Multi-Tiered System of Supports

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a process that takes place in schools. The goal of MTSS is to help educators ensure that their schools offer strong instruction and a welcoming learning environment, and that all students have the support and resources they need to be successful academically, socially, and emotionally.

In addition, MTSS: 

  • facilitates continuous improvement in core areas like academics, attendance, and school climate
  • supports equity by making sure that all students who need extra help receive it
  • is a team-based process with roles for all staff in the school
  • ensures communication and collaboration among school leaders, teachers, and other staff
  • provides clarity for students, parents, and caregivers about the services that are available at the school and about how students are being supported.

About MTSS

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a process that takes place at the school level to help educators ensure that all students have the support and resources they need to be successful academically, socially, and emotionally. More specifically, the MTSS process ensures that all students have access to high-quality grade-level instruction, to a safe and welcoming learning environment, and to extra help in areas where they need it.

The MTSS process brings teams of school leaders and staff together on a regular basis to review information about how all students are doing. This information includes:

  • Academic data, including STAR assessments
  • Anecdotal information from students, parents and caregivers, and staff
  • Attendance trends;
  • Safety and behavior data behavioral incident data;
  • Class Dojo or PBIS Rewards data;
  • Student Well-Being Survey trends and insights.

MTSS teams use these information sources to identify areas that are working well, and areas where improvement is needed. When concerns are identified, the teams create action plans for improvement. Teachers, staff, and students work together to discuss, plan, and implement improvement strategies. Over time, the teams monitor data and information to make sure improvements are happening, and to adjust the strategies if needed.

MTSS teams also monitor data to identify groups of students and individual students who may need extra help in areas like academics, attendance, or behavior. The teams problem-solve with these students’ teachers and parents/caregivers and identify supports that are tailored to each student’s needs. Over time, the teams keep a close eye on these students to make sure they are progressing, and to adjust their supports if needed.

MTSS is used by schools nationwide and is supported by decades of evidence. It has been identified as a key strategy to help achieve the Board of Education’s Goals and Guardrails.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has identified 10 key components of the MTSS process:

  1. Common Core Standards-Aligned High-Quality Core Instruction
  2. Positive School-wide Climate Programming and Social-Emotional Learning
  3. Universal Screening
  4. Shared Ownership
  5. Data-Based Decision-Making
  6. Response to Instruction & Intervention: Academic and Behavioral
  7. Family Engagement
  8. RtII/SLD Eligibility Determination
  9. Professional Learning
  10. Resources

When all of these components are in place, it means that staff are working together to make sure that good programming is implemented well – including instructional programming, climate programming, and health and behavioral health programming.

Currently, the School District of Philadelphia is working hard to improve and increase training and support for schools in each of the areas outlined above. Our goal is to ensure that all schools have a robust MTSS process in place.

All school leaders and staff play a role in MTSS, along with students, parents/caregivers, and community members:

  • School leaders have responsibility for overseeing and participating in the MTSS process at their schools. This includes making sure that MTSS teams are meeting regularly, that the right data is being gathered and analyzed, and that strategies identified to improve supports are put into place.
  • Teachers and staff have responsibility for collecting and sharing information about students’ progress, for participating in meetings and planning for improvement, and for implementing curricula and programs well.
  • Counselors and student support staff have responsibility for participating in all MTSS meetings, contributing to efforts to improve the learning environment and supports for all students, and for helping to identify and support students who need extra help
  • Parents and caregivers can participate in MTSS by talking with school staff about the curricula and programs that are in place at their child’s school, and by partnering with staff around any areas where their student may need extra help.
  • Students play an important part in MTSS by letting adults know what is working for them and what is not, and when they may need extra help. The Student Well-Being Survey is one way students can use their voice to improve their schools through MTSS.

It is a common misunderstanding that MTSS is only for students who are struggling, or for those in need of special education services. In reality, the MTSS process affects all students because it encompasses all teaching and supportive services in the school. This incudes grade-level instruction provided to all students, as well as academic interventions provided to some. It includes programming to improve school climate that is experienced by all students (for example, Community Meeting), as well as behavioral interventions and supports that are targeted for some.

MTSS helps ensure equity by providing all students with a welcoming learning environment and strong instruction, and providing extra help to students who need it in areas like academics, behavior, or mental or physical health.

MTSS Resources

As a student in SDP, you have a right to receive high-quality instruction in a positive, welcoming school. You also have a right to extra help when you need it. This includes extra help with academic subjects, extra help with behavior and attendance, and extra support for your mental health.

MTSS is the process your school uses to make sure that all of this is provided for you and all students in your school. Every month, teachers and leaders in your school meet to plan ways to improve your experience and learning. For example, they might talk about ways to help students build relationships with each other and with their teachers. Or, they might talk about ways to help academic subject matter feel more relevant to students’ lives.

Kinds of help students can receive as a result of their schools’ MTSS process

Help with making sure your voice is heard

Click Here to Learn what the MTSS process at your child’s school means for you and your student

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a process that ensures that all students have the support and resources they need to access grade-level instruction in a safe and welcoming environment. MTSS been identified as a key strategy to help achieve the Board of Education’s Goals and Guardrails.

MTSS is a comprehensive, multi-tiered, standards-aligned system designed to enable educators to identify the academic and behavioral needs of students. MTSS is a collaborative decision-making process that begins with high-quality instruction and welcoming school environments for all students. The goal of MTSS is to increase student achievement using research-based interventions and programs matched to the instructional and social-emotional needs of every child, to equitably serve all of our students, particularly historically marginalized students.

How does MTSS support equity?

The School District of Philadelphia is committed to cultivating prosperity and liberation for students and staff, starting with historically marginalized populations. We strive to do this by removing barriers, increasing access and inclusion, building trusting relationships, and creating a shared culture of social responsibility and organizational accountability. Supporting the development of a strong MTSS process in every school is one way the district upholds this commitment.

MTSS is key to equity because it improves services for all students while simultaneously providing extra support to those who need it. This extra support is designed to meet the specific needs of each student, whether those needs are academic, behavioral, related to school attendance, mental health, or stemming from problems occurring outside of school. By meeting regularly to review students’ progress and update supports, MTSS teams can partner with parents and guardians to provide a critical safety net and support system for all young people.

One key outcome of the MTSS process is to reduce or eliminate inappropriate special education designations, which have affected black and brown students disproportionately nationwide. MTSS achieves this by providing multiple tiers of high-quality intervention that are specifically designed to fade out once students catch up to their peers academically and/or behaviorally. This ensures that most students remain in the general education population; only those who continue to struggle despite multiple tiers of high-quality intervention are evaluated for behavioral or learning disabilities.

A strong MTSS process also ensures equity by considering students’ academic, social-emotional/behavioral, attendance, and health/wellness needs simultaneously. MTSS teams are cross-disciplinary—members’ have expertise in all of the key areas where students may have barriers. Team members collaborate to assess whether a student’s challenges in one area may be impeding their growth in another. This ensures that all students receive help and support targeted to their true areas of need so that they can begin progressing as quickly as possible.

What are the MTSS Tiers?

This is the MTSS triangle. It shows the kinds of programming that all schools should provide.

You have likely seen this triangle before – it is commonly used to represent the tiered services that are offered as part of MTSS.

The foundation of this triangle is Tier 1. This represents the programming that ALL students should receive. This includes schoolwide climate programming, grade-level instruction, and health and wellness services all students receive. Making sure that this program is implemented well is the foundation of MTSS, because evidence from districts like our shows that with a strong focus on Tier 1, we can gradually move toward the goal of only about 15 – 20% of students needing Tier 2 or 3 supports at any given time. The District’s guidance for schools around Tier 1 of MTSS is HERE.

Moving up the triangle, Tier 2 programming is targeted to groups of students who have similar challenges that are preventing them from being successful with Tier 1 schoolwide programs alone. Some examples of Tier 2 interventions that we have in the district are check-in, check-out, small group mental health supports, and interventions for students struggling with attendance or other issues.

At Tier 3 are the most intensive supports. These are individual supports for students who have not made progress with support at Tiers 1 and 2. The goal of Tier 2 and 3 programs is for students receiving these interventions to eventually be successful with with less intensive support. Students who continue to need intensive support after all 3 tiers have been implemented may be referred for evaluation for special education services.

Information for Tier 1 Team Members

Who sits on the MTSS Tier 1 Team?
In each school, a group of individuals with leadership over particular areas of service will be assigned to sit on the Tier 1 MTSS team. Tier 1 team members typically include the principal, counselor, climate manager, school-based teacher leaders, nurse, and EL point. Information about Tier 1 teams, including member roles and responsibilities, can be found in the Tier 1 Teaming Guide.

What happens in a Tier 1 meeting?
A Tier 1 meeting should include 6 key steps. A recorded training on Tier 1 meetings and the 6 meeting steps is HERE. Sample agendas that incorporate the 6 steps are HERE. tailored to Tier 1 Climate approaches, or create your own agenda that includes the 6 key steps.

What should team members do to prepare for Tier 1 meetings?
Prior to each Tier 1 meeting, team members should identify key celebrations and concerns and share these with the meeting facilitator. These celebrations and concerns may be drawn from quantitative or qualitative information. The monthly data snapshot for your school is a good place to start. This screencast provides an overview of how to use this tool. Also check out the Preparing for MTSS Tier 1 Meetings Screencast.

What happens after a Tier 1 meeting?
In the Tier 1 meeting, the team will focus on 1 or 2 areas that need improvement. They will create a precise problem statement about each area of concern, conduct a root cause analysis, set a goal, and create a high-level action plan for improvement. Team members will then share the problem statement and goal with implementation teams like Professional Learning Communities, climate teams, or PBIS/Relationships First/SEL teams. Working together, these teams will then identify strategies and make plans to achieve the goal. At the next Tier 1 MTSS meeting, team members will share the work that was done and analyze progress. They may choose to continue focusing on these areas of concern, or to move on to others.

Information for Tier 2 and 3 Team Members
  • What is a MTSS Tier 2 and 3 problem-solving meeting?
  • Who are the team members on the MTSS Tier 2 and 3 problem-solving teams?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of MTSS Tier 1 Team Members
Information for School staff: Teachers, School Climate Staff, Nurses, School Counselors

For teachers:

  • What is my role in implementing school-wide climate programming?
  • What is my role in providing standards-aligned high-quality core instruction?
  • What is my role in supporting students receiving intervention at Tiers 2 and 3?

For School Counselors:

  • What is my role in supporting students’ social and emotional learning?
  • What is my role in aligning support for students with specific identified needs?

For School Nurses:

  • What is my role in supporting students’ Health & Wellness needs?
  • What is my role in supporting students’ social and emotional learning?

For School Climate Managers and Climate Leads:

  • What is my role in implementing school-wide climate programming?
  • What is my role in supporting students’ social and emotional learning?

For School Climate Staff :

  • What is my role in implementing school-wide climate programming?
  • What is my role in supporting students’ social and emotional learning?
Central Office Supports for MTSS Implementation

Click here to download the Central Office Supports for MTSS Implementation Guide