What is MTSS?

A multi-tiered system of supports1 is a data-driven, problem-solving framework that organizes and integrates student supports to improve learning outcomes for all students. The Tennessee Department of Education’s Overview of Student Supports (2018) describes Tennessee’s MTSS framework (see Figure 1):

The MTSS framework encompasses Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) in addition to Response to Instruction and Intervention for Behavior (RTI2-B) and other models of support. Working in concert, these programs complement each other and can better address the needs of the whole student. Neither academic nor non-academic concerns should be considered in isolation as the two often interact to contribute to a student’s strengths and needs2.


Figure 1

To maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of this responsive approach, Tennessee’s MTSS framework organizes instructional practices and interventions across three tiers of layered support. High-quality instruction and evidence-based practices are foundational to each of these increasingly intensive tiers. The supports that can be accessed through each tier are described below. 

Tier I – Universal Support: evidenced-based academic and non-academic instruction and support provided to all students; approximately 80 to 85 percent of students typically respond to this level of support. 

Tier II – Targeted Intervention: systematic and evidence-based support for small groups of students with similar academic or non-academic needs; approximately 10 to 15 percent of students who do not adequately respond to Tier I support will need targeted intervention. 

Tier III – Intensive Intervention: individualized intervention designed to support academic and non-academic needs not adequately addressed through Tier I and Tier II supports; individualization occurs through a systematic, data-based approach to intensification; approximately 3 to 5 percent of students will need Tier III support.

Tennessee’s MTSS is comprised of four essential components3 (described in Figure 2):

  1. Screening
  2. Progress monitoring
  3. A multi-level prevention and intervention system
  4. Data-based decision making

Together, these components promote a responsive approach to learning in which instruction and intervention vary with student need.

1McIntosh, K., & Goodman, S. (2016). Integrated multi-tiered systems of support: Blending RTI and PBIS. Guilford Press.

2Overview of Student Supports (2018). Tennessee Department of Education. Web.

3Essential components of MTSS (2021). Center on Multi-tiered Systems of Support at the American Institutes for Research. Web.

Figure 2

Figure 2: The Essential Components of Tennessee’s MTSS framework. Adapted from the Center of Multi-Tiered System of Supports at the American Institute of Research (2021)