What is MTSS?

MTSS is a process by which schools use data to identify the academic and behavioral supports each and every student needs to be successful in school and leave school ready for life. The process provides students with evidence-based instruction and interventions matched to their needs and monitors student progress to improve their educational outcomes. MTSS also allows educators to evaluate the overall health of their system and target resources by providing the necessary data to determine which elements of the education system are performing adequately and which require further development. MTSS is a decision-making framework composed of evidence-based practices in assessment and instruction. MTSS is not a packaged program, set of assessments or curriculum that can be purchased.

MTSS is also a framework for educating all children to high levels of proficiency. It is driven by general education, though it has been demonstrated to be effective for students served in special programs (e.g., Special Education, English Language Learners etc.) The MTSS Process takes place within Universal, Targeted, and Intensive levels of instruction. Each of these levels provides increasingly intensive instruction, based on student needs, to support student progress toward proficiency. The essential components that must be in place to ensure that MTSS is implemented effectively are listed below. Critical to each and every one of these components is fidelity of implementation.

Robust Universal instruction in the Iowa Core

The course of study, instruction and assessment deemed critical for student success. Universal instruction in Iowa refers to the state adopted standards that outline what educators are expected to teach and students are expected to learn; the day to day instruction that is generally provided to all students.

Universal screening

The data that are collected periodically and used to monitor the educational “health” of a student or system and assist in identifying if more support/instruction is needed.

Evidence-based instructional interventions at the Targeted and Intensive levels

The additional general education support/instruction that is provided to individuals whose needs are not being satisfactorily met by Universal Instruction only.

Progress monitoring

Data used to assess students’ academic performance, to quantify a student’s rate of improvement, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the Targeted or Intensive instruction.

Data-based decision-making

A systematic process of using data (and not opinion) to arrive at conclusions regarding student needs, progress and performance.

What is the Connection Between MTSS and Special Education?

Although MTSS is driven by general education, the application of the process is critical when decisions regarding eligibility for special education instructional services and supports are initially made.  During this eligibility determination process, the evaluation of student data in response to general education interventions is one of the required elements that need to be examined before this special education decision is made.  In essence, it needs to be determined that an individual’s educational needs exceed the capacity and obligation of the general education setting (including targeted and intensive instruction).  The evaluation of general education intervention data are required to establish this need. Furthermore, the critical elements of the MTSS process described above (Robust universal tier instruction, Progress monitoring and Data-based decision-making) must be present/addressed in an eligible individual’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and are consistently considered as future special education decisions are made.  Thus, when making decisions about any student, general education or special education, the MTSS process provides a useful framework that will help to insure that the needs of the individual are being appropriately addressed.

For additional information regarding the MTSS process and its connection with special education, please contact: