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Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Strategy Guide - Archived

Introduction of Strategy

CDE defines CO-MTSS as a prevention-based framework of team-driven data-based problem solving for improving outcomes of every student through family, school, and community partnering and a layered continuum of evidence-based practices applied at the classroom, school, district, region, and state level. Leveraging the Implementation Science Active Implementation Frameworks (Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, Friedman, & Wallace, 2005), CO-MTSS aims for effective collaboration of adults to align district systems with school-based implementation.

The following components are derived from various articles and research and have been adopted by Colorado as the foundation for creating a sustainable system of supports and it includes:

  1. Team-driven shared leadership

  2. Data-based problem solving and decision making

  3. Family, school, and community partnering

  4. Layered continuum of supports

  5. Evidence-based practices

Evidence Base

ESSA defines levels of research based on the quality of the study (Levels 1-4). CDE requires that schools and districts identify the research base for strategies that they select for their Unified Improvement Plans, and for applications for school improvement funds in the EASI application.

The research on MTSS that is cited here meets the definition of Level 1 research. The research cited focused on the impact on student behavior and achievement when all MTSS components were implemented.

Leonard, K. M., Coyne, M. D., Oldham, A. C., Burns, D., & Gillis, M. B. (2019). Implementing MTSS in Beginning Reading: Tools and Systems to Support Schools and Teachers. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice: A Publication of the Division for Learning Disabilities, Council for Exceptional Children, 34(2), 110–117.

Scott, T. M., Gage, N. A., Hirn, R. G., Lingo, A. S., & Burt, J. (2019). An examination of the association between MTSS implementation fidelity measures and student outcomes. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 63(4), 308–316.

Gruman, L. (2018). Effects of a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) on Student Achievement, Course Enrollments, Tracking, and Equality of Educational Opportunity in a Midwest Suburban School District (M. Imber (ed.)) [Ed.D., University of Kansas].

Hester, P. J. (2019). Implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Support to Increase Student Success [Ed.D., East Carolina University].


Possible Root Causes include inadequate, inconsistent or ineffective...

  • Attendance and engagement systems
  • Student support services
  • Math instruction
  • Reading instruction
  • Intake process

Is this strategy a good fit for your district/school?

  • Does this major improvement strategy focus on a priority performance challenge and associated root cause(s)?
  • Are the expected outcomes of this major improvement strategy highly valued?
  • Do key leaders support this major improvement strategy? Do key leaders have the capacity to lead the strategy ongoing?
  • What are the skills and competencies needed to implement this major improvement strategy with fidelity? What support/professional development do staff members need to implement this strategy effectively?
  • Are the time, effort and resources needed for implementation feasible for the staff involved?

Considerations for Strategy Implementation

  • Will teaming structures and expectations distribute responsibility and shared decision-making across school, district, and community members (e.g. students, families, generalists, specialists, district administrators, etc.) to organize coordinated systems of training, coaching, resources, implementation, and evaluation for adult activities?
  • Will a consistent process be used by stakeholder teams across multiple levels to analyze and evaluate relevant information to plan, develop, implement, and measure strategies that support and sustain improved student and system outcomes?
  • Will there be a collaboration of families, schools, and communities as active partners in improving learner, classroom, school, district, and state outcomes?
  • How will you ensure that every student receives equitable academic and behavioral support that is culturally responsive, developmentally appropriate, and matched to need, , through layers that increase in intensity from universal (every student) to targeted (some students) to intensive (few students)?
  • How will the school select instruction, intervention, and assessment that have been proven effective through research indicating improved outcomes for students?

Implementation Guide

Action Steps


Create Leadership Team

Team is created with clearly defined roles and responsibilities and includes representation from all stakeholders (e.g. special education, general education, families, students, mental health, community, etc.) and clearly defined roles and responsibilities are developed. At least one member on the team should be a senior leader with decision making authority that can allocate resources to support the efforts of the team.

Generate and Implement Team Operating Procedures

Create a meeting schedule that includes team meetings that occur at least monthly. These meetings should include a regular meeting format/agenda, norms, and meeting minutes

Design Action Plan

Create MTSS Action Plan, aligned with the identified priority performance challenge, that includes common language, common goals, and resources/funding allocations

Action Steps


Determine problem solving process

Determine and put into place a formal problem solving process (problem identification, problem analysis, plan implementation, and plan evaluation) to conduct continuous improvement cycles.

Create data collection system

Establish a system of universal, targeted, and intensive data collection in both academics and behavior.

Implement Progress Monitoring

Put into action high quality, evidence based universal screening and progress monitoring tools in all academic and behavioral domains.

Action Steps


Create an inclusive culture

Facilitate opportunities for families and educational staff to mutually collaborate with

community partners (e.g., businesses, organizations, institutions of higher education) to

connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services, and civic participation.

Build trusting relationships

Create a supportive family environment that include flexible hours and meeting times, partnering vocabulary (i.e. “we” and “our”, and effective homework that is design to focus on successful completion.

Design capacity building opportunities

Educate all stakeholders in sharing responsibilities; consistently organize and distribute data that is accessible to every family. The Team provides (a) usable and easy-to-read reports on academic and behavioral data, and (b) guidance to understand data displays.

Dedicate necessary resources

Collaborate with every stakeholder group to ensure clear policies, documents, and

procedures have been adopted to support Family, School, and Community Partnering (FSCP).

Action Steps


Create learning opportunities

Build understanding and skills around tiered logic with every stakeholder. Analyze the knowledge and skills of stakeholders when selecting content for adult learning experiences. Coordinate training, education, and technical assistance on high quality, prevention based, layered supports that will improve academic and behavioral outcomes for every student.

Use data based problem solving

Uses a data based problem solving and decision making process when providing supports at the system and personnel level.

Provide guidance for implementation

Provide guidance guidance for school implementation of practices across a layered

continuum. A prevention focus is prioritized.

Create learning opportunities

Build understanding and skills around tiered logic with every stakeholder. Analyze the knowledge and skills of stakeholders when selecting content for adult learning experiences. Coordinate training, education, and technical assistance on high quality, prevention based, layered supports that will improve academic and behavioral outcomes for every student.

Action Steps


Identify Practices

Use an intentional selection process for, selecting and prioritizing evidence based universal, targeted, and intensive strategies, interventions, and supports.

Plan and Conduct Professional Development

Train and coach every stakeholder on the adoption and implementation of each evidence-based practice, including its core features, how delivery occurs, supporting research, and fidelity and impact measures

  • For more information on evidence based professional development see Focused Professional Development Strategy Guide

Determine Measurable Results

Determine and put into action measurable results of instruction, intervention, and assessment

practices to demonstrate direct relationships to improved student outcomes in the identified area(s) of need.

Monitor Implementation

Guide and monitor effective implementation of fidelity and outcome assessment practices (e.g., consistent protocol for delivery).