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Is MTSS the new RTI?

Is MTSS the new RTI?

As an educator, if you hear the term RTI (response to intervention), many things may run through your head. Response to intervention was originally developed as a process to intervene early with students and to provide additional support to try close the learning gap. A more formal definition is  “RTI refers to the practice of providing high-quality, multi-tier instruction and interventions matched to students' needs, monitoring student progress frequently, and evaluating data on student progress to determine the need for special education support” (Batsche et al., 2005; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2006). What RTI has widely become is a program in districts that falls under a specific department or teacher on campus, rather than a responsibility of everyone in the system.

I am noticing a major shift in the area of intervention. A while back, I started hearing a new term: MTSS (multi-tiered system of support). I thought, “Is this the new RTI, another name for RTI, or something totally different?” I attended sessions on this topic and conducted a Web-based search as well. What I found was very educational and also eye-opening, as many states have implemented this into their structures.

Are you also new to this term, MTSS? What is it, and how is it different than RTI? A multi-tiered system of support makes intervention a system-wide responsibility. A more formal definition is “MTSS, rooted in the data-informed practices of RTI and PBIS, explicitly offers a multi-tier approach. Emphasis is on school wide, differentiated universal core instruction at Tier 1; Tiers 2 and 3 provide intensive and increasingly individualized interventions (Batsche et al., 2005).”

Still as clear as mud?

Let’s explore MTSS a bit further and understand how it works.

From everything I read and understand, RTI and MTSS work together. Sometimes, I hear them as interchangeable terms. MTSS is an extension of RTI with the premise that intervention and support are a system-wide responsibility, emphasis on SYSTEM-WIDE.

At Edmentum, there are numerous blog posts on RTI, so I won’t go into great detail here. Where I want to focus our time is looking at MTSS and how it is different than RTI. When I think about RTI, this visual comes to mind.     

Now what about MTSS?

When you think about your current intervention model at your campus, who makes the decisions? Are all teachers and staff included in the process? Who monitors the process to ensure students are receiving support?

Let’s look at this graphic used by Kansas to show MTSS (

Kansas to Show MTSS

And how about this one from Massachusetts (

Massachusetts MTSS

What do you notice when looking at the RTI graphic and then MTSS? MTSS involves the whole system. MTSS offers a continuum of support. RTI has long focused on instruction, behavior, and assessment. MTSS kicks it up a few notches.

So how does MTSS differ from RTI? From what I conclude, they are tied together. MTSS takes RTI to the next level. How can you make your intervention model more effective? Focus on team system-wide responsibility and support. Make sure everyone is involved and on the same page. Understand that changes are necessary, and make them.

MTSS Focus

So is MTSS the new RTI? From what I can tell, yes! MTSS is intervention, but taking it beyond the current RTI model and making intervention a system-wide responsibility. More system-wide accountability = higher student success!


Batsche, G., Elliott, J., Graden, J., Grimes, J., Kovaleski, J., Prasse, D., Reschly, D., Schrag, J., & Tilly, D. (2005). Response to intervention: Policy considerations and implementation. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. S. (2006). Introduction to response to intervention: What, why, and how valid is it? Reading Research Quarterly, 41, 92-99.


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Shari Rios

Shari Rios started her career in the classroom serving English Language Learners. She has been an ESL classroom teacher and an ESL Instructional Specialist, working with all levels of English Language Learners in grades K-12 and adults. Shari transitioned from the classroom and worked as a National Trainer and Consultant for many years. She joined the staff of Edmentum in 2013 as the National ESL Specialist.