Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Multi-Tiered System of Supports

A framework that aligns Response to Instruction and Intervention with the California State standards and the systems necessary to ensure academic, behavior, and social success.

What is a Multi-Tiered System of Support?

California’s MTSS focuses on aligning initiatives and resources within an educational organization to address the needs of all students. It is an integrated, comprehensive framework for local educational agencies (LEA) that aligns academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning in a fully integrated system of support for the benefit of all students. MTSS offers the potential to create systematic change through intentional integration of services and supports to quickly identify and meet the needs of all students.

California’s vast and complex Prekindergarten through grade twelve (Prek–12) educational system requires a multifaceted approach that is scalable and sustainable. The California Department of Education’s (CDE) vision of “one coherent system of education” offers an opportunity to build the foundation for educational excellence. Through the use of Implementation Science, Universal Design for Learning, and the Whole Child approach, among other evidence-based interventions, MTSS affords a full range of academic, behavioral, and social support for all students to achieve.

View a quick primer video on MTSS External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 3:50), created by the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE), for an overview of MTSS.


MTSS, Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI²), and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) are often spoken of synonymously, and for those new to MTSS, it can be difficult to determine what people mean when these terms are used interchangeably. It is important to keep in mind, though, that MTSS is a framework for aligning resources and initiatives; it is a method of organization. As such, MTSS encompasses both RtI² and PBIS, and systematically addresses support for all students.  

Multi-Tiered System of Support and how it relates to Response to Instruction and Intervention and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports as described in the paragraph above.

Since MTSS is a framework that brings together both RtI² and PBIS and aligns their supports to serve the whole child, it also relies on data gathering through universal screening, data-driven decision making, and problem solving teams, and focuses on content standards. MTSS aligns the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources, and implements continuous improvement processes throughout the system.

In particular, MTSS assists LEAs in:

  • Promoting LEA participation in the focus to align the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources
  • 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
  • Transforming the way LEAs provide support and setting higher expectations for all students through intentional integration of instruction and intervention services and supports so that systemic changes are sustainable and based on standards-aligned classroom instruction
  • Endorsing Universal Design for Learning External link opens in new window or tab. instructional strategies so that all students have opportunities for learning through differentiated content (i.e., teachers reacting responsively to a learner’s needs), processes, and products
  • Challenging all school staff to change the way in which they have traditionally worked both in and out of the classroom
  • Supporting high-quality standards and research-based, culturally and linguistically relevant instruction External link opens in new window or tab. with the belief that every student can learn and excel, including students of poverty, those who are gifted and high achievers, students with disabilities, English learners, and students from all ethnicities evident in the school and LEA cultures
  • Implementing a collaborative approach to analyze student data and work together in the intervention process

RtI² is an approach that focuses on individual students who are struggling academically and pulls together resources from the LEA, school, and community to promote students’ success before they fall behind. It is systematic and data-driven with tiered levels of intervention to benefit every student.

PBIS is an approach that focuses on the emotional and behavioral learning of students, which leads to an increase in engagement and a decrease in problematic behavior over time. It assists the LEA in adopting and organizing evidence-based behavioral interventions that improve social and emotional behavior outcomes for all students.

So, while RtI² focuses on academics and PBIS focuses on social and emotional learning, MTSS encompasses them all. It acts as a way of organizing supports within an LEA so that both the academic side and the social-emotional-learning side are aligned to serve the whole child.

Statewide Initiative

The focus of the Scaling Up MTSS Statewide (SUMS) Initiative is to develop resources for MTSS within an LEA that align the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional supports in an LEA in order to serve the whole child. It involves family and community engagement, administrative leadership, integrated education frameworks, and inclusive policy and practice.

Graphic representation of the Scaling Up MTSS Statewide (SUMS) Initiative as described above.


In 2015, Assembly Bill 104, Chapter 13, Statutes of 2015, appropriated $10,000,000 for Developing, Aligning, and Improving Systems of Academic and Behavioral Supports (ISABS). The CDE conducted a competitive grant process and awarded the funds to the OCDE for their SUMS proposal. In 2016, an additional $20,000,000, appropriated by Senate Bill 828, Chapter 29, Statutes 2016, augmented the original grant award. The Budget Act of 2018 authorized an additional $15,000,000, appropriated by Assembly Bill 1808, Education Omnibus Trailer Bill of Senate Bill 840. The purpose of the full $45,000,000 is to encourage LEAs to establish and align schoolwide, data-driven systems of academic and behavioral supports to more effectively meet the needs of California’s diverse learners in the most inclusive environment. The SUMS initiative enables the OCDE to develop and disseminate statewide resources and technical assistance for this purpose.

Additional information about the application process for the $45,000,000 is available below:


The OCDE has subcontracted with the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT) External link opens in new window or tab. Technical Assistance Center at the University of Kansas and the Butte County Office of Education (Butte COE) to partner with the SUMS effort. The Butte COE will share professional learning resources through My Digital Chalkboard, and engages rural areas of the state to support their unique needs. SWIFT is a technical assistance center that builds school capacity to support all students both academically and behaviorally. The SWIFT staff supports the SUMS grant by providing technical assistance and professional learning opportunities to participating LEAs.

The OCDE provides subgrants to LEAs to engage them in a process to assess their strengths, coordinate supports to their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) and align their MTSS efforts with the eight state priorities. The OCDE is distributing the grant funding into three separate cohorts with up to $6,000,000 awarded in each round of applications. For more information about these funding opportunities, visit the OCDE’s SUMS Application Forms web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Visit the OCDE’s MTSS SUMS web page External link opens in new window or tab. and the My Digital Chalkboard MTSS web page External link opens in new window or tab. for more information.

ISABS/SUMS Legislative Reports

ISABS Grant Annual Reports are required pursuant to AB 104 (Chapter 13, Statutes of 2015) and amended by SB 828 (Chapter 29, Statutes of 2016), beginning in the 2015–16 fiscal year and continuing until all grants funds are expended. Included in these reports are: an overview of the ISABS grant reporting requirements; a summary of the ISABS annual reports; and a copy of the annual reports, in their original form as submitted to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction by the OCDE. The ISABS Grant Annual Reports provide details regarding how the OCDE used the grant funds. The OCDE’s fiscal reporting for each year includes an expenditure narrative, a budget narrative, and a budget detail report. The ISABS Annual Reports also include a description of how OCDE met the legislative requirements of the grant. These reports are available on the CDE’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports web page under the Statewide Initiative tab or directly through the following links:

  • 2015–16 ISABS Grant Annual Report
  • 2016–17 ISABS Grant Annual Report

Frequently Asked Questions for the SUMS Grant and Other Resources

Frequently Asked Questions
This CDE document provides answers to commonly asked programmatic questions.

OCDE News Release External link opens in new window or tab.
This news release describes the OCDE’s initial plans for the SUMS grant.

OCDE MTSS SUMS Leadership Team External link opens in new window or tab.
The state and regional leaders for the MTSS SUMS grant

Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and MTSS Alignment External link opens in new window or tab.
An information handout on aligning the LCAP and MTSS.

For additional information on the SUMS grant, contact Jennifer Moreno by phone at 916-323-5505 or by e-mail at The OCDE also has a Questions and Inquiries web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Training and Resources


The OCDE will be offering a capacity building series to help lay the foundation for successful MTSS implementation. Contact the coordinator, Cindy Toovey, for more information at or Pam Tupy, Program Specialist at


These national and state web resources were selected on the basis of usefulness to beginning as well as advanced MTSS implementers in kindergarten through grade twelve contexts.

MTSS Core Component Resources

  1. MTSS Core Component Overview
  2. MTSS Core Component 1: Differentiated Classroom Instruction
  3. MTSS Core Component 2: Systemic and Sustainable Change
  4. MTSS Professional Learning Module Website External link opens in new window or tab.

Additional Resources

A Letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
MTSS introduction letter

What is a Multi-Tiered System of Support? External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 2:49)
RTI Action Network Video

Access for All: Universal Design for Learning in a Multi-tiered System of Support World External link opens in new window or tab.
San Diego English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework Launch Event presentation on MTSS

Domains and Features External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
An MTSS instructional handout

Policy Briefs

These articles and policy briefs focus on MTSS and include examples of other state efforts.

Research Brief: Multi-tier System of Support (MTSS) External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
A brief by Orla Higgins Averill and Claudia Rinaldi on MTSS.

Kansas MTSS. The Integration of MTSS and RtI External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
The Kansas Multi-Tier System of Support.

Florida’s Multi-tiered System of Support External link opens in new window or tab.
An overview of Florida’s MTSS implementation.

Common Core State Standards and Diverse Urban Students: Using Multi-Tiered Systems of Support External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
A Council of the Great City Schools White Paper.

Multi-Tier System of Support External link opens in new window or tab.
An article in District Administration magazine.

Questions: Jennifer Moreno | | 916-323-5505 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, August 29, 2018