Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) & PBIS

What is Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS)?

Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS), formerly known as RTI grew from efforts to improve identification practices in special education. Simply put, it is a process of systematically documenting the performance of students as evidence of the need for additional services after making changes in classroom instruction. MTSS promises to change the way schools support students with learning and behavior problems by systematically delivering a range of interventions based on demonstrated levels of need.

MTSS is defined as "the practice of providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals, and applying child response data to important educational decisions" (Batsche et al., 2005). Based on a problem-solving model, the MTSS approach considers environmental factors as they might apply to an individual student's difficulty, and provides services/intervention as soon as the student demonstrates a need. Focused primarily on addressing academic problems, MTSS has emerged as the new way to think about both disability identification and early intervention assistance for the "most vulnerable, academically unresponsive children" in schools and school districts (Fuchs & Deshler, 2007, p. 131, emphasis added).

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is based on a problem-solving model and aims to prevent inappropriate behavior through teaching and reinforcing appropriate behaviors (OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, 2007). Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a process that is consistent with the core principles of MTSS. PBIS offers a range of interventions that are systematically applied to students based on their demonstrated level of need, and addresses the role of the environment as it applies to development and improvement of behavior problems.

Both MTSS and PBIS are grounded in differentiated instruction. Each approach delimits critical factors and components to be in place at the universal (Tier 1), targeted group (Tier 2), and individual (Tier 3) levels. Our goal is to describe the shared (identified in bold) characteristics of these approaches as a basis for highlighting how best to meet the needs of children experiencing academic and social difficulties in school.

(from PBIS Newsletter Vol 4, Issue 2)

<The combination of MTSS and PBIS provides effective instructional strategies for both academic and behavior systems>

Implementation Features
Grounded in the same principles as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), the core features of MTSS include:

  • Expectations for high quality, research-based instruction in general education classrooms.
  • Universal, classroom-based screening to identify need for additional support.
  • Collaborative, team-based approach to development, implementation, and evaluation of alternative interventions.
  • Increasingly intense, multi-tiered application of an array of high-quality, evidence-based instruction matched to individual needs.
  • Continuous monitoring of progress to determine impact of interventions.
  • Expectations for parent involvement throughout the process.

Additional Resources

Related Tools

Case Examples


Multi-tiered Systems of Behavior Support: Implementing PBIS at Scales of Social Significance

PBIS is a multi-tiered system that is empirically validated and implemented at scale (by George Sugai, Rob Horner, and Kent McIntosh)

Achieving Equity In School Dsicipline: PBIS and Equity In School Discipline

Racial/ethnic disproportionality in school discipline has been evident for decades and has been increasing over time. An approach that has been effective is embedding equity work within a PBIS framework. (by Kent McIntosh, Rob Horner, & George Sugai)

Multi-Tiered Systems of Behavior Support: The Role of PBIS in Education

Improving academic and behavioral outcomes is about ensuring that all students have access to effective and accurately implemented instructional and behavioral practices. School-wide PBIS is a multi-tiered system of support for achieving these outcomes. (by George Sugai, Rob Horner, and Kent McIntosh)

Implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Support for Behavior: Recommended Practices for School and District Leaders

This resource was developed by a state-wide workgroup as a Technical Assistance Paper for FL schools and districts in RtI:B scale-up.

MTSS Implementation Components: Ensuring common language and understanding

This resource was developed as a result of our intensive collaborations with the USF Problem-Solving/RtI Project (the academic project for RtI) and the need to move toward a common language in order for successful MTSS roll-out state-wide.

Reaching All Students: RtI & SWPBS (IL SASED February Institute - Lombard, IL)

The presentation describes how RtI logic relates to positive behavioral interventions & supports for EVERYONE in school. The content includes RtI context, SWPBS basics, secondary/tertiary tier systems, and examples of PBS implementation.

SWPBS & RTI for All (CT Developmental Disabilities Conference-Cromwell, CT)

The presentation provides brief overview of School-wide Positive Behavior Support & Response-to-Intervention for EVERYONE in school.

IL PBIS 2008: Leadership (IL Coodinator's Networking Meeting-Rosemont, IL)

The presentation provides overview of SW-PBS implementation with data. It focuses on: 1) effective behavioral interventions, 2) academic & social behavior outcomes, 3) RtI application, and 4) SWIS summary 07-08.

School-wide Positive Behavior Support: Discipline & Beyond (Virginia Effective SW Discpline: Implementer's Forum-Charlottesville, VA)

The presentation describes rationale, features, outcomes of SWPBS (PBIS), & connection between RtI and School-wide Positive Behavior Support. It especially focuses on: 1) prevention, 2) continuum of evidence-based practices, 3) academic-behavior link, and 4) systems capacity.

School-wide Discipline and Positive Behavior Support (Administrative Class-University of Oregon)

The class session includes: 1) defining SWPBS, 2) core features of SWPBS, 3) examples and outcomes, 4) evaluation of SWPBS, 5) targeted interventions, 6) check-in/check-out, 7) bully-proofing in SWPBS, 8) SWPBS and RtI.

Reaching All Students: Implications of an RtI Approach (OSEP Project Directors Meeting-08)

The presentation describes Responsiveness-to-Intervention (RtI) and its relationship with SWPBS. It especially focuses on: 1) personnel preparation context & implementation, 2) critical features & developmental influences, and 3) SWPBS example and outcomes.

RtI Model of Continuum of Support: Kansas-Illinois Tertiary Demo Center (Chicago Forum-07)

General overreview of K-I tertiary demo project using RtI model and current implementation status.

Sustaining Change: RtI & SWPBS (Orange County PBS Conference)

The presentation discusses RtI & SWPBS and sustaining effective, efficient, and relevant learning environments.

Sustaining Change:RtI & SWPBS (Maryland Association for Elementary School Principals-Ocean City, MD)

The presentation was made to provide administrators with understanding of features that define & distinguish Responsiveness-to-Intervention & School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports.

SWPBS: Readiness & Commitment (LEARN PBS Project-Old Lyme, CT)

The presentation reviews SWPBS, readiness requirements, and participation agreements. General PBS implementation process and application of RtI are addressed.

Response to Intervention: Examining Classroom Behavior Support in Second Grade

This article reports on 2 studies investigating a response-to-intervention (RTI) approach to behavior support in 2 second-grade classrooms. The results suggest that a slightly more intensive but efficient targeted intervention ("check in and check out") was effective in supporting the social behavior success of 4 students whose problem behaviors were unresponsive to general classroom management practices. For 4 other students whose problem behaviors continued to be unresponsive to the "check-in and check-out" intervention, more individualized and function-based interventions were indicated and proved to be effective. The results from this research suggest that RTI logic can be applied to the social behavior support of students who present interfering problem behaviors in the classroom. Implications and recommendations for research and practice are discussed.

Extending RTI to School-wide Behavior Support (Missouri PBS Conference)

Response to Intervention translates well into School-wide.

Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD): Further Validation, Replication, and Normative Data

Two studies probe validation, replication, and normative questions regarding the Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD) procedure. The first included teachers from 15 elementary schools, while the second drew from 2 school districts. Similar results from both studies supported SSBD validity. The second study also supported reliability and replicability factors.

RtI & SWPBS (CT Phi Delta Kappan Meeting)

The presentation shows critical features of RtI and SWPBS through prevention logic, school-wide system for student success, and continuum of support for all students. RtI application examples and outcome data are included.

Evolution of RtI & SWPBS (CO PBIS- administrators breakfast meeting)

The presentation describes 1) general description of RtI, 2) overview of SWPBS and the relationship between RtI & SWPBS, and 3) outcome data of SWPBS.

Response to Intervention and Positive Behavior Support: Brothers from Different Mothers or Sisters with Different Misters?

The newsletter article describes the tight relationship between Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavior Support (PBS).

SWPBS: Beyond Classroom Management (St Thomas, Virgin Island)

The presentation focused on critical features of classroom management. It includes general overview of SW-PBS including classroom and individual support system, application of continuum of instructional and PBS, and RTI model approaches.

Increasing Social and Academic Success: Positive Behavior Support meets Response to Intervention (Region XI, Ft. Worth Texas)

The slides show essential features of SWPBS and RtI. The content includes SWPBS overview, implementation examples, prevention & supports for identified and as-risk students, Maryland PBS case examples, small group intervention, individual support, and Rtl.

RTI: Reasons, Practices, Systems, & Considerations (RTI Summit)

The presentation describes the link between SWPBS system and RtI logic, prevention logic, and RtI system and consideration.

SW-PBS & RtI: Lessons Being Learned (New England PBS)

The presentation was made to 1) discuss "big ideas" & "lessons learned" about SWPBS & RtI, 2) define RtI & features, 3) describe SWPBS v. RtI, adn 4) show applied research examples. The content includes RtI logic, SWPBS and RtI features, application of behavior and academic system, and so on.

Creating School Environments to Prevent Problem Behaviour and Support Students At-Risk and Those with Disabilities through School-wide Positive Behaviour Support (Australian Association for Special Education)

The presentation describes all levels of SWPBS implementation strategies and RtI logic application for student success (for academic and behavior). Essential elements and practical resources of SWPBS are presented with data.

School-wide Positive Behavior Supports (Western NSW PBS)

The presentation describes all levels of SWPBS implementation strategies. Essential elements and practical resources of SWPBS are presented with data and case examples.

SWPBS:Leadership Team 2005-2006 Cohort Follow-up (CT PBIS Leadership training)

The presentation focused on school-wide prevention logic model for student success. It includes RTI model approaches for behavior and academic system, features of successful organizations, and implementation process.

Beyond Classroom Management: School-based Mental Health & Positive Behavior Support (Inside Schoolhouse Door Conference)

The presentation focused on critical features of classroom management. It includes general overview of SW-PBS including classroom and individual support system, application of continuum of instructional and PBS, and RTI model approaches.

Linking Behavior Support and Literacy Support (Orange County training)

The presentation is about logic that links behavior support and academic supports and summary of recent research.