Inside the Classroom

Tips for Developing a Multi-tiered System of Supports

Schools around the country are adopting intervention frameworks like RTI (response to intervention) and MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports) to increase equity in education. RTI aims to help students who are struggling with academics, and is designed to provide students with access to three levels of tiered instruction. The first tier uses high-quality instruction to support students so they can catch up to grade level, and the second and third tiers provide more intensive academic instruction to struggling students.

MTSS goes beyond academics to include social and emotional supports for students who are struggling with behavioral issues. In fact, MTSS can include behavior intervention plans and lessons to help teachers incorporate social and emotional learning into the classroom. MTSS also takes into account the educators working with struggling students with the inclusion of professional development for teachers, as well as supports for educators to work together to help struggling students, both academically and behaviorally.

These two frameworks are closely linked and share the goal of ensuring that all students get what they need to be successful in school. Both frameworks have their advantages, but MTSS is more comprehensive and focuses more on helping and supporting students however they need, as opposed to only targeting students’ academic needs.

What is a Multi-Tiered System of Supports?

According to Response to Intervention: Policy Considerations and Implementation, a multi-tiered system of supports is defined as “the practice of providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals, and applying child response data to important educational decisions.”

When put into practice in the classroom, MTSS is a way for educators to provide targeted academic and behavioral supports for the whole child. It aims to identify struggling students early, provide them with targeted intervention, and support students academically, socially, and emotionally.

For many teachers, this is a new way to think about supporting students, so here, we’ll focus on providing practical strategies for teachers, such as creating support systems through collaborative meetings and the inclusion of students in the data-collection process.

How Can Teachers Support Each Other?

MTSS should be provided through the collaborative efforts between general education and special education teachers. This type of collaboration can be facilitated by holding meetings and asking purposeful questions about academic and behavioral strategies.

A good starting point for discussion between general education and special education teachers can include the following questions:

  • What behavioral strategies do you find most successful for students who exhibit [describe the behavior]?
  • What types of behavioral interventions have you tried?
  • What behavioral interventions do you recommend I try in my classroom? How can I support you in your efforts?
  • What academic strategies do you recommend for students who are struggling with [describe the academic skill]?
  • What are some additional ways I can support the student academically? How else can I support you?

Time should be set aside for teachers to talk about instruction, intervention, and the progress of their students. During these conversations, teachers should focus on problem-solving and analyzing data to make informed decisions. As a result of these meetings, trust and communication are developed and teachers can talk about the students they share as well as instruction across the tiers.

How Can Teachers Include Students in the Data-Collection Process?

Monitoring student progress can be done in many ways. For example, in blended learning classrooms, teachers can use exit tickets, as well as data collected from online learning programs to make instructional decisions, inform parents of their child’s progress, and show students their personal growth. In combination with data from online learning programs, teachers can also incorporate data binders to collect progress from class assignments, tests, and behavior.

Data binders are becoming increasingly popular among teachers and students in many schools. Teachers are training students to record academic and behavioral data throughout the day, week, and grading period. Students are recording progress and data using teacher-created graphs and charts. As a result, many students feel part of the data collection process and, as an added bonus, they can instantly see their personal results and areas for improvement.

Here are some suggestions for organizing a student data binder:

  1. Provide a binder for each student.
  2. Add tabs to each binder for each core subject area. After each of these tabs, include a chart or table you would like students to use to record their learning and progress. Additionally, students can keep samples of their work demonstrating growth.
  3. Add a tab for behavior. Have students write down their behavioral goal and include a chart or table for them to record information such as times during the day where they worked on their behavioral goal and the results from doing so.
  4. Bring students’ individual data binders to collaborative discussions with other teachers.
  5. Share student data binders with parents and families to show growth and progress during family conferences.

Many teachers are already doing many of these things in their classrooms. Their efforts and the use of these strategies can have a positive impact on their school and will continue to help to increase equity in education for all students.


Batsche, G., Elliott, J., Graden, J. L., Grimes, J., Kovaleski, J. F., & Prasse, D. (2005). Response to intervention: Policy considerations and implementation. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

About the Author


Rose Tran

As a young child, Rose dreamed of becoming a teacher. She made her dream into a reality and studied education in college, specializing in special education and multicultural education. She then worked as a teacher and interventionist in Texas district and charter schools for almost 15 years before joining Edgenuity’s Product Development Team. Rose strongly believes in the inclusion of all students and that any child deserves the best education possible. She is excited to be part of Edgenuity to continue contributing to the education community.