How is MTSS implemented?

Click on a myth to reveal the truth.

Myth: Because PBIS is for behavior, MTSS is only for academics.

Truth: A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) encompasses all aspects of what a student needs to be successful, including academic, behavior, and life skills. MTSS is a framework to help all students be successful in school. Within this framework, a data-based problem-solving process is used to implement behavioral and academic supports to improve student outcomes. Because a student’s academic, behavioral, and mental health needs are interdependent, they should be addressed by one integrated system.

Myth: MTSS requires too much paperwork and data collection.

Truth: Both documentation and data collection are necessary to make accurate data-based decisions. As the intensity of student need increases, so does the frequency of documentation and data collection. In an effective multi-tiered system of supports, this level of need would be limited to a small portion of the school. District and school systems should ensure that documentation and data collection procedures are efficient and that support is provided.

Myth: MTSS is “one more thing” our district/school must do.

Truth: A multi-tiered systesupports organizes and aligns all initiatives present in a school or district. In a highly efficient system, all efforts and resources are coordinated and integrated within one unified system, aligning the many things for which educators are responsible (e.g., K-12 Reading Plan, School Improvement Plan, District Mental Health Plan).

Myth: Teachers are responsible for the problem solving, planning, and delivery of instruction and intervention, at all tiers, for their own students.

Truth: Within a multi-tiered system of supports, problem solving is a team effort, and teachers and support staff share the responsibility of planning and/or delivering all tiers of support for students. Time for engaging in problem solving and delivering interventions is ensured through the master schedule. When the system is operating optimally, addressing the needs of all students is manageable — as Tier 1 is effective for almost all students, and only some students will require Tier 2 — and just a few students will require Tier 3.

Myth: Schools or districts can implement MTSS without changing current practices.

Truth: All schools and districts have a system of supports in place. If that system is not resulting in the achievement of school and district goals, then aspects of the system should be evaluated to determine where changes in current practices need to occur. The Self-Assessment of MTSS Implementation (SAM) serves as a valuable tool for school-based leadership teams to examine their practices across the six domains of MTSS. By utilizing the SAM, schools can assess the effectiveness of their current implementation of MTSS and identify areas that require improvement. It is important to note that MTSS is not a new concept and has been in practice for approximately twenty years. Rather than viewing changes in practice as a complete overhaul, it should be seen as a continuous improvement effort, building upon the existing framework present in most schools and districts.

Myth: MTSS can be successfully implemented without administrator leadership.

Truth: Organized and effective leadership is critical to successful implementation of MTSS. School and district leaders must communicate a consistent and clear vision of the purpose of MTSS as a framework for improving student outcomes. It’s important for a school principal to support the school-based leadership team and staff to build capacity for implementation, including data-based problem solving. The administrator should oversee the development of an MTSS implementation plan that is aligned to the school improvement plan and is updated based on student outcome and implementation fidelity data.

Myth: Families do not need to be involved in MTSS.

Truth: Families play a critical role in a child’s education. When schools and families collaborate to support student learning, student outcomes are improved. Whether a student is meeting grade-level expectations, working on an accelerated curriculum, or receiving additional support, families’ understanding of MTSS in their child’s school is beneficial. For more information on how to involve families in MTSS, refer to the Team Engagement section of the Guiding Tools for Instructional Problem Solving, 3rd Edition.

Myth: Schools need parent permission to provide Tier 2 or Tier 3 services.

Truth: Within an MTSS, families should be provided with information regarding their child’s progress in Tier 1. If data indicate a student needs additional support, engaging families in the supports students receive is important. Families should be given information about the supports their child is receiving and be provided an opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process. Student progress monitoring data should be shared with families frequently. Often, additional assessment data is needed to determine the appropriate targeted support. When the sole purpose of obtaining assessment data is to inform instruction or intervention, obtaining formal parental consent is not required (Rule 6A-6.0331(1), F.A.C.). It is the purpose for which assessment data are used, not the nature of the assessment procedures, which drives consent. If assessment and data collection procedures are conducted for the purpose of determining eligibility for exceptional student education, then consent is required (Rule 6A-6.0331(4), F.A.C.).

Myth: Specific criteria must be met (e.g., teachers must try two different interventions/provide intervention for 8 weeks/have 12 data points) before a student can be evaluated for ESE eligibility.

Truth: The General Education Intervention Procedures, Evaluation, Determination of Eligibility, Reevaluation and the Provision of Exceptional Student Education Services (Rule 6A-6.0331, F.A.C.) indicates that an evaluation for ESE eligibility may be initiated if:
  • Multi-tiered instruction/interventions have been provided, and data indicate that the student may be a student with a disability;
  • The parent has requested an evaluation; or
  • The nature or severity of the student’s areas of concern make the general education intervention procedures inappropriate in addressing the immediate needs of the student.
No specific criteria are provided regarding the number or length of interventions as it is essential for interventions to be personalized, implemented according to their intended design, and continued for a duration that allows for the assessment of their effectiveness. The intensity of interventions should align with the specific needs of each student, ensuring a tailored approach to their support.

Myth: I’ve been in education a long time, and I just know when a student needs special education.

Truth: While many teachers possess a wealth of invaluable experience, it is crucial that decisions concerning students are made by considering multiple sources of student data and assessing their response to evidence-based interventions. By diligently monitoring students' progress and engaging in systematic problem solving, teams are empowered to make defensible, data-driven decisions that prioritize students' success.

Myth: The tiers are a series of steps to get to ESE.

Truth: The three-tiered instruction and intervention model, delivered in varying intensities matched to student need, is a core component of a multi-tiered system of supports. These tiered supports are intensified or faded based on students’ response to instruction and are planned and monitored through a structured problem-solving process. It benefits all students, regardless of potential future eligibility considerations. If a student is suspected of being a student with a disability, data measuring response to instruction and intervention is used as part of the comprehensive evaluation procedures and determination for Exceptional Student Education (ESE) eligibility. 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.