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Definition of MTSS

The California Department of Education's definition of Multi-Tiered System of Supports and a comparison between it and Response to Instruction and Intervention.

The California Department of Education’s (CDE) definition of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) provides a basis for understanding how California educators can work together to ensure equitable access and opportunity for all students to achieve the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). MTSS includes Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) as well as additional, distinct philosophies and concepts.

CDE’s Definition of MTSS

In California, MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on CCSS, core instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs, and the alignment of systems necessary for all students’ academic, behavioral, and social success. California has a long history of providing numerous systems of support. These include the interventions within the RtI2 processes, supports for Special Education, Title I, Title III, support services for English Learners, American-Indian students, and those in gifted and talented programs. MTSS offers the potential to create needed systematic change through intentional design and redesign of services and supports that quickly identify and match the needs of all students.

California's Multi-Tiered System of Supports


Comparing MTSS to RtI2

CDE’s RtI2 processes focus on students who are struggling and provide a vehicle for teamwork and data-based decision making to strengthen their performances before and after educational and behavioral problems increase in intensity. Please visit the CDE Web site on RtI2 for further information.
MTSS Differences with RtI2

MTSS has a broader scope than does RtI2. MTSS also includes:

  • Focusing on aligning the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources.
  • Promoting district participation in identifying and supporting systems for alignment of resources, as well as site and grade level.
  • Systematically addressing support for all students, including gifted and high achievers.
  • Enabling a paradigm shift for providing support and setting higher expectations for all students through intentional design and redesign of integrated services and supports, rather than selection of a few components of RtI and intensive interventions.
  • Endorsing Universal Design for Learning instructional strategies so all students have opportunities for learning through differentiated content, processes, and product.
  • Integrating instructional and intervention support so that systemic changes are sustainable and based on CCSS-aligned classroom instruction.
  • Challenging all school staff to change the way in which they have traditionally worked across all school settings.

MTSS is not designed for consideration in special education placement decisions, such as specific learning disabilities. MTSS focuses on all students in education contexts.

MTSS Similarities to RtI2

MTSS incorporates many of the same components of RtI2, such as

  • Supporting high-quality standards and research-based, culturally and linguistically relevant instruction with the belief that every student can learn including students of poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, and students from all ethnicities evident in the school and district cultures.
  • Integrating a data collection and assessment system, including universal screening, diagnostics and progress monitoring, to inform decisions appropriate for each tier of service delivery.
  • Relying on a problem-solving systems process and method to identify problems, develop interventions and, evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention in a multi-tiered system of service delivery.
  • Seeking and implementing appropriate research-based interventions for improving student learning.
  • Using school-wide and classroom research-based positive behavioral supports for achieving important social and learning outcomes.
  • Implementing a collaborative approach to analyze student data and working together in the intervention process.

Venn Diagram of MTSS and RtI2

The following figure displays similarities and differences between California’s MTSS and RtI2 processes. Both rely on RtI2’s data gathering through universal screening, data-driven decision making, problem-solving teams, and are focused on the CCSS. However, the MTSS process has a broader approach, addressing the needs of all students by aligning the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources, and by implementing continuous improvement processes at all levels of the system.

Venn Diagram with Response to Intervention, which is universal screening, multiple tiers of intervention, data-driven decision making, problem solving teams, and focus on Common Core State Standards; all contained within California MTSS, which addresses the needs of all students, aligns the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources, and implements continuous improvement processes at all levels of the system.

Return to Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) home page

Questions: Literacy, History, & Arts Leadership | AAllisonZarea@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-6269 
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 13, 2016

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