A Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a systemic, continuous school improvement framework. At the Tier 1 level, all students have equitable access to effective core instruction with high quality curriculum and the use of universally designed, differentiated instructional practices. It is important to ensure there is alignment of academic standards, behavioral expectations, and social-emotional competencies taught and reinforced with fidelity and sustained over time at the Tier 1 level.
Another necessity in this work is a problem-solving culture that includes a data-driven, team based approach designed to ensure that every student receives the appropriate level of support when they need it. With a strong academic and behavioral core in place, data should show that at least 80% of students are successful if the core is effective. This core instruction is the basis of the entire multi-tiered system of support. Below
is additional information on how to implement and evaluate a strong academic and behavioral foundation.
- Defined Goals - standards based instructional materials and assessments aligned to rigorous college and career-ready standards.
- Methods - the use of research-based instructional strategies (e.x., Universal Design for Learning, Peer Assisted Learning), data driven instructional decisions, and routines that teachers use to meaningfully engage students in active learning.
- Screening- Proactive universal screening to evaluate core instruction and to ensure early intervention if any students are struggling with skills that could likely impact access to grade level standards.
- Supports- At the tier 1 level appropriate scaffolding and additional support must be provided on an as needed basis to ensure the core curriculum is accessible for all students. This includes support for differently abled students, students from diverse backgrounds or multilingual learners. Universal access to core curriculum is a key component of tier 1.
- Assessment and Data- the ongoing process of gathering information about student learning. Both formative and summative assessment data should be collected and reviewed periodically to identify the efficacy of core instruction. Paying close attention to the progress of different groups of students will help to inform instructional decisions and other considerations for assessing the effectiveness and fidelity of core instruction.
- Common, positively stated social and behavioral expectations aligned to social-emotional competencies are defined, taught, and supported
- Use of consistent, instructional, restorative and non-exclusionary continuum of supports for social and behavioral errors
- Size - secondary schools are typically larger and often are departmentalized. It can be challenging to reach everyone in the building, and implementation typically takes longer as a result.
- Organizational Culture - secondary schools have a laser-like focus on academic content. While important, teaching behavior and social-emotional health is equally important and is the responsibility of all adults in the building.
- Schedule - The secondary school schedule can create challenges. Meeting students’ needs requires flexibility in the scheduling and delivery of interventions as well as collaborative time for teachers and related service providers. The schedule should consider: student access to tiered supports; time for teachers and other staff members to collaborate, and time for teachers to analyze and discuss data.
- Student Motivation and Engagement - older students will want greater input into decision making that directly affects them. Consider soliciting feedback from student stakeholders while building and maintaining the behavioral/social-emotional core. Including a diverse student population in these feedback sessions will help to ensure alignment with the unique needs of students throughout the school. Including students who are less likely to be engaged and who represent a diversity of race, culture, ability, sexual orientation, and gender when gathering feedback will help to ensure alignment to the population’s needs.
- Staff Culture - Adopting a multi-tiered framework at the secondary level can require a significant shift in a school’s culture. Staff members may need to collaborate in new ways, related service providers may need to push in or coach rather than pull out, various groups may have to work together to examine data in ways they did not before, and agree - philosophically - that the success of all students is the responsibility of all staff members.
Because students spend the majority of the school day in classrooms, this environment is particularly important to academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning. When we speak about the MTSS framework in the classroom, we are referring to the instruction and practices that occur for all students, including diverse learners. An effective social-emotional/behavioral core at the classroom level supports effective classroom communities, and thus, academic achievement.
Evidence-based classroom practices should be utilized to improve student engagement and thus, academic outcomes. Classroom practices should be aligned with the school-wide expectations and include:
- Minimize crowding and distraction
- Maximize structure and predictability
- Co-create behavior agreements with students
- State, teach, review and support positively stated behavioral agreements
- Maximize active engagement and varied opportunities to respond
- Active supervision
- Efficient and specific feedback regarding behavior
- Consistent formation of strong community engagement through the use of restorative practices.
- Equity focused ongoing self-assessment and reflection for continuous improvement
Although content is a large focus of academic learning at the secondary level, it is still critically important to focus on skills and behaviors that help students meet with academic success and become college- and career-ready. Educators should support students needing additional focus on executive functioning (such as homework, organization, and planning skills), as well as address skill deficits that may have grown larger over time. Additionally, motivation and engagement at the secondary level are key factors for student learning and should be addressed accordingly. To this end, connectedness and relationships between students themselves as well as students and educators are critical to success at the secondary level.
Learn More in the Classroom Communities Course.
As you can see, effective Tier 1 instruction and team based data driven approaches to implementation are the foundation of a strong academic and behavioral/SEL core. When working together educators can make improvements in both the academic and behavioral/social
emotional progress for all students.
Learn More About Tier 1
If you're interested in improving your school's implementation of Tier 1, be sure to check out BRIDGE-RI's strand of courses devoted to this topic. We have courses focused both on Tier 1 Academics and Tier 1 Behavioral/Social Emotional Learning. Please note that you must have an account with BRIDGE-RI to enroll in courses. Sign up today - it's free and easy!