Using the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support in In-Person and Virtual Learning

There is no “one-size-fits-all” for education. Educators know that the needs of each individual student need to be met to ensure a successful classroom.

But, how can we meet everyone’s needs, especially when they’re all so different?

Teachers are notorious for working outside of their contracted hours. But, there has to be a better way to meet students where they are.

Read on to learn how to enact a framework that will support in-person and virtual learning for all students.

1. What Are Multi-Tiered Systems of Support?

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support is a framework that focuses on providing support to students with diverse needs. The support should be proactive. This is as opposed to waiting until those students show negative impacts from the “universal” model of education.

Using the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, educators screen all students at the beginning of the year. This screening shows what supports student may need.

These supports include academic and behavioral interventions.

Then come the tiers.

The “tiers” are meant to categorize students by level of need. This organizes the students by the support that they need and allows educators to intervene with the appropriate level of help.

2. The Three Tiers

There are three levels or “tiers” that students may be grouped into.

Tier 1 encompasses the majority of students (about 75%-90% of the student population). These students will receive proactive intervention to support their needs.

Interventions at Tier 1 could be:

  • building strong relationships with their teachers
  • classroom management
  • scaffolding
  • a positive classroom climate

If students at tier 1 showcase the need for more interventions, they would be moved into the next tier.

Tier 2 encompasses small groups of students (about 10%-25% of the student population). These are students whose needs were not completely met at tier 1.

To meet tier 2 students’ needs, educators will often work with these students in small groups. This will make sure that they are understanding the academic material and have more individual attention.

The final level or “tier” is tier 3, which includes less than 10% of the students.

These are students whose needs were not completely met at tiers 1 or 2.

Interventions at tier 3 may include:

  • 1-on-1 instruction
  • behavioral therapy
  • other intensive interventions

3. The Importance of Data

A crucial tenet of the multi-tiered systems of support is the use of data to identify and support students’ needs.

According to the MTSS framework, several pieces of data should be used to evaluate students. These could include teacher observation, test scores, and formative assessments, among others.

All students should be universally screened in a proactive manner, not just students who are identified as tier 3 students.

Based on the data that is collected, a team of stakeholders (the teacher, special education teacher, parent, etc.) will decide upon:

  • goals for that student
  • benchmarks to meet those goals
  • specific interventions
  • other key tenants of that student’s learning

4. Teamwork Across Stakeholders

For the multi-tiered systems of support to be successful, they need to be applied at the school-wide level, not just by individual teachers.

What’s more, this framework requires many people who are involved in that student’s life and education to work together.

These people might include:

  • a general education teacher
  • special education teacher
  • psychologist
  • parent
  • sometimes the student themselves

All these people commit to evaluating the student’s progress and building a positive relationship. The student should have many people on their team who all have their goals in mind.

5. Positive Reinforcement

There is a strong connection between positive behavior intervention and support (PBIS) and the multi-tiered systems of support.

PBIS states that educators should focus on praising students for their positive accomplishments and behaviors rather than focusing on their deficits.

Oftentimes, students who need special education interventions are only associated with their negative behaviors.

This can discourage the student and prevent them from making strides in their academic and behavioral goals. Instead, teachers will work on positive reinforcement and acknowledging growth.

6. MTSS and Virtual Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic and the advent of virtual learning showed educators that prioritizing each student’s unique situation was key to student success.

Luckily, MTSS and virtual learning are extremely compatible. To apply MTSS strategies in the virtual learning setting, you would focus heavily on building relationships.

This feat is even tougher through a computer screen, so taking time to get to know students and meet their socio-emotional needs is crucial.

You also want to ensure that small-group learning is possible. So, setting up break-out rooms or other small group meetings is also important.

Finally, ensuring that there are ample opportunities to assess students and track their progress will help you ensure that they’re in the right tier and are receiving the best level of support.

7. Using Applied Behavior Analysis

Using research-based teaching strategies, such as those outlined in applied behavior analysis (ABA) can make a huge difference in student learning.

It may seem daunting to teachers who are less familiar with these strategies, but there are several very easy-to-implement techniques that will help teachers focus on positivity in the classroom.

Get Access to Behavioral Intervention Plans

A teacher wears a million hats and carries more roles than their job description outlines.

Meeting the needs of all students is a goal that all teachers share, and MTSS can help you reach that goal.

If you don’t know where to start and want professional help to create and put in place behavior plans for your students, contact us!

Our team of experts will work with you to put in place research-based practices that can be used in person and in your virtual classroom. Whether you are teaching using traditional learning, parallel or hybrid teaching, or virtual learning, your students deserve to have their needs met.

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