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Response to Intervention

How RtI Relates to MTSS in TSD

There are differences between a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and Response to Intervention (RtI) and sometimes, there are confusions. This page is intended to clarify some considerations. In the Thompson School District (TSD), MTSS is the overarching, integrated, and comprehensive framework that guides and explains our work. As we build our common MTSS language and understanding in TSD, we have aligned our thinking about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports ( PBIS), which "live" within MTSS, and we have also embedded RtI within the MTSS framework.

Whenever we participate in problem solving, in any tier or for any prioritized challenge, we look at the "response" (or responsiveness) to an "intervention" (which may also be called: an innovation, evidence-based practice, or strategy). So, RESPONSE to INTERVENTION (RtI) has a place within the MTSS Component of Data-Based Problem Solving and Decision-Making (DBPSDM) because that component contains all the features of problem solving - including data, processes, and collaborative teams. However, we do not state that RtI is EQUAL to the individualized problem solving process because that would imply that problem solving is only associated with intensive or 'advanced tier' problem solving. Instead, we believe we are a PROBLEM SOLVING CULTURE. We problem solve for a variety of uses, levels, and across all tiers of support.

There are connections between the DBPSDM Component, RtI, and the other MTSS Components. For example, when RtI is discussed, there is frequently a focus on the use of progress monitoring, which is an Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) for assessment. Additionally, RtI relates to a Layered Continuum of Supports because if we identify needs through data analysis activities, we may possibly need to INTENSIFY supports (within layers of support or to supplement supports with a more intensive tier). The MTSS Components of Team-Driven Shared Leadership and Family, School, and Community Partnering (FSCP) also link to RtI; they both expect adults to engage in ongoing communication, predictable protocols, and data use.  


Person standing over a table of a prepared meal of multiple small dishes.

To provide an analogy for all these connections, you might think of MTSS as a whole meal. Whereas, RtI is one side dish; it accompanies and is a part of - but it isn't the entree or "all the fixings". Certainly, RtI has a place at the table, but its relevance has become more isolated. Within Colorado legislation, RtI was included in some areas - and it has persisted over time. These include: legislated duties for the State Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education (SACPIE), tiered intervention supports in the READ Act, and in various sections of the Exceptional Children's Education Act (ECEA, 2016). 


As we have described here; Response to Intervention (RtI) is within, but not equal to, the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework. In summation, RtI in TSD is the effective and accurate application of assessment literacy to contribute to decision-making processes. We will not write "RtI/MTSS"; they are not synonymous or interchangeable. We will not use one in place of the other, as if they are the same. Note: The CDE has begun using this definition (as of fall 2020): "RtI is a preventative approach to improving individual outcomes through high-quality universal instruction within a multi-tiered system that connects supports matched to students' academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs."  

Within TSD, we will not call our teams that are dedicated to individualized student supports and problem solving processes our "RtI" teams, nor are they MTSS teams. We refer to such teams as  Student Support Teams (SSTs). Ultimately, SSTs are only one team in our Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). In MTSS, various teams overlap and collaborate. Teams are intended to complement each other, not compete with one another; each has a purpose, is outcomes-driven, and uses consistent strategies to be productive. Therefore, SSTs have a specific identity. They will use similar meeting foundations as other teams (e.g., having clear roles of team members, documenting notes, and managing time), but they are not "MTSS" teams or "PLCs" because SSTs have a defined focus.

3 shapeless black silhouettes with caption clouds above each of their heads


Remember, if a team were called an "MTSS Team", it would be assumed the team would have a larger focus. Because MTSS is an entire framework, "MTSS Teams" address system-wide plans and issues, not just individualized student supports. Those MTSS Teams influence all elements and all stakeholders within the system. Conversations about the WHOLE system and conversations about INDIVIDUAL students are equally important, and we need to make sure we are doing "the right work, at the right time, at the right level". If we know what each team is intended to do, we can support each team to be successful.

Related Links

Various national resources have also provided information about the connection(s) between RtI, MTSS, general education, and special education. Note: Each of the following sources have some relationship to the federal government's special education training centers.


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TSD MTSS website: original © Summer 2019, Website Refresh resulting in page reduction/removal: Summer 2023