An effort to implement Response to Intervention in schools statewide is continuing under a new name. Leaders from the Iowa Department of Education, Area Education Agencies, and school districts recently agreed to rename this effort Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS).
“Both RtI and MTSS essentially mean the same thing,” said Rita Martens, a lead consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “We’re choosing MTSS because it is a more accurate description; it more accurately reflects the work. It is a multi-tiered focus, not just a focus on shoring up students who have fallen behind.”
While the name has changed, the focus remains the same: Help all students read proficiently by the end of third grade.
MTSS is a proven practice to help schools identify, and intervene with, struggling readers as well as students who are on track to read proficiently early on. This is accomplished by setting up an early warning system, adapting instruction to fit those students’ individual needs, and then monitoring their progress.
MTSS focuses on three tiers of intervention:
- Universal: For every student
- Targeted: For students who are either struggling or need to be accelerated
- Intensive: For students who are significantly behind and where targeted intervention didn’t help
MTSS allows educators to judge the overall health of their school system by examining data on all students in general and special education, as well as identifying students who need additional supports. Those supports are provided in both small group and individual settings and are measured to determine if they are making a difference. The idea is to ensure all students reach the expectations set by the Iowa Core standards and are prepared for success after high school.
“MTSS is just a clearer articulation about what the effort is focused on,” said Brad Niebling, a Department consultant. “This work is intended to facilitate student learning in the Iowa Core and the Iowa Early Learning Standards.”
About 10 percent of the state’s schools rolled out MTSS last fall under the Response to Intervention name. Iowa’s education system is working to put the practice in place statewide through Collaborating for Iowa’s Kids, a partnership among Iowa’s AEAs, school districts, and the Iowa Department of Education.