Multi-Tier System of Supports

A Multi-Tiered System of Supports is a systematic, continuous improvement framework that focuses on the positive educational experiences and outcomes of all students

A Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) is a systematic improvement framework in which continuous data-based problem-solving and decision making is practiced across all levels of the school system.

MTSS is a way of thinking and doing that utilises high-impact, evidence-based pedagogical practices to ensure every student receives the appropriate level of support, instructional intervention and adjustments to be successful.

MTSS assists schools to identify and organise resources and pedagogy responsively through alignment and monitoring of curriculum standards, behavioural expectations, and student wellbeing. Practices are implemented with fidelity and sustained over time in order to accelerate the educational outcomes of every student.

MTSS centres on a strong foundation of universal, research-based approaches which increase in intensity and individualisation until the barriers to learning are addressed. The result is a continuum of resources, strategies and structures that directly address the academic, communication, social, wellbeing, and behavioural variances across all cohorts.

Traditionally, emphasis is placed on Tier 1 which encompasses whole-school quality differentiated  instruction and support for all students. Tier 2 comprises of supplemental instruction and supports, with Tier 3 delivering intensive, individualised intervention.

However, with the introduction of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD), schools in Australia are becoming increasingly familiar with a four-tier system for identifying the level of support and adjustments provided to students. It is therefore worth considering how the application of this model can extend and reimagine the traditional three-tier MTSS framework.

When MTSS merges with the NCCD approach, the result is a transformative framework that captures the following:

Loren Swancutt – 2019
Updated from the initial version (2018)

The representation of the model is strategic in its design. Instead of the traditional pyramid approach of MTSS, the overlapping circles deliver the intended message that quality differentiated teaching practice should always form the default level of all educational experience. It is not separate from, nor the adjustment tiers instead of – it represents that regardless of the level of adjustment and support the student requires, it occurs in addition to quality differentiated teaching, not in its place.

The connection point of all tiers establishes the view that adjustments are not stagnant, but instead ever fluid and responsive to data. It encourages the consideration that adjustments need to be differential according to strengths and challenges across learning areas and experiences, and that all students have the potential to access varying levels of support as required.

Positioning the levels of adjustment as extensions of quality differentiated teaching allows them to be accessible in a more proactive and inclusive way. Planning supports within the regular curriculum experience and enacting them within the general education classroom allows all students to tap into and out of support responsively. It provides the option for all students to access the supports they require in the learning moment removing the delayed, reactive response of the traditional Response to Intervention process.

The tiers are are embedded in a blue layer, which represents the consideration and implementation of universal design principles. It emphasises the need to identify and plan for diversity from the outset, incorporating supports and all levels of adjustment into regular learning design, instead of retrospectively fitting after the fact. It prompts the application of adjustments to occur inclusively, binding all levels of support together within the general education classroom and regular curriculum.

Examples of Practice Across Levels of Adjustment:

The below matrix captures a contextualised school example of a four-tier MTSS framework.