A Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) is a data-driven, problem-solving framework to improve outcomes for all students. MTSS relies on a continuum of evidence-based practices matched to student needs. PBIS is an example of MTSS centered on social behavior.
MTSS emerged as a framework from the work conducted in public health emphasizing three tiers of prevention. Schools apply this model as a way to align to academic, behavioral, social, and emotional supports to improve education for all students. It’s important to remember these tiers refer to levels of support students receive, not to students themselves. Students receive Tier 2 supports, they are not Tier 2 students.
Tier 1 supports serve as the foundation for behavior and academics. Schools provide these universal supports to all students. For most students, the core program gives them what they need to be successful and to prevent future problems.
This level of support focuses on improving specific skill deficits students have. Schools often provide Tier 2 supports to groups of students with similar targeted needs. Providing support to a group of students provides more opportunities for practice and feedback while keeping the intervention maximally efficient. Students may need some assessment to identify whether they need this level of support and which skills to address. Tier 2 supports help students develop the skills they need to benefit core programs at the school.
Tier 3 supports are the most intensive supports the school offers. These supports require are the most resource intensive due to the individualized approach of developing and carrying out interventions. At this level, schools typically rely on formal assessments to determine a student’s need and to develop an individualized support plan. Student plans often include goals related to both academics as well as behavior support.
Each tier has its own set of systems and practices, but some key components appear across every level. Each of these features needs to be present in order for MTSS to be implemented with fidelity.
At its foundation, PBIS is a framework supported by research spanning decades. Study after study confirms the positive impact these tiered systems and practices have on improving student outcomes. The evaluation brief, "Is School-wide Positive Behavior Support an Evidence-based Practice?" and the article "Examining the Evidence Base for School-wide Positive Behavior Support" each lay out some of the research and provide additional resources to explore the topic further.