A deep dive into MTSS tiers and MTSS interventions (2023)

This probably isn’t the first you’re ever hearing about interventions. All good instructional practices utilize them for long-term learner success. But implementing multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) interventions that are continually being…

  • Tracked;
  • Monitored; and
  • Tied to program evaluation

…could be new for you.

What are the best practices of MTSS intervention strategies, and how do they fit in with daily instruction? In this blog, you’ll learn more about the different MTSS tiers and how interventions are typically implemented in an MTSS platform in school systems.

What is a multi-tiered system of support in schools?

A multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) is a framework with a tiered infrastructure that uses data to help match academic and social-emotional behavior (SEB) assessment and instructional resources to each and every student’s needs.

It allows educators to be thoughtful about using their resources appropriately and effectively while using data to monitor their actions. The data-informed framework implemented in MTSS systems shows educators how well students are responding to core instruction.

Using the MTSS model, districts can also close the gap on common challenges within their standard practices that might exist, such as:

  • Limited resources
  • Lack of program effectiveness
  • Difficulty with collaboration

MTSS interventions: What are they and how do they work?

An intervention is identified as an additional instructional resource or support that goes beyond high-quality classroom instruction that all students receive, and that is aligned to a specific student’s—or group of students’—needs.

Interventions can take a variety of forms and may look different across districts. An intervention could be:

  • A program adopted by the district that supports skill development, whether as a computer-based program or a hands-on workshop.
  • A change in instructional approaches, such as a double dose of explicit, systematic instruction.
  • A specific instructional strategy intended to align directly to an individualized need that a student or group of students may have.

How do interventions work? MTSS interventions are not only implemented for students who are struggling or who have clear academic needs. In MTSS, educators are systematically looking at each student to identify three areas of need:

  • Academic
  • Behavioral
  • Social-emotional

From there, we implement interventions for students who are struggling or who need more of a challenge.

Key components of MTSS

A multi-tiered system of support takes a proactive approach to identifying students with academic or behavioral needs through early assessment. In the best interest of the student, MTSS must include all key components for optimal success. They include:

  • Universal screening of all students early in the school year and again halfway through
  • Tiers of interventions that can be amplified in response to levels of need
  • Ongoing data collection and continual assessments
  • Schoolwide approach to expectations and supports
  • Parent and family involvement

Implementing MTSS strategies

Discover tools from Renaissance that help you to identify and meet every learner’s needs.

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3 tiers of MTSS intervention

Understanding the three tiers of MTSS intervention is key to successfully implementing the strategies in the classroom. The three MTSS tiers help schools to organize levels of support based on intensity so that students receive necessary instruction, support, and interventions based on need.

Keep in mind that students can be in different MTSS tiers for different needs at the same time. For example, you might have a student in Tier 2 struggling with social-emotional behavior needs while succeeding in Tier 1 for reading but in Tier 3 for math.

MTSS Tier 1: Universal instruction

Universal instruction is the largest tier and is the foundation for the entire framework of MTSS interventions.

Tier 1 covers the high-quality classroom instruction that all students receive. This teaching approach works to accommodate the needs and abilities of all learners and eliminates unnecessary hurdles in the process. It includes proactive classroom management strategies aimed at creating a supportive atmosphere.

This tier encompasses best practices and differentiated instruction and is constantly refined by what is working at MTSS Tier 2 and MTSS Tier 3. A district typically likes to see 80–90% of students in MTSS Tier 1.

What is an example of universal instruction?

With universal instruction, educators typically use a teaching style that follows a three-step pattern:

  • Direct
  • Discuss
  • Delegate

Teachers understand that even with universal instruction, all students have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning, so the teacher must implement a variety of methods to teach information.

For example, teachers can utilize digital content over paper content to help meet the needs of many students. With digital content, you can:

  • Use text-to-talk
  • Utilize the internet
  • Increase font size
  • Utilize external links for more detailed information

Educators can also share content in many ways by using multiple means of representation:

  • Utilize the textbook
  • Watch videos
  • Listen to an audio lesson
  • Use manipulatives

Finally, educators can offer choices to students when it comes to test taking. Just as you offered options for how students learn the material, allow them to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways:

  • Demonstration
  • Slideshow
  • Speech
  • Essay
  • Video
  • Digitized test over pencil and paper

MTSS Tier 2: Targeted and group interventions

Once students are identified as struggling, targeted and group interventions—or evidence-based supports—are provided to help. The students in Tier 2 require a little extra assistance in meeting academic and/or behavioral goals, which happens here.

Typically, Tier 2 interventions are implemented in small group settings for students who identify similar needs through their assessments. This also helps with systematic efficiency.

The targeted support in Tier 2 allows struggling students to catch up with their peers. Districts typically expect to see 10–25% of students in Tier 2.

What is an example of targeted, group interventions?

Many classrooms utilize reading groups as a way to implement group interventions. How does this work?

Small groups of students are selected based on their reading needs as identified through diagnostic assessments, with a focus on the big idea(s) in reading that the students need to develop. This might involve reading a lower-level book that follows the same theme as a book the rest of the class is reading, for example.

MTSS Tier 3: Intensive individualized interventions

If students don’t respond well to Tier 2 supports or demonstrate a more intense need, Tier 3 supports provide more frequent, intense, and individualized interventions. Tier 3 interventions include strategies for maximizing student outcomes during core instruction, as well as supports that can be used at home. Individualized supports in Tier 3 can also include assistance from outside agencies such as behavioral counselors or family therapists.

Districts usually expect to see less than 10% of students in Tier 3.

What is an example of intensive individualized interventions?

A student with Tier 3 needs in math may be pulled out of the classroom for extra help with a goal to support the math skills being taught. During this one-on-one time, educators might utilize different methods of learning or incorporate different tools to help a student understand a concept. For example, using math manipulatives as a visual to understand numbers.

This could also look like educators meeting the student at the level of math that they’re at and working with them from there. For example, while the rest of the class is learning long division with numbers with large values, a Tier 3 student might be working on dividing two smaller numbers.

Understanding the MTSS pyramid

The figure below helps educators to visualize the MTSS tiers, with Tier 1 being the largest at the bottom and Tier 3 being the smallest and most intense at the top.

A deep dive into MTSS tiers and MTSS interventions (1)

Identifying at-risk students for an MTSS intervention

Typically, districts utilize a universal screening assessment, such as FastBridge or Star Assessments from Renaissance, to help identify at-risk students. Screening should be done at the beginning of the year and again periodically throughout the year for math, reading, and social-emotional behavior.

If a student is identified as potentially at-risk, their specific need is then identified with diagnostics. Diagnostic assessments help pinpoint the exact area of need for better intervention alignment. Utilizing a quality assessment tool helps to combine universal screening, diagnostic, and intervention into a single process.

How to determine which MTSS intervention strategies to implement with a student

Educators should utilize the Problem-Solving Cycle to help decide which MTSS intervention strategies could be best for a student. The Problem-Solving Cycle involves these steps:

Steps 1–2: Use universal screening for data and skill analysis and diagnostics to identify the area of need or acceleration.

Step 3: Based on the data you gather, analyze and select an aligned intervention and create a plan for implementing it. Your plan should specify:

  • The student’s need
  • Measurable goals
  • Specific information about the intervention (what it is, where it’s happening, duration, setting, who is facilitating, etc.)

Next, implement the intervention with fidelity, as described in the plan. Collect all necessary data, record student attendance, the duration, any comments, and fidelity metrics.

Step 4: Frequently administer a progress monitoring measure tied to the intervention needs to help track whether the intervention is improving student outcomes and if it’s working quickly enough.

Step 5: Review the progress monitoring data and intervention data to evaluate and reflect on how the student is responding to the intervention. From here, decide whether to adjust the intervention, continue with it, or fade it out.

It’s crucial that with each step, you are evaluating and adjusting actions to help improve the outcome for students.

A deep dive into MTSS tiers and MTSS interventions (2)

Take advantage of Renaissance resources to provide an organizational structure for students to succeed

MTSS interventions and MTSS tiers are crucial for learner success. Not only do they provide all students with what they need to succeed, but they also help to quickly catch students up to where they need to be in their learning.

By implementing Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions, educators can ensure that targeted supports are provided without exhausting or debilitating Tier 3 resources.

How can you do this successfully?

Renaissance has the tools and resources educators need to set their students up for success. We support districts nationwide with…

  • Assessments;
  • Intervention tracking and documentation; and
  • Effective evaluation reports

… for successful MTSS implementations. Learn how Renaissance can help you successfully implement MTSS interventions in your school district. Connect with an expert today.


What are the tiered interventions for MTSS? ›

There are typically three tiers of support in an MTSS model. Tier 1 includes high quality classroom-wide instruction and support for all students. Tier 2 provides targeted support to address a student's gaps in skills. Tier 3 involves intensive support usually provided more often and in smaller groups.

What are the 3 most important things to remember about MTSS systems for general education teachers? ›

What Are the Guiding Principles of MTSS?
  • Educators must work proactively to support students' learning needs.
  • ALL students can learn.
  • ALL available resources are accessible to teach all students.

What is MTSS response to intervention? ›

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.

What are Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions in MTSS? ›

Tier 1 instruction is standards-driven, focusing on students' broad skills and generalizing to a learning target. In contrast, Tier 2 intervention targets a specific skill deficit that has been identified through assessment. Instruction and intervention targets this specific skill.

How do you implement MTSS successfully? ›

The 6 Key Components of a Strong MTSS Implementation Plan
  1. Set Clear Goals. ...
  2. Build Buy-In Across Your District. ...
  3. Form a Dedicated MTSS Team. ...
  4. Determine How to Collect and Use Data. ...
  5. Strengthen Tier 1 Supports. ...
  6. Gather Regular Feedback for Continuous Improvement.

What is MTSS examples? ›

These include behavior, social and emotional needs, and absenteeism (not attending school). The tiers of support are a huge part of MTSS. They get more intense from one level to the next. For example, a child getting small group interventions may need to “move up” to one-on-one help.

What are the problem-solving steps of MTSS? ›

Traditionally, the MTSS problem-solving model only involves four steps:
  • Identifying the student's strengths and needs, based on data.
  • Analyzing data and formulating appropriate interventions.
  • Implementing these interventions.
  • Reflecting on and evaluating intervention outcomes.
Mar 18, 2022

What makes MTSS successful? ›

There are 3 critical elements of an effective MTSS program: evidence-based instruction as prevention, collaboration, and an assessment system that drives decisions.

How long should a student be in MTSS? ›

The general consensus seems to be that if all of the components of MTSS are functioning and you have weekly progress monitoring data, eight to twelve weeks may provide enough data to determine if the intensity of instruction is making a difference or if the student needs a change.

How does MTSS support all students? ›

MTSS tiers help schools to organize levels of supports based on intensity so that students receive necessary instruction, support, and interventions based on need. As such, student identities are not based on tier levels. Instead, individuals are identified as students in need of supports.

How does MTSS improve student achievement? ›

MTSS encourages more individualized instruction

Because MTSS includes frequent progress monitoring and data-based decisions, teachers can provide more individualized instruction to each student. This can help all students improve their academic performance, especially those struggling or falling behind.

What is MTSS easily explained? ›

A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is a proactive and preventative framework that integrates data and instruction to maximize student achievement and support students social, emotional, and behavior needs from a strengths-based perspective.

What does Tier 3 intervention look like? ›

Tier 3: Intensive interventions

This is the most intense level of RTI. Tier 3 can mean small group work, or it can mean individual lessons. Most kids who get this support still spend a lot of their day in a general education classroom. Yet they may spend bigger parts of the day in a resource room.

What are examples of Tier 3 interventions? ›

Examples of Tier 3 interventions might include: individual counseling, family counseling; or administration of a Functional Behavioral Assessment to provide concrete data to create an individual Behavior Support Plan.

What are some Tier 3 interventions for reading? ›

Page 5: Implementing Tier 3 Reading Interventions
  • Systematic instruction. ...
  • Explicit or direct instruction. ...
  • Immediate corrective feedback. ...
  • Frequent review. ...
  • Opportunities to practice. ...
  • Scaffolded instruction.

Is MTSS easy to implement? ›

MTSS Implementation is More Complicated Than Ever

MTSS requires a great deal of data management. To provide students with personalized support and to deliver high-quality instruction and targeted intervention at scale, districts need to manage massive amounts of data.

Why do schools implement MTSS? ›

The California Department of Education's (CDE) definition of Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) provides a basis for understanding how California educators can work together to ensure equitable access and opportunity for all students to achieve the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

How can parents be involved in MTSS? ›

Parents can be involved in the process by communicating any concerns to the child's teacher, providing insight into their child's learning and development, and assisting with identified interventions at home.

What are 5 examples of intervention strategies? ›

Let's take a look at the most commonly used intervention strategies:
  • Behavioural Interventions. ...
  • Collaborative Interventions. ...
  • One-to-One Interventions. ...
  • Classroom-Based Interventions. ...
  • Social, Emotional and Wellbeing Interventions. ...
  • Peer Tutoring. ...
  • Metacognition and Self-Regulation. ...
  • Homework.
Jul 9, 2021

What does MTSS look like in a school? ›

In California, MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on state standards, core instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs, and the alignment of systems necessary for all students' academic, behavioral, and social success.

What are 4 quick intervention strategies? ›

Intervention Strategies and Techniques
  • Give plenty of feedback. ...
  • Continually monitor progress. ...
  • Clarify your objectives. ...
  • Direct instruction. ...
  • Have students rephrase your lesson. ...
  • Make sure those kids reflect.

What are some factors that should be considered when implementing an MTSS Plan? ›

These plans also need to match the identified area of need for the student. These support plans should include SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Result-oriented, and Time-bound) goals that are connected to the identified area of need for the student.

What are the key principles of MTSS? ›

The following core components are key aspects of MTSS frameworks:
  • High-quality, differentiated classroom instruction. ...
  • Systemic and sustainable change. ...
  • Integrated data system. ...
  • Positive behavioral support.
Feb 21, 2023

How does MTSS help identify students with learning disabilities? ›

Under MTSS, skill deficits or skill needs are identified in students through the use of universal screening assessment data and provided targeted intervention and resources with Tier 2 and Tier 3.

Is MTSS a school improvement model? ›

The MTSS framework engages educators in using a data-based decision-making approach as the primary driver for school improvement in a model of continuous improvement that influences teacher practice and elevates student performance.

What is the role of the teacher in the MTSS program? ›

Classroom teachers work with their MTSS team to identify and plan interventions for Tier 1 (in the classroom) and Tier 2. If a student demonstrates need for Tier 3 support, classroom teachers collaborate with the school's MTSS Team.

Is MTSS for gifted students? ›

MTSS Supports the Whole (Gifted) Child

MTSS integrates academics with social-emotional learning and behavioral learning. Remember, gifted students may need a variety of services/supports based on their shifting needs, whether that be social-emotional, behavioral, or academic.

Why is my child in MTSS? ›

A child who is struggling with behavioral, emotional, and social challenges may also be struggling with academic challenges. Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) is a framework used by schools to address and identify students struggling with these challenges.

How does MTSS help gifted students? ›

MTSS seeks to prevent academic, behavioral, and social emotional difficulty through quality, research- based instruction and early intervention for students who do not make expected progress while accelerating the learning of those students who exceed expected progress.

Who benefits from MTSS? ›

Benefits of MTSS:

MTSS provides specific types of support for teachers (professional development, technical assistance, instructional coaching). MTSS outlines clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and accountability for teachers, building leaders, and district personnel.

What percentage of students should be in MTSS? ›

Tiering in MTSS: A Quick Review

The most common MTSS framework consists of three-tier levels. Tier 1 is the largest group and in a healthy practice, should include approximately 80% of the student population.

How long should a student be in Tier 3 intervention? ›

High-Quality Instruction

Time – Depending on the age of the student, instruction should be provided daily, ranging from 40 to 60 minutes, which must be taken from the daily schedule. Two options to consider are: Providing Tier 3 intervention twice a day (e.g., 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon)

What is Tier 1 Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention? ›

Tier 1 = Universal or core instruction. Tier 2 = Targeted or strategic instruction/intervention. Tier 3 = Intensive instruction/intervention.

What is Tier 1 Tier 2 and Tier 3? ›

Tier 1 Suppliers: These are direct suppliers of the final product. Tier 2 suppliers: These are suppliers or subcontractors for your tier 1 suppliers. Tier 3 suppliers: These are suppliers or subcontractors for your tier 2 suppliers. These tiers can extend longer than three.

What does Tier 1 intervention look like? ›

It is a student-specific effort designed to foster grade-level catch-up growth. An example of a Tier 1 intervention is pre-teaching target vocabulary words to a student prior to presenting the words to the whole class. The concept of growth is the key that distinguishes intervention from differentiation.

What are examples of Tier 2 interventions? ›

Specific Tier 2 interventions include practices such as social skills groups, self-management, and academic supports. Targeted interventions like these, implemented by typical school personnel, are likely to demonstrate positive effects for up to 67% of referred students.

What is an example of a Tier 1 behavior? ›

Tier I positive behavior interventions

For example, if a student meets basic expectations, teachers might offer them an opportunity to have a classroom job, lead part of the class, or offer some other level of independence or leadership.

What is the best intervention for struggling readers? ›

The most commonly used strategy to improve reading fluency is the reading and rereading of familiar texts. Opportunities to read aloud, with guidance from teachers, peers or parents, are also associated with the development of fluent reading.

What are some examples of reading interventions? ›

Examples of reading interventions include scaffolding, or providing supports for students, small-group instruction, use of technology, explicit phonics instruction, and offering choices of reading materials.

What are Tier 2 & 3 reading interventions? ›

Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions focus on foundational reading skills, which include phonemic awareness, decoding, comprehension, and fluency. Tier 2 instructional sessions focus on up to three of these skills and are used with students who score below the benchmark cut point.

What are some Tier 3 academic interventions? ›

Page 5: Implementing Tier 3 Reading Interventions
  • Systematic instruction. ...
  • Explicit or direct instruction. ...
  • Immediate corrective feedback. ...
  • Frequent review. ...
  • Opportunities to practice. ...
  • Scaffolded instruction.

What are the types of Tier 3 interventions? ›

Examples of Tier 3 interventions might include: individual counseling, family counseling; or administration of a Functional Behavioral Assessment to provide concrete data to create an individual Behavior Support Plan.

What is Tier 1 Tier 2 and Tier 3 education? ›

Tier 1 = Universal or core instruction. Tier 2 = Targeted or strategic instruction/intervention. Tier 3 = Intensive instruction/intervention.

What are Tier 2 interventions examples? ›

Examples of Tier 2 Practices
  • Academic Interventions. Interventions in which students are provided instruction on missing academic skills. ...
  • Check-In/Check-Out. ...
  • Check and Connect. ...
  • Check, Connect, and Expect. ...
  • Classwide Interventions. ...
  • Mentoring. ...
  • Service Learning Programs. ...
  • Setting-based Interventions.

What is an example of Tier 3 intervention MTSS? ›

For example, at Tier 3, a student whose reading performance falls significantly below that of his or her peers, despite intervention, might receive intensive reading support from the learning assistant four times per week with close monitoring of his or her progress.

What are Tier 1 interventions examples? ›

An example of a Tier 1 intervention is pre-teaching target vocabulary words to a student prior to presenting the words to the whole class. The concept of growth is the key that distinguishes intervention from differentiation.

What are Tier 1 and Tier 2 classroom interventions? ›

Tier I: Strong school values and policies, as well as healthy classroom practices (all students) Tier II: Targeted support to groups of students that need alternative strategies to support their behavioral success (subset of students) Tier III: Individualized support (student-specific)

What does Tier 2 intervention look like? ›

Tier 2 supports often involve group interventions with ten or more students participating. Specific Tier 2 interventions include practices such as social skills groups, self-management, and academic supports.

What does a Tier 3 student look like? ›

At Tier 3, these students receive more intensive, individualized support to improve their behavioral and academic outcomes. Tier 3 strategies work for students with developmental disabilities, autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, and students with no diagnostic label at all.

What is Tier 1 vs Tier 2 vs tier3? ›

Tier 1 Suppliers: These are direct suppliers of the final product. Tier 2 suppliers: These are suppliers or subcontractors for your tier 1 suppliers. Tier 3 suppliers: These are suppliers or subcontractors for your tier 2 suppliers. These tiers can extend longer than three.

What is the difference between Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions? ›

Compared to Tier 2, Tier 3 is more explicit, focuses on remediation of skills, is provided for a longer duration of time (both in overall length of intervention and regularly scheduled minutes of instructional time), and occurs in smaller groups (i.e., groups of 1–3 students; Haager et al., 2007; Harn, Kame'enui, & ...

What are Tier 4 interventions? ›

TIER 4 ENCOURAGES INNOVATION and new research on promising practices. A Tier 4 intervention must have a well-specified logic model that is based on rigorous research. In addition, an effort to study the effects of the program must already be planned or under way.

What does Tier 1 mean in intervention? ›

RTI Tier 1 interventions are the “first line of defense” for supporting students. Response to Intervention (RTI) was designed to help prevent students from needing special education assistance. Tier 1 instruction is delivered to the whole class. Assessments monitor progress of students.


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