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California Technical Assistance and Training

Multi-Tiered System of Supports

December 2015

Compiled by: Kevin Schaefer and Debra Herburger


The 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 California standards. MTSS creates the collective system-wide collaborative mindset (see Priority Area: Collaborative Practices), structure and system for delivering and improving upon the most effective, high-quality evidence-based first instruction (see Priority Area: Universal Design for Learning [UDL]) and supports to all students so they can succeed in school and be prepared for college, career, and civic life (See Priority Areas: Response to Instruction and Intervention [RTI2] and Individualized Education Program [IEP]).


In California, MTSS, is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on the California Common Core State Standards (CA 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.

Key Aspects:

  1. High-quality, differentiated classroom instruction: All students receive high-quality, standards- based (with a focus on CA CCSS), culturally-and linguistically-relevant instruction in their general education classroom settings by highly qualified teachers, who have high academic and behavioral expectations, attained through differentiated learning instructional strategies, such as UDL.
  2. Systemic and sustainable change: MTSS principles promote continuous improvement processes at all levels of the system (district, school site, and grade/course levels). Collaborative restructuring efforts made to align RtI2, CA CCSS, identify key initiatives, collect, analyze, review data, implement supports and strategies based on data are then refined as necessary to sustain effective processes.
  3. Integrated data system: District and site staff collaborate to create an integrated data collection system that includes assessments such as state tests, universal screening, diagnostics, progress monitoring, and teacher observations at the site to inform decisions about tiered support placement, as well as data collection methods such as parent surveys for continuous systemic improvement.
  4. Positive behavioral support: District and school staff collaboratively select and implement school wide, classroom, and research-based positive behavioral supports for achieving important social and learning outcomes. A strong focus on integrating instructional and intervention strategies supports systemic changes based on strong, predictable, and consistent classroom management structures across the entire system.



Response to Instruction and Intervention Resources

  1. Response to Instruction & Intervention websites

Implementation Support: Policy Briefs

Averill, Orla Higgins and Claudia Rinaldi. Research Brief: Multi-tier System of Supports (MTSS) (PDF). The Collaborative. Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, 2011.


MTSS Core Component Resources

  1. MTSS Core Component 1: Differentiated classroom instruction
  2. MTSS Core Component 2: Systemic and sustainable change
  3. MTSS Professional Learning Module website

MTSS Core Component 1: Differentiated classroom instruction

The following websites provide resources to provide equal access to Tier 1 academic curriculum and optimize student engagement through instructional practices that address the barriers and strengths of individual students.

MTSS Core Component 2: Systemic and sustainable change

The following websites provide resources to boost Tier 1 student engagement and learning through instructional practices that address the barriers and strengths of individual students.

  1. The Active Implementation Hub
    Provides several resources for supporting implementation systemic change, such as MTSS. State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices Center (SISEP) and the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute.
  2. Blueprint for Improving Instruction, Accessibility, and Outcomes for All Students
    Third in a series of CDE SED CA CCSS Symposia held on February 17, 2015. The recorded sessions and materials include presentations on the CA CCSS and MTSS.
  3. CA CCSS and Diverse Students: Using MTSS
    Produced for school board members, superintendents, chief academic officers, curriculum and instruction administrators, leading education administrators (general education, Title I, special education, English learner programs, and gifted programs), researchers, accountability officers, and others to help guide thinking about implementing common core state standards using MTSS. The paper provides concrete examples using a common core model lesson. (October 2012) Council of the Great City Schools.
  4. Frequently Accessed Resources
    Provides information, tools and resources on implementing MTSS, including introduction to families. Florida Department of Education and the University of South Florida.
  5. Leadership for Implementation of MTSS (Unit 4)
    Provides a comprehensive walk-though, including examples, charts, and checklists for the thoughtful processes needed for systemic changes across school levels. (2014) California Department of Education (CDE) and WestEd.
  6. The MTSS Needs Assessment Tool
    The California MTSS Needs Assessment Tool allows districts and school sites to begin exploring their current supports and structures and plan for the implementation of an aligned system of support. This tool focuses on four key areas: Leadership and Empowerment, Data-driven Decision making, Instructional Planning and Supports, and Aligned System of Support/Transition Planning as well as steps for action planning.
  7. Rethinking the Scale-Up Challenge
    Provides an example description of scaling-up programs to help districts develop and maintain deep systemic change (2009 video created by Circe Stumbo & Deanna Hill, 7 minutes) Michigan Implementation Network, Michigan's Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative.
  8. RTI in the Era of the CA CCSS
    Presents the information on how MTSS/Response to Intervention can provide structure to CA CCSS implementation needs. Video (0:02:36 minutes) RTIActionNetwork.
  9. Scaling up Tools and Resources
    Provides a variety of tools and resources for implementation, scaling up, and system reinvention work, as well as delivers online and off-line coaching, teaching and learning. SISEP at UNC Chapel Hill’s FPG Child Development Institute.