There is a lot of discussion about MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) and RTI (Response to Intervention), and the two can seem interchangeable. Both are means to support students and both use data to inform decision making. But while RTI is part of MTSS, MTSS is much bigger than RTI.

Focused on only the academic deficits of students, and usually in the areas of literacy and math, RTI is an intervention system that aims to bring students up to grade level as soon as possible. Often, a struggling student may be put into a program, such as Title One, a core intervention within their academic day. Where RTI and MTSS overlap is that both provide students with 3 tiers of intensified intervention. Tier 1 encompasses the core instructional strategies teachers use to meet the needs of all students. Tier 2 provides individual support for a struggling student for 30-40 minutes two to three times per week. Tier 3 increases the frequency of that support to four or five times per week. When the intervention RTI provides isn’t successful, a student often receives a referral for Special Education.

MTSS, however, is a framework with a broader scope than RTI. It focuses on the “whole child” and their academic, behavior, and social-emotional needs. MTSS offers a comprehensive system of supports that goes beyond interventions and includes all students. For example, a student who is already in an existing intervention, such as Title One, or who has been deemed a Special Education student is still supported by MTSS. And because MTSS aims to address the needs of the whole child, a student may receive support in any or all areas of academic, behavior, or social emotional learning. In this effort, MTSS also works to bridge the gap between school and home.

Furthermore, MTSS is not just student focused. It also looks at teacher effectiveness and curriculum design. MTSS is often compared to an umbrella which can encompass RTI, PLCs, PBIS, and family involvement as well as the other pieces that make up the structure of a successful school. So, MTSS is a means of supporting not only the whole child but the whole learning community, families included.