Multi-Tiered System of Supports: Is it Just Another RTI Model or Something Different?

Posted by Andrew Howard on Jan 3, 2015 3:18:00 PM
Andrew Howard

RTI or MTSSDoes this sound familiar for some of you?

Just when you started getting used to the constructs of your Response to Intervention (RTI) model, your school or district decided to roll out a new tiered-learning approach: Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS).

The first question that comes to many of our minds is:

  • What is MTSS and is it different than RTI?

Read below the break to learn about the goals and benefits of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model and its similarities and differences to a RTI model.

Aren't RTI and MTSS the same thing?

The quick answer is "yes and no". Let's look at why. First off, check out these definitions of RTI and MTSS:

  • Response to Intervention (RTI): 
    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 decision. (PBIS)

  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)a coherent continuum of evidence based, system-wide practices to support a rapid response to academic and behavioral needs, with frequent data-based monitoring for instructional decision-making to empower each student to achieve to high standards. (Kansas MTSS)
Now, you wouldn’t be wrong if you said the two definitions sound a lot alike. Both seem designed specifically to support students and seek to optimize school-wide decision making and instruction resources to do so.

However, though the two support models are very similar, we are seeing state education departments (like Minnesota, Kansas, and Massachusetts) begin to make a distinct move away from a focus on RTI and toward utilizing MTSS models as a means of student academic and social support.

So, why would states and schools make this shift? 
Within RTI, you tend to see a greater focus on Tier 2 and Tier 3 decisions. MTSS models claim to place a larger focus on what should be done to help all students achieve progress and proficiency, including Tier 1.

Okay, so what is the difference?

Obviously, every school has different nuances, but the goal of an MTSS system is for 80 percent of students to reach proficiency. Often times, schools will use an RTI strategy as a piece of it's overall MTSS model. The frame work and decisions laid out in the RTI model are applied as added help within Tier 2 and Tier 3, and then the overall goal attempts to make the proper decisions and actions to help their student population reach that 80 percent goal. 

The functions of RTI and MTSS are both geared toward helping struggling learners receive needed reinforcement and providing the tools needed to help students reach Tier 1. However, MTSS models also strive to promote strategies that can be implemented in the best interest of all students; from behavior supports, collaboration, critical thinking, and technology to community outreach and parental education. It’s an all-of-the-above approach, seeking to help all students gain understanding and master.

Just like RTI, MTSS models must be data-driven. Any decisions that are made for the educational well-being of the students need to be wrapped in evidence of efficacy. Students are assessed and data is tracked on a regular basis, which serves to inform instruction and student placement.

Tell us about your experiences with RTI and MTSS models!

The purpose of this blog post was to showcase the very general differences in focus between a Response to Intervention model and a Multi-Tiered System of Supports model. We'd love to hear more about your experiences with the support models and what you like/don't like about the two!

Start your conversation on our Facebook Page or Tweet us at @Wowzers!

More free RTI resources from the Wowzers Team!

Download Wowzers RTI Planning Guide PDF

Topics: RTI

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

Subscribe to Email Updates