What is MTSS?

Click on a myth to reveal the truth.

Myth: MTSS and RtI are the same thing.

Truth: A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is the overarching, comprehensive framework that guides service delivery in a school, district, or state. Student response to instruction/intervention (RtI) is part of the fourth step of the problem-solving process, a key practice within an MTSS framework.

Myth: MTSS is a program.

Truth: MTSS is not a program. MTSS is a way of work that results in continuous improvement of student learning. Within an effective MTSS framework, evidence-based programs are used to provide instruction/interventions and supports for students.

Myth: MTSS has a starting point and a stopping point.

Truth: A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is a framework or approach that optimizes how resources are organized and allocated, for improved student outcomes. It is comprised of six domains: Multiple Tiers of Instruction/Intervention, Problem Solving, Leadership, Data/Evaluation, Capacity/Infrastructure, and Communication/Collaboration. Because of this, it doesn’t have a starting or stopping point, it’s simply a way of work.

Myth: MTSS is about one student at a time.

Truth: The benefit of working as a multi-tiered system of support is that it allows schools to address the needs of the whole group, small groups, and individual students. Student data are used throughout the problem-solving process to ensure that the curriculum and instruction provided to students, whether in large or small groups, are effective and an efficient use of resources.

Myth: The tiers describe students (Tier 2 students/Tier 3 students).

Truth: As part of an MTSS implementation, instruction/interventions and/or supports are labeled Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3 to communicate the level of intensity of supports; students are not labeled with tiers. For example, a Tier 3 intervention is the most intensive kind of help a student receives. Students receive Tier 3 interventions but are not referred to as Tier 3 students.

Myth: Tier 3 means the student will be tested for ESE.

Truth: Tier 3 is the most intensive and individualized support available within Florida’s three-tiered model; however, not all students needing Tier 3 level of supports have a disability, nor will all students with a disability need Tier 3 level of supports. Within an MTSS, additional support is provided to students based on data demonstrating a need for more intensive instruction/intervention regardless of potential future evaluation considerations. Schools collect and use a variety of data, including a student’s response to intervention, to make decisions regarding eligibility for ESE.

Myth: Exceptional Student Education (ESE) is Tier 4 in MTSS.

Truth: The Multiple Tiers of Instruction and Intervention domain, within Florida’s model of MTSS, consists of three tiers. There is no Tier 4. Students who meet eligibility criteria for ESE receive specially designed instruction (SDI) which enables them to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. SDI is always provided and integrated throughout all tiers of instruction and intervention.

Myth: The purpose of MTSS is to exclude students from ESE.

Truth: The purpose of an MTSS is to provide the level of supports needed to ensure success, regardless of whether the student is identified as a student with a disability. If the additional supports are not effective, or if students require sustained and substantial resources to maintain progress towards achieving their educational goals, then exceptional student education (ESE) services may be considered. The student’s RtI data are used for the purpose of improving the effectiveness of the students’ instruction/interventions and supports, and can be used as a required part of the evaluation procedures if an evaluation is initiated. The initiation of formal evaluation procedures for a student suspected of having a disability can and should occur at any time that the parent(s) or educator(s) express their suspicion.