What Is MTSS?

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) provides a guiding framework for educators to prioritize students in need of additional supports, use evidence-based practices, and progress monitor with data.

As schools serve a student population with increasingly complex needs across academics, behavior, and social-emotional learning (SEL), many schools are turning to a comprehensive tiered student support framework, such as MTSS, to meet the needs of all students. This framework has been highlighted as a critical lever of improvement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which calls for the use of evidence-based interventions and data-driven progress monitoring for students in need.

DOWNLOAD: Free Interventions and Progress Monitoring Toolkit for MTSS/RTI →

MTSS vs. RTI vs. PBIS 

Both academic response to intervention (RTI) and positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) are similar to MTSS in that they share a preventative approach and deliver tiered interventions based on student needs. However, the MTSS framework encompasses both the academic and non-academic needs of students. MTSS is a cohesive, integrated model for data-driven decision making that emphasizes teaching the whole child. 

Kent Mcintosh, an expert on MTSS, writes, "Rather than adding yet another initiative to crowd out the to-do lists of teachers and administrators, MTSS helps to connect existing efforts and systems across domains and integrate the supports already provided to students into a seamless whole."

School districts implementing MTSS prevent students from slipping through the cracks by eliminating silos and helping educators see a holistic view of each student through their academics and behavior. The integration of student supports can also help educators reduce the inefficiencies of competing initiatives.

How MTSS Works: Components of MTSS

MTSS Data Collection 

One of the underlying principles of MTSS is that prevention and early intervention are most effective. Schools doing MTSS well use universal screening processes to systematically identify which students need targeted help. MTSS interventionists then use data across academic performance, behavior, attendance, and social-emotional learning to source the right intervention strategy from a whole-child perspective. An MTSS software platform can help educators filter through assessment, coursework, attendance, behavior, and SEL data to quickly identify at-risk students. 

MTSS Support Teams 

At its heart, MTSS is a collaborative process that relies on teams of educators to help students meet goals. School-based teams typically incorporate time to evaluate and strengthen Tier 1 practices that support all students, as well as to review early warning indicators for students in need of Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions. For students with action plans, Student Support Teams meet regularly for progress monitoring and to determine if the student has met the goal of the intervention. Support teams are also critical in establishing and monitoring systems for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. Across multiple school teams, a single system of record can help educators collaborate effectively, share intervention plans, and monitor progress. 

MTSS District Support  

School district leaders support effective MTSS practices through communicating a unified vision, long-term planning, program evaluation, resource allocation to schools, and professional development. District-level MTSS teams can also meet regularly to evaluate the fidelity of implementation and student outcomes. Increasingly, districts are adopting system-wide MTSS data systems to support continuous improvement of student outcomes.

What are MTSS Tiers? 

Tier 1

Tier 1 supports are sometimes referred to as “universal” because they are provided to every student. Examples of strong Tier 1 supports include high-quality core instruction and social-emotional learning supports. Tier 1, however, can also refer to a service provided to every individual student, such as meeting with a counselor at the start of the year. 

Tier 2

Tier 2 supports refer to services that are targeted, or specifically delivered to around 15 to 20 percent of students. In addition to identifying students who need Tier 2 support, effective schools use data from multiple domains to determine the right intervention for each student who is at-risk. They typically agree upon "cut points” to help them know when a student is at-risk and when a Tier 2 support is required. 

Tier 3

Tier 3 supports refers to intensive services that one to five percent of students receive if they continue to struggle and require even more support. It is also for students who are undergoing more of an acute crisis, such as the death of a parent.

Examples of MTSS in Action: Strategies from School and District Leaders

A growing number of schools and districts are prioritizing tiered frameworks to ensure that educators are delivering the right interventions to students at the right time. This work includes setting up data systems, mobilizing human resources, and aligning staff around goals and expectations for MTSS.    

While each district is at a different stage in this journey, there's a lot to learn from the processes, strategies, and tools being used today to implement MTSS.

Below, take a look at how innovative schools and districts across the country are paving the way forward for MTSS and changing what it means to prepare students for bright futures.

Explore how education leaders are serving students' academic, social, and emotional needs within a structured system of supports that works for their school or district.


The State of MTSS in Education: Infographic

State of MTSS in Education

Many schools and districts are starting to explore tiered intervention frameworks. Yet, bringing MTSS strategies to life presents many challenges.

This infographic shares insights from more than 400 educators and administrators on the state of MTSS in education today. Learn what K-12 education leaders are saying about the opportunities, challenges, and benefits of implementing a tiered support system.   


VIEW INFOGRAPHIC: State of MTSS in Education →

Frequently Asked Questions about MTSS

Tips for Getting Started with MTSS

Year One of MTSS: Tips for Getting Started

We answer the most common question about MTSS and RTI: how can our district get started? Learn how to set up a winning tiered support system.
MTSS Time and Human Resources

Maximizing Time & Human Resources in MTSS

Who should be involved in our MTSS? How can we build time into school schedules for student support meetings?

How to Embed SEL in MTSS

Social-emotional learning and MTSS are a match made in heaven. What's the best way to incorporate social-emotional learning into a tiered support framework?

Introducing Panorama Intervention Management for MTSS & RTI

Streamline your MTSS or RTI process. Panorama makes it easy to identify students in need of intervention, manage and track tiered interventions, and understand whether interventions are working.


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