implementing, and following-up with these support plans. As educators these unmet expectations weigh heavily and too often districts find themselves with well-written plans that lack follow-through. So how can we move beyond “good enough” to become “more than enough” - intervening with fidelity and effectiveness?
As a former special education teacher/case manager and now a special education university supervisor, I have spent many an hour discussing MTSS (Multi-Tier System of Supports). My university students and I have reviewed the countless interventions and supports they are exposed to during their required observations, practicums, and culminating student teaching experiences. After conducting an informal poll with my most recent cohort, I found that many students felt that MTSS has a confusing reputation in the field. Further, I noticed that some students were using the term MTSS interchangeably with terms such as RTI, PBIS, and even pre-referral screening. As a result, I decided to take a moment to clear up what MTSS is, and what it is not.
At Branching Minds, we believe that there are 7 guiding principles of RTI/MTSS:
A three-tiered system of service delivery is a necessary structure to efficiently and effectively support all children, not just those who struggle in school. The three-tiered system of service delivery is crucial in the attempt to ensure all students achieve at high levels and all students achieve college and career readiness.
Response to Intervention/Multi Tiered System of Supports (RTI/MTSS) is a collaborative, evidence-based, approach to differentiating and personalizing instruction and intervention, across academics and behavior for all students—so that every student can achieve academic and life success. RTI/MTSS is one of the most effective ways to provide an equitable educational experience, because it leverages collective knowledge and expertise to help teachers understand their learners needs and make informed and strategic decisions that best support them.
Multi Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a collaborative, evidence-based, approach to differentiating and personalizing instruction and intervention, across academics and behavior for all students—so that every student can achieve academic and life success.
Students who are meeting or exceeding standards may require enrichment beyond the core to demonstrate academic growth. It is the school’s responsibility to ensure that all students make academic progress regardless of their entry level. The Branching Minds Support Library contains learning activities that may be used as early as Tier 1, as teachers design differentiated instruction for individual or small groups of students. Below are some examples from the Branching Minds Support Library:
At Tier 2, students identified as being at-risk academically or behaviorally through universal screeners are provided scientific, research-based interventions in addition to the core. Approximately 10-15% of students will need supplemental instruction at Tier 2 to become proficient. Tier 2 interventions are implemented with groups of students demonstrating common skill deficits or social/emotional/behavioral risk characteristics. These students should be observed on Branching Minds, where a collaborative intervention plan is developed, monitored, and documented.
Students who have not demonstrated progress with targeted group interventions at Tier 2 require more time in more intensive interventions. Tier 3 interventions are distinguished from Tier 2 interventions because they are individualized based on data collected in individual problem solving, occur with smaller student-teacher ratios (e.g., ideally 1-on-1, however, groups of 3 to 5 students or a larger group broken into a few groups of 3-5 students, is acceptable for middle and high schools), and possibly occur for a longer duration of time (e.g., more daily minutes or more weeks spent in intervention). About 5-10% of students will require this level of intensive support.
At Tier 1, all students receive scientific, research-based core instruction implemented with integrity and emphasizing grade-level standards and school-wide behavioral expectations. Instruction at Tier 1 should be explicit, differentiated and include flexible grouping and active student engagement. To ensure 80% of students’ needs are met at Tier 1, high quality instruction is essential. Features of high quality, research-based instruction include (Chard et al., 2008):