Response to Intervention RTI- Multi-Tiered System of Supports MTSS

RTI (Response to Intervention) is an early intervention strategy within general education and is also one way to identify students who need special education services. Schools can use RTI to help children who are struggling academically or behaviorally. One of the underlying premises of RTI is the possibility that a child’s struggles may be due to inadequacies in instruction or in the curriculum, currently or in the child’s past.

MTSS (Multi-tiered System of Supports) incorporates much of RTI, and builds on it. MTSS addresses academic as well as the social, emotional, and behavioral development of children. MTSS is a process for providing support for students who need additional support using a tiered approach.

Are RTI and MTSS the same idea?

Both are multi-tiered instructional frameworks. Both are approaches to help struggling students, but they are not the same thing.

How does RTI/MTSS relate to eligibility?

RTI or MTSS may be used as part of the determination process for identifying students specific learning disabilities or other disabilities.

RTI cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation. Once parental consent has been given for an initial evaluation, the school district must not delay completion of the evaluation because an RTI or MTSS process is pending.

What are the big ideas of these strategies?

Universal screening

Universal screening means all students are involved in an initial assessment of knowledge and skills. From this universal screening, it’s possible to identify which students appear to be struggling or lacking specific knowledge or skills in a given area.

Evidence-based interventions

With MTSS, instructional strategies and interventions are based on what research has shown to be effective with students. Using evidence-based practices ensures better results for students—the thinking goes, “it has been proven to work before for other students, therefore, it may likely work with my students as well.”

How do you know what practices are evidenced-based? The United States Department of Education has created a guide that walks people through the process of finding evidence-based practices, “Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence.”

Tiered instruction of increasing intensity

Students identified through the universal screening as “at risk” or “struggling” then move through the general education curriculum with adapted and individualized interventions that increase in intensity (the tiers) for specific students who do not show sufficient learning or skill development. RTI models vary with respect to the number of tiers involved in the process. There is no “official” recommendation as to the most effective number of tiers. Three tiers of instructional intervention is a common practice.

Progress monitoring

Key to RTI is a constant checking of student progress with whatever evidence-based instruction is being used. Progress monitoring helps pinpoint where each individual student is having difficulties.

Progress monitoring is a method of keeping track of children’s academic development. Progress monitoring requires frequent data collection (i.e., weekly) with technically adequate measures, interpretation of the data at regular intervals, and changes to instruction based on the interpretation of child progress.

The information gathered through progress monitoring directly informs decision making  for individual students. Is the student making progress in this approach? Where? Where not? Is moving to the next tier of RTI appropriate, given that evidence? Does the student need to be referred for special education evaluation?

Informed decision making for individual students

When used as part of a tiered instructional process, progress monitoring can provide information for making judgments about the student’s development. This includes the need to move to the next tier of instructional intensity, or perhaps be referred for a  evaluation for special education services.


Is Your Child a Struggling Reader

Questions Parents Should Ask About Response to Intervention

MiMTSS Michigan’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports Technical Assistance Center

Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) Project

Watch and Learn:


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