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Multi-Tiered Systems of Support/Response to Intervention (MTSS/RtI)

Georgia's MTSS Pyramid of Student Supports


MTSS Overview

In the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework, students are not “placed” in tiers. Students are viewed holistically, and supports are tiered. For example, some students may have good attendance and good health, but struggle in reading. For these students, additional supports for improving attendance or access to health care would not be required, but supports to improve reading outcomes would be necessary.

MTSS focuses on prevention of problems rather than simply intervening. During data review team meetings, the needs of each child are discussed, and the team provides suggestions for providing support for each student. Student needs vary. Some students have health concerns that the team may address through the offering of tele-health services. Other students may have difficulties in the area of behavior. Again, the team reviews the needs of each child, and plans are developed to provide support in an effort to prevent an escalation of problems.

While MTSS is a preventative framework and addresses student needs, the model may also be used to identify needs of teachers and others providing services to the student. For example, if several students in a classroom are having behavioral difficulties, the teacher may benefit from additional training or assistance from another staff member who has expertise in the area of classroom management strategies.


The Basics of RtI

What is Response to Intervention?

Response to intervention (RtI) is an educational model that promotes early identification of students who may be at risk for learning difficulties. For students who are identified as struggling, the RtI process includes a multi-step approach for providing services and interventions at increasing levels of intensity based on student needs. Federal laws (Every Student Succeeds Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004) emphasize the importance of providing high-quality, evidence-based instruction and interventions for all students, as well as those who are struggling to meet grade-level standards. RtI is a method for measuring how students respond to academic and behavior interventions in regular education prior to identifying a student as having a disability.

What are some of the words used to talk about RtI?
Response to Intervention (RtI)—addressed through federal and state law and refers to a tiered approach to instruction. Students who do not make adequate academic progress and who are at risk for difficulties in reading, math, written expression, and/or behavior receive increasingly intensive instructional and behavioral interventions.

Differentiation of Instruction—instruction tailored to meet the needs of diverse learners in the general education classroom.

Progress Monitoring—is a scientifically based practice of assessing students' performance on a regular basis. Progress monitoring helps school teams make decisions about instruction. In Ware County, progress monitoring is done every week, every other week, or once per month, depending upon the area addressed through RtI.

Universal Screening—is completed early in the school year to determine which students are at risk for not meeting grade level standards. Universal screenings are conducted by administering an academic and/or behavioral screening test to all children in a given grade level. Students whose test scores fall below a certain cutoff may be identified as needing more specialized academic interventions. Information from the screening as well as classroom performance and previous Georgia Milestone scores are reviewed by the school-level MTSS Data Team to determine the level and type of intervention the student should receive.

Scientific, Research-Based Instruction—specific curriculum, educational, and behavioral interventions that have been proven to be effective through scientific peer-reviewed journals or through evidence-based practices.

Data Review Team—a group of individuals knowledgeable about the student, curriculum, and/or interventions who meet to review student needs and develop a plan for assistance. Typical members include classroom teachers, interventionists, parents, school psychologists, school guidance counselors, building and system-level administrators, and additional staff, such as the ESOL teacher, special education teacher, personnel such as mental health counselors outside the school system, etc.

Aimline—also called the “Goal Line.” It represents the expected rate of a student’s progress over a specified amount of time.

Trend Line—a line on a graph that represents a line of best fit through the student’s data points. The trend line can be compared to the aimline to help inform responsiveness to intervention and to customize a student’s instructional program.

Standard Protocol model for intervention—the student is placed in a prescribed intervention standard for anyone with similar weaknesses

Problem-Solving Process—the team considers a variety of factors to determine the needs of the student and subsequent placement in interventions

Standards-based intervention—intervention aimed at improving a student’s performance on the standards, typically used for students who have gaps in knowledge. Most of these students are provided Tier 1 academic support.

Skills-based intervention—intervention aimed at improving performance on basic skills. After intense intervention, lack of improvement in basic skills may indicate the need for an evaluation for special education services.

Formative assessments—assessments conducted along with the way to help identify weaknesses that need to be addressed- results of these assessments should help “form” the instruction that follows the assessment. Scores earned on formative assessments may or may not be recorded as a grade since they are usually given to determine instructional needs in preparation for summative assessments.

Summative assessments—assessments conducted at the end of period of time typically resulting in a grade or score that shows what the student as retained. Scores for these assessments are typically recorded as a grade for the student, or may be earned on a state-wide assessment such as the Georgia Milestones.

Math Matters—weekly fluency practice provided in the regular classroom in Ware County. More information about Math Matters may be obtained from the Director of Student Achievement, Dr. Sonya Bennett (sbennett@ware.k12.ga.us).

Parent's Role in MTSS:

-  Work with your child at home on particular skill deficits, including behavioral concerns, identified through screenings or through consultation with school personnel.

-  If concerns arise, request a parent conference with your child's teacher or the administration.

-  Be involved and proactive in the education of your child.

-  Feel free to request to visit your child's classroom and ask for ways to assist your child to improve his or her performance.

What are the essential components of MTSS?

-  Universal screenings of academics and behavior in order to determine which students need closer monitoring or additional interventions;

-  Differentiation of instruction and use of scientific, research-based instruction and interventions;

-  Multiple tiers of increasingly intense scientific, research-based interventions that are matched to student needs;

-  Monitoring student progress in response to the instruction, interventions, and supports.

-  Use of progress-monitoring data to shape instruction and make educational decisions;

-  Parent involvement throughout the entire process.

How is MTSS being implemented in Georgia?

In Georgia, a three-tier model has been adopted for early intervention and to determine the student's response as required by the Georgia Department of Education regulations for special education (160-4-7). Students receive instruction based on their needs, and supports are scaffolded at various tiered levels. Students in special education, ESOL, Section 504, and gifted programs receive support and instruction through all tiers, depending upon the need.

What are the tiers of instruction or intervention? How does the Student Support Team fit into the process?

Tier 1 consists of a standards-based classroom with all students participating in instruction that is differentiated, research-based, and guided by progress monitoring and balanced assessments.

Students who are identified as struggling participate in Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction, which consists of needs-based instruction with standard intervention protocols. Tier 2 uses established intervention protocols such as research-based reading or math programs, which provide enhanced opportunities for extended learning, using computer-based interventions in an RtI lab as well as flexible, small groups. Tier 2 includes more frequent progress monitoring.

Students who are found to be in need of more intense instruction continue to participate in Tier 2 interventions in addition to Tier 3. Tier 3 includes individual assessments, tailored interventions to respond to their needs, frequent formative assessments, and consideration for specially designed instruction when data indicates a need. Tier 3 is the Student Support Team (SST) level of intervention and is a highly individualized, problem-solving layer of support. SST was a permanent commitment by the state of Georgia to federal district court as a result of Marshall vs. Georgia, 1984. The SST is a regular education, problem-solving process in every Georgia school. Its purpose is to provide support to both students and teachers with the outcome of improved student performance.

If a student appears to be in need of specially designed instruction through the special education program, the student is referred to the School Psychologist and possibly to other specialists, such as the Speech-Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, or Physical Therapist, for a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation. In Ware County, all referrals for comprehensive evaluation are reviewed by the System-Level MTSS Team to ensure every resource has been exhausted and that the data confirms that the student’s response to intervention has not been adequate prior to testing. Results of this evaluation are reflected in Georgia’s Special Education Eligibility form, and the Eligibility Team, which includes the parents, meets to review the information to determine if the student is eligible for special education services through one of the thirteen categories served by special education. Although a parent may request a comprehensive evaluation at any point, Georgia rules regarding eligibility for special education services encourage the use of scientific research-based interventions and progress monitoring prior to placement in special education for most areas of disability. Some areas, such as Traumatic Brain Injury, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing and Visually Impaired, may be excluded from this requirement, depending upon the circumstances.

Students who are determined to have a disability by the Eligibility Team and who qualify for specially designed instruction may be placed in Special Education if the parent gives consent for special education services. These specialized programs provide support to the student through implementation of adapted content, methodology, and/or instructional delivery with access to the Georgia Standards of Excellence.