Wondering about MTSS?

Dec 20, 2017 | Read

Recently we were asked some thought provoking questions about MTSS.  We wanted to respond as well as invite you to join the conversation here on SWIFT Talk.

Here are the questions and our responses.

1.  Some schools claim to use MTSS for planning, but it doesn’t seem to result in changes in practices at the school level. What makes equity-based MTSS different? 

We agree that implementing equity-based MTSS involves complex transformations of culture, systems, policies, and practices that require detailed plans over several years. To avoid the risk of MTSS becoming an empty planning convenience, SWIFT offers MTSS tools and resources along with a proven, detail method for whole systems—SEA, LEAs and Schools—transformation for sustainable change (see our Transformation Playbook at swiftschools.org).

2. With limited resources, how can schools meet the needs of students who require the most intensive supports?

Equity-based MTSS incorporates the principles and practices of subsystems, such as community mental health wraparound services, into the continuum of services and supports for all students.  Our MTSS design helps schools intentionally include community-based service providers who can help to meet the complex needs of students across home, school and community settings.  School teams use a Resource Inventory process in which they identify intervention and support available in the community, school, district, state and national agencies; and a Tiered Intervention Matrix with data-based decision rules to match resources from this Resource Inventory to evident student needs (see the MTSS Starter Kit on swiftschools.org/shelf).

3. Is the goal of MTSS to eliminate special education? 

From our vantage point, the goal of equity-based MTSS is to give all students access to special assistance when needed for as long as needed.  Indeed, equity-based MTSS prevents some students’ need for special assistance through such techniques as universally designed curriculum, differentiated instruction, and schoolwide positive behavioral expectations and support.  Support is distributed to students using screening and progress monitoring data with entry and exit decision rules; and these rules generally start a student in the least intensive support and include exit criteria for removing support when a student no longer needs it and for intensifying support if needed. 

4. Does MTSS replace the good curriculum and practices we already have in place to support our students?

Our approach is to support schools as they use as much as possible of their existing resources and deploy these resources through an organized system using Resource Inventories, Tiered Intervention Matrices, Master Schedules, and Intervention Planning Tools (see the MTSS Starter Kit on swiftschools.org/shelf).  SWIFT Guide (guide.swiftschools.org) also makes available “the best of the best” free content for schools to use in their MTSS.

We appreciate the questions that raised these points of discussion.  We are interested in what you think.  Comment here on SWIFT Talk to continue the conversation.