Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a data-driven, prevention-based framework for enhancing school-wide teaching and learning.

    At its core, MTSS promotes early identification of student needs, allowing for timely intervention. MTSS is the opposite of “wait to fail!” The system is structured with three layers (or “tiers”) of support to meet the unique needs of each student. The first tier focuses on high-quality universal instruction for all students. Targeted Tier 2 interventions are layered in for students who need additional support. Tier 3 then provides even more intensive interventions for students with significant challenges. Students can and should move between levels of support as needs are addressed, and new challenges arise.

    MTSS Cycle-Sep-15-2023-09-54-53-6636-AM


    In the context of MTSS, data is more than numbers.

    Data analysis drives the entire approach to teaching and intervention. Educators need regular, reliable data to see if their instruction is working as intended. This is where progress monitoring comes in. The consistent use of progress monitoring tools not only allows for the identification of students at risk but also serves as a means to validate the effectiveness of the interventions in place.

    Progress monitoring provides real-time insight into:

      Which skills students are mastering

    Which strategies are effective

    How to tailor instruction to individual needs


    Q: How does progress monitoring contribute to improved outcomes for all students?

    A: Progress monitoring provides the data needed for educators to identify and address achievement gaps early, ensuring that all students, regardless of their background, receive the tailored support they need to succeed.


    A robust MTSS framework hinges on two critical components: a dynamic teaming structure and a systematic problem-solving process. By emphasizing collaborative teamwork among diverse stakeholders and implementing a structured approach to problem-solving, MTSS ensures that progress monitoring is not just a periodic checkpoint but a continuous and integral part of the educational process.

    Whether it's in analyzing data to inform instruction, designing interventions, or adjusting support strategies, the collective wisdom of a well-coordinated team is invaluable.

    This collaborative spirit not only enhances the problem-solving process but also ensures that decisions are made based on a comprehensive understanding of the student’s experiences and needs.


    For MTSS to function optimally, a dedicated and diverse monitoring team is essential. Essential stakeholders include administrators, general and special education teachers, school psychologists, counselors, and support staff. Additionally, involving parents and community members can provide invaluable insights and foster a sense of shared responsibility.

    The composition and specific roles within the MTSS team can vary based on the school's resources and student population. However, the goal remains the same: to collaborate and make decisions that best support student success (Eber, Weist, & Barrett, 2013). Teams should meet regularly to review progress monitoring data, evaluate outcomes, and determine next steps.


    The process is iterative, meaning that teams revisit and revise based on the student’s response to the intervention. And, these components ensure that MTSS is not onesize-fits-all but instead is tailored to the unique needs of each student (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2006).



    Q: Why do we need to collect so much data? Isn't my professional judgment enough to understand a student's needs?

    A: Data provides objective, quantifiable information that helps uncover patterns over time and clearly show effectiveness of interventions. Your professional judgment is invaluable, and data collection will complement it, not replace it. Data ensures that all students receive the support they need based on consistent, evidence-based criteria.

    Q: Will this data be used to evaluate my performance as a teacher?

    A: The primary purpose of this data is to support student learning and growth, not to evaluate teacher performance. It’s a tool to help you, as the educator, understand where your students are and how best to help them. That said, data can also highlight areas where teachers might benefit from additional professional development, which is intended to be supportive, not punitive.

    Q: My class is diverse, with so many needs. How can I possibly collect and analyze data for every student?

    A: It's certainly a challenge! That’s why an MTSS platform like Branching Minds offers support for differentiating data collection and analysis. Tools such as bulk tiering and group data analysis can help manage this complexity. Working collaboratively as a team or department and involving other educators, such as special education teachers or reading specialists, distributes the workload and provides much-needed perspective and assistance. No one should be doing this work alone.


    This MTSS Progress Monitoring Guide provides practical strategies and user-friendly templates to optimize your monitoring efforts and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Check out the flowchart for a step-by-step visual of how a data-driven practice fits into MTSS. You’ll see that progress monitoring is central to the process!

    MTSS Intervention Process Flow Chart final-1

    Baseline Data Collection

    Baseline data serves as a starting point, offering a snapshot of a student's current abilities and setting the stage for goal formulation and intervention planning.

    Universal screenings are vital because they provide this initial snapshot. They offer insight into which students are performing at grade level and which ones might be at risk. Administered three times a year, these assessments are usually concise but comprehensive enough to capture the range of student skills.

    When conducting these screenings, it's essential to choose tools that are both reliable and valid. These tools should be sensitive to individual differences and provide educators with a clear picture of where each student stands academically.

    On a larger scale, baseline data collected through universal screening helps determine the overall health of your core instruction. A strong core is the foundation of a healthy MTSS practice. This Core Workout Worksheet is designed to help school leaders determine the state of their core instruction, and walk through the questions they need to reflect on with their teams to target problem areas and affect positive change.

    A strong core is the foundation of a healthy MTSS practice
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    Downloadable Resource:

    APPENDIX A: Core Workout Worksheet

    Goal Setting

    Goal setting is a cornerstone of the MTSS framework. When goals are clear, measurable, and realistic, they provide a roadmap for both educators and students, guiding interventions and instructional strategies. It can be challenging to set good goals, though!

    It is common to see goals that are:

    Too broad
    Lack a plan for consistent monitoring
    Have no end date

    Educators need training on setting, assessing, and revising goals. The SMART acronym is helpful to remember each component of goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Fostering collaboration among educators, students, and parents/guardians will also help create goals that are specific and tailored to the individual student.


    Q: Is there a correlation between the frequency of monitoring and improved outcomes?

    A: Yes, research indicates that regular and consistent monitoring is associated with improved outcomes (Lambert, Algozzine, & McGee, 2014)

    Selecting an Aligned Progress Monitor

    This MTSS Progress Monitoring Guide provides practical strategies and user-friendly templates to optimize your monitoring efforts and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Check out the flowchart below for a step-by-step visual of how a data-driven practice fits into MTSS. You’ll see that progress monitoring is central to the process!

    Identify the Skill Deficit Clearly:

    Before choosing a progress monitoring tool, it's vital to have a clear understanding of the specific skill deficit. Whether it's reading comprehension, mathematical problem solving, or any other skill, a precise definition is crucial. For example, “struggling in reading” is too broad; “difficulty in understanding the main idea in a passage” is more specific.

    Match the Granularity:

    Ensure the tool you choose measures progress at the same level of granularity as the deficit. If you're targeting a very specific skill, like recognizing phonemes, then the tool should monitor that exact skill and not a broader one, like general reading ability.

    Choose a Sensitive Tool:

    The progress monitor should be sensitive enough to detect small changes in the learner's performance. This ensures that even slight improvements or regressions are caught, allowing for timely interventions or instructional changes.

    Research Validity and Reliability:

    Always select a tool that has been researched and proven to be valid (measures what it claims to measure) and reliable (gives consistent results over time). This ensures the data you collect is trustworthy.

    Ensure Relevance:

    Consider if the tool is appropriate for the age, grade, or developmental level of the learner. An instrument designed for early elementary students might not be suitable for middle schoolers, even if it targets the same skill deficit.

    Ease of Administration:

    While this shouldn't be the primary factor, it's essential to consider how easy it is to administer the monitoring tool. Take into consideration the frequency, time, and size (individual or group) of administration.

    If the progress monitoring tool is too complicated or time-consuming, there's a higher likelihood that it might not be used consistently, which can affect the integrity of the data.


    For further guidance on selecting aligned progress monitoring tools, the National Center for Intensive Intervention offers several in-depth resources:

    Review Sample Items or Questions:

    Before settling on a tool, review some sample items or questions. This will give you a clear picture of what's being assessed and ensure it aligns with the targeted skill deficit.

    Seek Feedback:

    Connect with other educators or specialists who might have experience with the tool you're considering. Their insights can be invaluable in determining if a particular progress monitor is the right fit for your needs. PLCs can provide a collaborative and focused environment for educators to collectively analyze student data, share expertise, and explore select progress monitoring tools that are precisely aligned with identified skill deficits.

    Consider Piloting the Tool:

    Before fully committing to a tool, pilot it with a small group of learners. This will give you firsthand experience of its efficacy and whether it aligns well with the skill deficit in question.

    Stay Updated:

    Educational tools and strategies are continuously evolving. Make it a point to stay updated with the latest research and trends in progress.

    Use the most up-to-date versions of probes and norms tables.

    plcs can provide a collaborative and focused environment
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    Downloadable Resource:

    APPENDIX C: Selecting an Aligned Progress Monitor Checklist

    Special Note: Curriculum-Based Measurements (CBMs)

    CBMs stand out as exceptional tools for progress monitoring for several compelling reasons.

    • CBMs are directly aligned with skills taught, ensuring the assessments are relevant and indicative of a student's grasp of the material. This direct alignment fosters meaningful, real-time feedback for educators, allowing them to identify specific areas of strength and weakness in a student's performance.

    • CBMs are designed for frequent administration, making them ideal for continuous monitoring. This frequency enables educators to promptly detect learning gaps and make instructional adjustments, reducing the risk of students falling behind.

    • The standardized nature of CBMs facilitates consistent data collection and comparison across various time points, classrooms, and even schools. Such standardization is invaluable in making informed decisions about instructional effectiveness and programmatic changes.

    These CBMs are instrumental in monitoring progress because they are quick to administer, provide immediate feedback, and directly align with the skills they intend to measure.


    1. Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)

    • Targeted Skill: Reading fluency and comprehension

    • Description: Students read a passage aloud for one minute; errors and words read correctly per minute are tallied.

    2. Maze Fluency

    • Targeted Skill: Reading comprehension

    • Description: Students read a passage with every seventh word replaced by a multiple-choice trio, selecting the correct word.

    3. Early Numeracy Measures

    • Targeted Skill: Basic math skills

    • Description: Quick assessments of counting, number identification, quantity discrimination, and missing numbers.

    4. Math Computaiton (M-COMP)

    • Targeted Skill: Math calculation skills

    • Description: Students solve as many math problems as possible within a given time frame.

    5. Writing CBM

    • Targeted Skill: Writing fluency and quality

    • Description: Students write a story or essay within a short time frame; words written and correct writing sequences are scored.

    6. Spelling CBM

    • Targeted Skill: Spelling accuracy

    • Description: Dictated words are written; correct letter sequences are scored.

    7. Number Identification Fluency

    • Targeted Skill: Number recognition and fluency

    • Description: Students quickly identify as many numbers as possible within a time limit.

    8. Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF)

    • Targeted Skill: Spelling accuracy

    • Description: Students listen to a word and then segment it into individual phonemes.

    9. Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF)

    • Targeted Skill: Decoding and phonics

    • Description: Students read a list of nonsense words to assess decoding skills.

    ruler (1)

    While there are many progress monitoring tools available, it's essential to ensure the one you select is directly aligned with the skill deficit you're targeting. This guarantees that your data is accurate, relevant, and useful in guiding your instructional decisions.

    Data Collection Methods

    Effective tools, both digital and paper-based, ensure educators can gather, analyze, and act on the information they obtain.

    Paper-Based Tools

    1. Progress Monitoring Graphs: Visual charts where educators can plot student progress over time.
    2. Intervention Fidelity Logs: Track the interventions provided, frequency, and duration.
    3. Anecdotal Notes: Capture qualitative data like observations, student feedback, or specific incidents.
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    Editable Resource:

    APPENDIX D: Progress Monitoring and Fidelity Tracker

    Digital Platforms

    1. Google Forms and/or Sheets: A flexible tool that can be customized for various data collection needs in educational settings.
    2. An MTSS Platform like Branching Minds: Our system-level MTSS platform helps teachers follow the best practices of problem-solving work efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively from the start, saving time and effort while improving outcomes for all students. Learn more about Branching Minds here to see how we can help make your MTSS vision a reality!


    Q: How often should progress monitoring occur?

    A: The frequency of progress monitoring can vary based on student needs and the specific intervention being used. The more intensive the intervention, the more frequent the monitoring. Typically, weekly or bi-weekly progress monitoring will ensure adequate data has been collected alongside plan implementation and will serve as a good foundation to base your next steps.

    Analyzing and Visualizing Data

    Visualizing and analyzing data transforms raw numbers into actionable insights. Visualization simplifies complex data sets, making patterns, trends, and anomalies more discernible. This enables educators to make informed decisions swiftly. Effective data visualization ensures that stakeholders, even those less familiar with data interpretation, can grasp key findings, accelerating collective action and understanding.

    When monitoring progress within an MTSS framework, several key pieces of data visualization can be valuable:

    • Universal Screening Results: Charts or graphs showing the results of screening assessments for all students, typically segmented by grade level or class. This helps to identify students at risk.

    • Benchmark Comparisons: Visual comparison of student or group performance against set benchmarks or norms. This can be represented as bar graphs, scatter plots, or line graphs.

    • Intervention Effectiveness: Graphs or tables showing the effectiveness of specific interventions for groups or individual students. This can help in determining which interventions are most effective and which need adjustments.

    • Behavioral & Attendance Data: Visuals might include behavior incident counts, types of behaviors, locations of incidents, and/ or trends in student attendance, which can be an indicator of engagement or other underlying issues.

    • Progress Monitoring Charts: Line graphs that show a student's performance data over time, typically against a benchmark or goal line. These are particularly critical for students in Tiers 2 and 3.

    • branching-minds-mtss-platform-student-progress-graph
    • Gap Analysis: Visuals that highlight the difference (gap) between where a student is performing and where they should be, or the gap between different groups of students.

    • Demographic Breakdowns: Charts or tables that break down screener, intervention, or behavioral data by demographics such as race, gender, socio-economic status, English Language Learner (ELL) status, etc. This can help in identifying any disparities or patterns that need addressing.

    • Tier level report-1
    • Intervention Logs: Visual representation or logs of the interventions a student has received, their frequency, and their duration. This can be valuable for ensuring fidelity and consistency in the application of support.

    Remember, the goal of visualizing data within an MTSS framework is to make the data actionable. Visuals should be clear, concise, and directly related to decision-making processes.

    Regularly reviewing and updating visualizations as new data becomes available ensures that interventions are timely and effective.

    data gathered is only as good as the insights drawn from it


    Q: How can schools ensure that data visualizations are accessible to all stakeholders, including those with disabilities?

    A: Accessibility can be ensured by:

    • Using colorblind-friendly palettes.

    • Providing alternative text descriptions for visual content.

    • Ensuring compatibility with screen readers.

    • Offering tactile or auditory representations of data for those with visual impairments.

    • Making sure visualization platforms are mobileresponsive to cater to stakeholders without desktop access.


    Not all interventions work equally well for every student. This is where the power of ongoing progress monitoring becomes evident: it informs educators when modifications are needed.

    Signs That Intervention Needs Adjustment:

    • Stagnant Performance: If a student’s performance plateaus for several consecutive monitoring sessions, it could indicate the intervention is not effective.

    • Regression: A decline in performance could be a sign that the intervention is not only ineffective but potentially detrimental.

    • Increased Behavioral Issues: If a student displays new or increased behavioral challenges, it might suggest the intervention isn’t addressing underlying issues or might be causing frustration.

    • Lack of Engagement: If a student becomes disengaged or is consistently non-compliant, the approach might not be resonating or might be too challenging.

    • Consistent Feedback From the Student: Always consider student feedback. If they consistently report they're not finding the support helpful, it may be time to re-evaluate.


    Q: Can't we rely on quarterly or semester exams to gauge student progress?

    A: Quarterly or semester exams offer a snapshot of a student’s performance but don’t provide ongoing, granular data that helps educators adjust interventions in real-time.


    To ensure consistent support for students across a school or district, it is important to create decision rules or "cut points" that provide guidance for problem solving teams. Whether lessening supports, maintaining their current level, or intensifying interventions, decision rules trigger a conversation about the effectiveness of intervention and the need (or not) for change. See the downloadable Tier 2 and Tier 3 Guidance Charts below for suggested academic decision rules.

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    Downloadable Resource:

      APPENDIX E: Guidance on Tier 2 and Tier 3 Decision Rules

    Ensuring Fidelity

    Ensuring fidelity means maintaining the integrity of an instructional or intervention program by delivering it as it was designed and intended. Fidelity is paramount because, without it, educators cannot determine whether a program's successes or failures are due to the program itself or variations in its delivery (O'Donnell, 2008).

    lockWhen fidelity is compromised, the results of progress monitoring can be misleading. For instance, an intervention may appear ineffective when, in reality, it hasn't been implemented correctly.

    This can lead to inappropriate instructional decisions, depriving students of potentially effective strategies or support. Moreover, consistency in program delivery ensures that all students receive equitable, high-quality instruction.


    Q: Isn't flexibility in program delivery important to cater to individual student needs?

    A: While individualized instruction is vital, fidelity ensures that core, evidence-based components of a program are consistently delivered. After establishing fidelity, educators can introduce supplementary strategies tailored to individual needs without compromising the program's integrity.

    Q: Can fidelity checks be seen as a lack of trust in educators' professionalism?

    A: Fidelity checks aren't about mistrusting educators but ensuring consistency and effectiveness across the board. They serve as a supportive tool to help educators achieve the best outcomes for their students.


    Effective communication with stakeholders — parents, fellow educators, administrators, and students themselves — is paramount for the success of progress monitoring. Clear communication ensures everyone is on the same page and understands the student's needs, the interventions in place, and the progress being made.

    Tips for clear, consistent communication with stakeholders:

    1. Transparency: Always provide stakeholders with comprehensive data and explanations, ensuring they understand the implications.
    2. Frequency: Regular updates, rather than waiting for formal review periods, help stakeholders stay informed and engaged.
    3. Jargon-Free: While educators might be comfortable with technical terms, always use language that’s easy for everyone to understand.
    4. Feedback Loop: Encourage stakeholders to share their insights and observations. They might provide a different perspective that can be invaluable.
    5. Use Visuals: Charts, graphs, and other visual aids can make complex data more accessible and digestible (Hattie, 2009).
    6. Collaborative Meetings: Organize meetings where stakeholders can discuss progress, ask questions, and offer feedback.


    Q: Why is it necessary to communicate progress so frequently? Doesn't it lead to information overload for parents and other stakeholders?

    A: While there's a risk of overwhelming stakeholders with too much information, frequent communication ensures transparency and allows for timely intervention adjustments. It's about finding a balance.


    When approached as a source of vital information about the students we serve, the practice of progress monitoring in MTSS transcends its cold, numerical nature and becomes a guiding light — a beacon of insight illuminating the individual paths of our students. It reminds us that in every bar graph, every line chart, there is a young mind brimming with potential. Effective progress monitoring helps us reach each one, making the most of our precious time and their precious possibilities.



    Branching Minds' MTSS Platform helps educators and administrators find the best evidence-based interventions for each learner, streamline documentation, and quickly understand student progress.

    What's so great about Branching Minds is it's so teacher-friendly to do what you need to do to support MTSS. This rate of improvement line is telling you so clearly if the student is improving, and are they going to hit the goal.
    — Angela Plugge, Director of Learning, Waverly School District (Nebraska)

    Make your MTSS vision a reality.

    About the Author


    Stephanie Bryan

    MTSS and Literacy Specialist & Branching Minds Consultant

    Stephanie Bryan has a decade of experience in the education field, and 8 years of specialty experience working in MTSS and literacy. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. As former Dean of Intervention, she coached educators on MTSS best practices, intervention implementation and data analysis. Her foundation in MTSS work was laid during her time working at the Florida Center for Reading and Research. Since then, she has aided in the creation of MTSS systems and services at a first year turnaround school, selected and served as a mentor teacher for a fellow of the Xavier University Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency Program, and was twice nominated for the New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award. Stephanie subscribes to the philosophy that all students are capable of making progress and succeeding in the general education environment under the provision of targeted, individualized and evidence based instruction.


    Barrett, S., Eber, L., & Weist, M. (Eds.). (2013). Advancing education effectiveness: Interconnecting school mental health and school-wide positive behavior support. OSEP Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. 

    Batsche, G. M., Kavale, K. A., & Kovaleski, J. F. (2006). Competing Views: A Dialogue on Response to Intervention. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 32(1), 6-19. 

    Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. (2006). Introduction to Response to Intervention: What, why, and how valid is it? Reading Research Quarterly, 41(1), 93-99. 

    Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

    Hawken, L. S., Vincent, C. G., & Schumann, J. (2008). Response to intervention for social behavior: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 16(4), 213-225.  

    Lambert, R., Algozzine, B., & McGee, J. (2014). Effects of progress monitoring on math performance of at-risk students. British Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, 4(4), 527-540.

    O’Donnell, C. L. (2008). Defining, Conceptualizing, and Measuring Fidelity of Implementation and Its Relationship to Outcomes in K–12 Curriculum Intervention Research. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 33-84.

    With the Branching Minds partnership, we are gaining both a thought partner who will help us enhance all of our MTSS practices, structures and approach, and a platform that will help make the work easier and more efficient for all of our educators at CMS - from classroom teachers and support staff to school and district administrators.
    — Dr. Frank Barnes, Former Chief Accountability Officer at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, NC

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