What is MTSS in Rhode Island?


A Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a systemic, continuous school improvement framework in which data based decision-making is practiced across all levels of the educational system for supporting students. The framework  of MTSS is a “way of doing business,” which utilizes high quality evidence-based instruction, intervention, and  assessment practices to ensure that every student receives the appropriate level of support to be successful promoting equity. A Multi-Tiered System of Supports helps schools and districts to organize resources through  alignment of academic standards, behavioral expectations, and social-emotional competencies implemented with  fidelity and sustained over time, in order to enable every child to successfully reach his/her fullest potential. 



Definition (2019)  

In Rhode Island, a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is defined as: a framework for school improvement that ensures that all students are supported for meeting academic, behavioral, and social emotional outcomes. All students means all students - including multilingual and differently abled students. In a MTSS, all students have equitable access to strong, effective core instruction using high quality curriculum and universally designed and differentiated instructional practices at Tier 1, evidence based group interventions at Tier 2, and intensive individualized  interventions at Tier 3.  

MTSS RI Components

The Essential Components are:

  • Team Driven Shared Leadership
  • Data-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • Family, School, and Community Partnering
  • Layered Continuum of Supports
  • Evidence-Based Practices

When schools and districts fully-embrace and embed these components into their organizational structure, systems  align and substantive improvement can occur. An enabling context is established so that systems-level and stakeholder-level innovations can be  initiated, implemented with fidelity, and maintained successfully over time.

The goal and primary purpose of MTSS RI implementation is to improve outcomes for students, using:  

  • data for decision making,  
  • evidence-based practices for student outcomes, and  
  • systems which adults need in order to support implementation efforts collaboratively (general  education, special education, related service, etc.) through shared responsibility for all students

Creating a Problem Solving Culture

By systematically evaluating and analyzing student progress through ongoing universal screening and progress  monitoring, school systems are able to more efficiently use their available resources and to improve student  outcomes. This process allows educators to problem-solve less severe educational challenges in the general education  environment, preserving additional resources for students who require more targeted and intensive instruction/  intervention in order to achieve educational benchmarks. This type of structured problem-solving process meets the  mandates of both ESEA (2002) and IDEA (2004) and contributes to legislated considerations in the Every Students  Succeeds Act/ESSA (2015). MTSS RI also supports the Rhode Island educational regulations put forth in the Basic  Education Plan (e.g. data driven decision making, access to high quality core, interventions), Secondary Regulations  (e.g. screening, evidence based intervention), and Regulations Governing the Education of Students with Disabilities  (e.g. Coordinated Early Intervening Services [CEIS] and SLD identification).  

MTSS RI implementation is dependent upon effective use of data and information to make decisions about student level and system-level progress. In order for districts and schools to function as a problem-solving culture, a shift in  thinking must take place. The shift is the recognition that student achievement comes from a shared responsibility of  all stakeholders to ensure an appropriate fit of curriculum, instruction, and environment that enables student  learning. Effective leadership facilitates the building of systems and atmosphere to support and encourage  educational stakeholders to problem solve at all levels and more efficiently meet student needs. 

Leadership for MTSS RI

Shared leadership within MTSS RI exists at all levels (school, district, region, and state). For MTSS implementation to  be successful, it is critical to establish leadership teams at each level of the system; these teams will ensure effective  implementation across all levels of the system (district, school, classroom, grade/content, and individual student).  Initially, the team creates a common vision and establishes a common language in order to clarify the purpose and  desired outcomes. Through data-based problem solving and decision-making, system support needs are identified,  and plans are constructed. Leadership teams engage in ongoing review and evaluation of progress data to determine  how to best allocate funding and available resources. Implementation, on the other hand, is the responsibility of all. 

Implementation is a Science 

Effective implementation of an MTSS framework—building both individual stakeholder capacity and the system’s  collective capacity—takes time. In order to reach full implementation, implementers should expect the process to  take 2-4 years (longer in secondary schools) to then build to sustainability. An MTSS framework systematizes:  administrative and distributed leadership, teaming structures, personnel roles, use of a problem-solving process,  coaching, operating routines, embedded and continuous personnel development, and action planning.  The Office of Student, Community, and Academic Supports at RIDE provides support for MTSS through the RI Systems  of Support. In the past, support was primarily through face-to-face training and technical assistance - limiting scale up  and sustainability. The current focus is building more robust blended, online offerings as part of the Educator Course  Network to increase offerings with a variety of models: self-paced, facilitated, and online communities of practice.

Has the information here challenged your current understanding of MTSS?

We encourage you to deepen your understanding of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports by enrolling in BRIDGE-RI's MTSS Overview course. This two hour course goes into depth to establish common language and a conceptual understanding of MTSS so that all Rhode Island educators are on the same page. Want to share this knowledge with others? Use our handy reference guide to help others learn the basics of MTSS. 

Last modified: Tuesday, June 6, 2023, 9:40 AM