Skip To Main Content

My School Keeps Talking About MTSS, But What is it? Breaking Down the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

My School Keeps Talking About MTSS, But What is it? Breaking Down the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

Each branch and leaf of a tree depends upon a sturdy, healthy root system to deliver water and nutrients, and the roots depend on the growing leaves to capture sunshine as energy. This holistic and reciprocal system is much like that of the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework in RCSD schools. 

A strong base provides universal support for each branch of every student's needs–academic,  behavioral, and social-emotional.  

The Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework provides proactive, data-driven support for all students from the ground up. Visitors to a school site might see this in action in multiple ways, said Brianna Turner, Orion Alternative School Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA).

“You will see a universal curriculum for all students and universal screeners (assessments) which help us find students who may need more support based on the data,” she said. “We use all of the information within tiers to really target exactly what the student is learning and exactly what they need.”

Tier 1 includes every student. Teachers use research-based instructional strategies, scaffolded lessons, and differentiated instruction to reach each student in their room each day. Regular assessments provide useful information about student needs.

Tier 2 provides additional assistance for students through small group instruction or other specialized intervention.

Tier 3 provides another layer for students who may need more individual help such as one-to-one support. 

“It’s all very fluid and responsive to data,” Turner said. “If a student makes strides and doesn’t need that extra support–or if they need more–they can move tiers.”

This student-centered approach has been adopted by schools across the country. The California Department of Education supports the use of MTSS and its hand-in-hand implementation with inclusive strategies which support the whole child through integrated support at every level.

Joanne Ongoco, Roy Cloud MTSS Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), said that the tiers of this informed approach can often overlap and the collaboration of all staff helps make the framework so successful. Teachers and the students themselves can also fill out a quick digital form to make staff aware of a possible need, she added.

“Our team is ready with support and resources,” she said. “If parents ever notice something at  home they can also let us know so we can work together to support the student.” 

The MTSS framework encompasses academic support as well as behavioral support, character building and social emotional learning programs. Award ceremonies, small group counseling, and homework club all play a part in MTSS, boosting each branch of student success.

A group of Taft students celebrating with their teacher and principal

Taft Community School students celebrate their trimester awards with their teacher and principal. These students were recognized for outstanding performance in mathematics, modeling good behavior, good sportsmanship, and exemplifying the character trait of responsibility.

Taft Community School celebrate with their teacher

Taft Community School students celebrate good attendance and earning the most Dolphin tickets.

Strategies for elevated student outcomes are built into day-to-day classroom activities, said Annie Cho, Hoover Community School TOSA. 

Visuals in the classroom, hands-on learning through manipulatives, and “turn and talks” with peers are all seemingly small ways that teachers can make a big difference in how students are learning. Small group sessions, after school tutoring, and focused English Language Development lessons also contribute to layers of extra guidance.

Orion students participating in community circles with their teachers

Orion Alternative students participate in community circles with their teachers

MIT TOSA Michelle Fryer Phan said one of the biggest benefits of MTSS is that it is proactive rather than reactive. 

“We are infusing support strategies and best practices for all,” she said. “Data-driven differentiation is built in for the whole class. We are addressing needs and support in the classroom. By using screening and assessments we’re thinking ahead.”

MTSS is one of RCSD’s measured Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) goals. By June 2024, every RCSD student will receive high quality, grade level instruction and appropriate social-emotional supports designed to meet their needs in an inclusive and supportive environment through the implementation of the MTSS framework.