What is MTSS?

By Peg Rosen

At a glance

  • MTSS is a framework many schools use to provide targeted support to struggling students.

  • The goal of MTSS is to intervene early so students can catch up with their peers.

  • It screens all students and aims to address academic and behavior challenges.

MTSS stands for multi-tiered system of supports. It’s a framework many schools use to give targeted support to struggling students. You may also hear it called the MTSS framework, the MTSS process, or the MTSS model. 

MTSS is designed to help schools identify struggling students early and intervene quickly. It focuses on the “whole child.” That means it supports academic growth, but many other areas, too. These include behavior, social and emotional needs, and absenteeism (not attending school).

The tiers of support are a huge part of MTSS. They get more intense from one level to the next. For example, a child getting small group interventions may need to “move up” to one-on-one help.

MTSS supports the adults at the school, too. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — the main education law for public schools — cites MTSS as a way to increase teacher effectiveness. ESSA gives states funding that can be used for professional development to help teachers use MTSS.

MTSS isn’t the same thing as response to intervention (RTI). MTSS is more comprehensive. But it may include the three tiers of RTI.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Peg Rosen writes for digital and print, including

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Melody Musgrove, EdD served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.