MTSS: A Model to Address the Learning Needs of All Students?

Written by Jen Flo, WAETAG President   

OSPI defines MTSS as “a framework for enhancing the adoption and implementation of a continuum of evidence-based practices to achieve important outcomes for every student. The MTSS framework builds on a public health approach that is preventative and focuses on organizing the efforts of adults within systems to be more efficient and effective. MTSS helps to ensure students benefit from nurturing environments and equitable access to universal instruction and supports that are culturally and linguistically responsive, universally designed, and differentiated to meet their unique needs. (OSPI website)  

Often presented as a triangle of supports designed to address the academic, behavior, and social emotional learning needs of students, all students would benefit from Tier 1 supports, some from Tier 2 Interventions, and identified students receiving Tier 3 services and supports.  This description sounds similar to a description addressing the needs of Washington highly capable students.  Could this triangle be re-imagined as a diamond, on its side?    

Looking at how Iowa has reimagined MTSS for their advanced learners, some similarities are evident.  It would be the interventions and services that are designed differently to support students.  

Universal Tier – students receive differentiated instruction in their classroom or in flexible groupings  

Supplemental Tier – parallels the general classroom and adjusts the depth, complexity, and pacing for students, based on their individual needs.  Instructional interventions that could be  “pull-together” groups to expand on core curriculum.  

Intensive Tier – students in this tier receive intensive support such as curriculum compacting, opportunities for dual enrollment, whole grade skipping, or other services.  This student may need a replacement for core curriculum to address their learning needs.  

The purpose of this article is to provide an invitation to explore the MTSS model through the lens of highly capable/high potential students.  How might this model support our learners?  What might they need outside of this model of support? It is my hope that this launches discussions and broadens how MTSS might be redesigned to support the outcomes for “every student” as described by OSPI.

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