Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)
Often referred to as the “way we do business" in schools, MTSS is an organizational framework intended to improve outcomes through the effective collaboration of adults.
The framework utilizes high quality evidence-based practices to provide the level of support needed for each educational stakeholder and for the whole system (i.e., classroom, school, program, or district). With MTSS, schools and districts integrate and align academic standards, behavioral expectations, and adult activities. Because MTSS is a comprehensive, continuous-improvement framework, data-based problem solving and decision-making is practiced across all levels - by each and every stakeholder within the system.
Within Colorado, the evolution of responsive learning frameworks has led to the current understanding of MTSS. An important guiding principle is the focus on prevention. By setting up systems and structures that reduce or remove learning challenges or operational barriers, MTSS enables each stakeholder to benefit from a safe and supportive environment. The Thompson School District (TSD) aligns its implementation of MTSS with the description from the state.
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) defines MTSS as:
a prevention-based framework of team-driven data-based problem solving for improving the outcomes of every student through family, school, and community partnering and a layered continuum of evidence-based practices applied at the classroom, school, district, region, and state level. (CDE, 2016)
This definition asks that the district functions as one system, with many sub-systems and many supports included. That means that a school district's resources, personnel, and operations should help ensure success within each school. The schools, then, are able to direct and coordinate all of its resources and strategies to secure access, opportunity, and educational benefit in each learning experience.
In TSD, the plan is to implement MTSS with fidelity and to sustain it over time. That priority has been named in Strive 2025 (the TSD strategic plan), and that belief will help shape the approaches that are adopted for use within the district. Through the effective application of implementation science and the active engagement of each stakeholder, TSD will prepare students for any pathway - for college, career, and life.
Because there have been different understandings about MTSS, some confusions exist about what MTSS is and what value it can offer to educational systems. For example, MTSS has been described as replacing Response to Intervention (RtI) or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), or serving as the combination of the two - without clarity about what that means or how things are connected. In actuality, both RtI and PBIS have identities within the MTSS framework, but there is more to MTSS than that.
And in many ways, it is simple and clear; MTSS is the what and the how.
It is the WHAT - as in, it is a batch of puzzle pieces, each with its own curves, colors, and connectors
...and MTSS is also the HOW - as in, MTSS helps make sense of each puzzle piece, linking them all together in a pattern where each piece contributes to a complete picture.
MTSS is the parts AND the whole!
The chart (below) provides some clarification. Explore additional pages to learn more about the MTSS framework and access resources, such as the MTSS Overview Handout. Links to CDE's websites are included below, along with contact information for the TSD MTSS Coordinator. You may also complete this form to request Technical Assistance (TA) regarding MTSS in TSD.
To learn more about MTSS, use the navigation menu (located at either the top of your screen, in a blue bar with a plus sign used to expand options, or found on the left side of your screen with major headings listed).
Questions or requests for technical assistance? You may complete this request form with your interest. Contact: Kim Watchorn, TSD MTSS Coordinator. (Website © 2019, updated 2020)