MTSS for Reading


Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a system-wide effort to meet the needs of every child. It is an umbrella term, and school systems may choose to develop an MTSS framework to address multiple areas of need. One MTSS framework is Response to Intervention or RTI, which attends to students' standards-based academic needs. Another example is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a well-defined, schoolwide framework designed to address or promote behavior through prevention and support. Health is another area that can be addressed using an MTSS framework, from universal vision screening to more severe needs requiring accommodations, accessibility improvements, or assistive technologies.

If school systems do not currently have MTSS, resources are available to help them get started. For information on an academic-focused system, resources are available from the Center on Multi-Tiered System of Supports ( This federally funded effort is operated by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). For information on a behavior-focused system, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) runs the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (

While you may develop a separate MTSS structure for each of these focus areas, many organizations are moving toward a single, integrated system of supports that addresses multiple areas. A learner's poor behavior could be the result of unmet academic needs and frustrations. In other cases, a student can have trouble concentrating at school because he or she is hungry or may be getting headaches due to uncorrected vision or visual disorders. Unaddressed social or emotional needs can also adversely affect a learner’s academic success. These areas are all interrelated.


MTSS provides many benefits to students and educators. First, it proactively identifies students who need support. Through intentional screening and monitoring, educators work to ensure that no student falls through the cracks. It is an alternative to the wait-to-fail model seen in many education systems. MTSS is designed to catch students early, before their needs manifest in ways that put them behind peers, damage their motivation, or lead to poor or unproductive self-concepts such as poor self-confidence, self-efficacy, or self-esteem

As a system-wide approach to education, MTSS also promotes collaboration among staff, fostering shared responsibility for student performance, and facilitating sharing of information and resources. MTSS is managed by one or more teams of educators, leaders, and specialists who are responsible for overseeing and implementing the system. Their primary purpose is to leverage the staff and resources across the system to address identified student needs.

Another benefit of MTSS is to combat inequity. In some systems, a learner's experience is dependent upon the teacher to whom he or she has been assigned. By having well-established procedures, data collection and analysis, and decision guidance, organizations can ensure that all students are provided the instruction, support, and educational opportunities they need, regardless of which school or classroom they are in. Beyond the opportunities afforded to individual students, the systematic analysis of all students' performance within the MTSS can reveal systemic racism, sexism, or other opportunity gaps that lead different student groups to experience the system differently. This allows educators to identify root causes and adjust the system to combat otherwise hidden inequities.

Finally, MTSS empowers educators with data and decision support to act with confidence, to experience the satisfaction that comes with success for each learner, and to be supported by colleagues and leaders in a collective mission and responsibility of providing high-quality education to all learners.


There are five core components that are critical to a successful MTSS implementation:

  • Infrastructure that supports teams of educators.
  • Universal screening of all learners.
  • A tiered system of intensive prevention, support, and intervention.
  • A problem-solving process that uses decision-driven data collection to assign interventions and supports to meet each learner's needs.
  • Processes for monitoring progress and making adjustments as needed.


As a system-wide framework, MTSS relies on one or more teams of educators working together to manage and apply the system to meet learners' needs. These teams must be supported by an established infrastructure that includes dedicated leadership and a culture of collaboration, and builds the capacity of the people contributing to the system.

Universal Screening

MTSS is for everyone, and this begins with screening all learners. Screening assessments, unlike diagnostic or formative assessments, are designed as a checkup for all learners to ensure they are performing on grade level. Guidance is often provided to determine if learners are at low risk, some risk, or high risk of being behind peers at the end of the school year. Universal screening helps MTSS teams select interventions specifically targeted to those areas in which learners are behind.

By screening all learners on a regular basis, systems can ensure that learners who were on grade level have not slowed in their progress or fallen behind and continue to perform well on increasingly complex and rigorous tasks.

A useful resource for universal screening is the National Center on Intensive Intervention (, operated by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). NCII provides both an academic screening tools chart and a behavior screening tools chart that may be useful for either establishing a new system of screening and progress monitoring or to evaluate the tools you currently use for reading or mathematics. These charts help you evaluate the accuracy, technical standards, and usability features of screeners and progress monitoring tools appropriate for MTSS.

MTSS PyramidTiered System for Interventi​on and Supports

What does it mean to have a multi-tiered system? MTSS is commonly represented as a three-tiered pyramid or triangle. A variety of terms are used to label these tiers. Some systems refer to these tiers simply as Tiers 1, 2 and 3, but other systems identify the tiers as universal, supplemental, and tertiary, or core, targeted, and intensive or some combination of these terms.

The foundation is Tier 1, also known as the universal or core tier. It represents the instruction provided to all students. If a core curriculum is not meeting the needs of at least 80 percent of the students receiving it, it is an indication that improvements need to be made to the classroom practices and aligned to materials being used. School systems will never have the resources necessary to intervene their way out of poor classroom instruction. Eighty percent is a goal—ideally, at least 80 percent of students should be able to be successful receiving only Tier 1 instruction without the need for supplemental Tier 2 or 3 intervention.

Supplemental, targeted, or Tier 2 intervention provides additional supports for some students. If Tier 1 instruction is effective for its target of 80 percent or more of students, then 5 to 15 percent of students typically need Tier 2 supports. Finally, some learners will need even more intensive or prolonged support. Intensive, tertiary, or Tier 3 intervention is usually provided one-on-one to a few students in the organization, usually less than five percent.

While the term intervention typically refers to Tiers 2 and 3, prevention and support starts in the classroom with Tier 1. Universally designed curriculum, intentional differentiation, multiple opportunities and modes of demonstrating student proficiency, and curricular supports or instructional scaffolds need to be in place if an MTSS is to ever hope to meet the needs of all learners.

Representing MTSS as triangles or pyramids may suggest that students move from one tier of instruction to the next and back, but this is not the case. Interventions are intended to be in addition to Tier 1 instruction, not as a replacement for it. Specifically, Tier 2 or 3 intervention provides additional time, additional supports, or more targeted instruction tailored to learners needs than Tier 1 instruction can provide on its own.

This system of support is also not just about remediation. An MTSS for academics, for example, should also incorporate processes and outcomes for gifted and talented students, and so may need acceleration or extension to Tier 1 instruction. MTSS is about all learners identifying their needs, doing something to meet them, and monitoring the impact over time.

Problem-Solving CycleProblem-Solving Cycle

In MTSS, supports are determined, implemented, and monitored through a clear problem-solving cycle:

  1. Define: Beginning with universal screening and applying secondary screening and diagnostic testing, the problem-solving team defines areas of need by identifying any gaps between performance and grade-level expectations.
  2. Analyze: The team analyzes instructional practices, materials, and interventions to determine a course of action to respond to the identified needs. This may include changes to curriculum or instructional practices, implementation of a class-wide intervention, or assignment of Tier 2 or Tier 3 small-group or individualized interventions.
  3. Implement: The responsible educators carry out the intervention/instruction as intended.
  4. Evaluate:  Using progress monitoring, individuals or teams evaluate the data to determine if the intervention is having the desired results and if the progress is sufficient to close the gap between current and grade-level performance. If the response to intervention is not adequate, adjustments need to be made.

This process continues until individual learners are back on track and until the next universal screening is conducted and analyzed for all students.

Progress Monitoring

The following are some of the key factors that teams must consider while monitoring the response to intervention. Generally, the more intensive the supports, the more frequently you will monitor their impact.

Are learners making progress?

Educators need to know that learners are making progress with the prescribed instruction or intervention towards the desired outcomes and that the growth trend is sufficient to close the gap in a reasonable time. In order to close the gap, learners who are behind must make greater growth than on-grade-level peers.

Are supports adequate?

Teams must consider the adequacy of the supports being provided. Does the learner need additional supports to achieve success, or is the learner showing sufficient progress that warrants reducing or removing temporary supports toward greater independence?

Is a learner ready to exit the program?

If a learner has caught up to peers, she or he may be ready to exit the program or intervention.

Teacher modeling, repeated reading, progress monitoringTHE READ NATURALLY STRATEGY

The Read Naturally Strategy is the core of many of Read Naturally’s research-based intervention programs. It combines three evidence-based instructional practices:

  • Teacher modeling: Learners read along with a teacher or with audio recordings that model proficient reading.
  • Repeated reading: Learners practice reading stories or word lists to build fluency and automaticity.
  • Progress monitoring: Graphs of student results enable students and educators to monitor progress over time. Based on this data, educators make adjustments as necessary to ensure students are always working at their optimum level of challenge to maximize their growth.

Research reaffirms the efficacy of these instructional practices. For example, a recent review of research findings suggests that repeated reading remains the most effective intervention for improving reading fluency for students.

Research studies examining the effectiveness of Read Naturally intervention programs have been reviewed and found to contain substantial evidence to support the use of the Read Naturally Strategy under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015). In particular, Dr. Danielle Dupuis of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement found that, under ESSA guidelines, there is strong evidence for the positive impact of Read Naturally Strategy programs on reading fluency, moderate evidence of positive impact on general reading ability, and promising evidence for the impacts on reading comprehension.

Learn more about the Read Naturally Strategy


With so many school systems struggling to provide intervention to every learner who needs it, it is imperative that the interventions used are effective and efficient, structured to serve as many learners as possible, and provide the ability to customize instruction. All Read Naturally programs meet these criteria and are appropriate as Tier 2 interventions. Read Naturally programs can also be effective Tier 3 interventions, and some of these programs provide added benefits from direct instruction and increased feedback when implemented more intensively with fewer students. Most Read Naturally programs could also be used effectively in regular classrooms as Tier 1 programs if used as stations as part of small-group instruction or with the support of additional adults, whether staff or trained volunteers.

The following table summarizes the features of the Read Naturally programs. These programs can be used with learners from emerging readers through adulthood. The Skill Level column indicates the grade-level equivalents of the content in the programs, whereas the Intervention Range column indicates the ages of learners for whom it is appropriate. The programs are available in many formats to ensure that an intervention solution is available for each unique setting. Finally, this table shows the reading components that each intervention focuses on and provides support for—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and spelling.

Read Naturally Program Skill Level Intervention Range
Phonemic Awareness
Funēmics (Lesson guide and downloadable display books) Pre-readers, beginning readers Kindergarten to grade 2 Program focus          
Signs for Sounds (Lesson guide and reproducible masters) Grades 13 Grades 18 Additional support Program focus       Program focus
Read Naturally GATE (Teacher display book and reproducible masters) Grade 1 Grades 13 Additional support Program focus Program focus Additional support Additional support  
Read Naturally Live (Web application)
Read Naturally Encore (Reproducible masters with audio)
Grades 18 Beginning reader to adult   Program focus Program focus Additional support Additional support  
Word Warm-ups Live (Web application)
Word Warm-ups (Reproducible masters with audio)
Grades 1–4 Grades 18 Additional support Program focus Additional support      
One Minute Reader (Web app | Books with audio) Grades 15 Beginning reader to adult     Program focus      
Take Aim at Vocabulary (Reproducible masters with audio) Grades 45 Grade 4 to adult     Additional support Program focus Additional support  
Program focus Program focus     Additional support Additional support

Read Naturally believes that educators must play integral roles in the implementation and monitoring of these evidence- and research-based programs. All Read Naturally programs expect that teachers will meet with learners to conference, teach, monitor progress, and make adjustments when necessary.

Some Read Naturally intervention options are designed as adult-assisted independent practice while others are for direct instruction. Programs where learners work mostly independently include customizable features that enable educators to tailor instruction to each learner's needs. The direct-instruction programs are intended for teacher-led small-groups or tutoring.

The One Minute Reader program can be used as independent reading practice in the classroom or for additional reading practice at home to supplement school-based reading intervention.

The Read Live program provides highly interactive, technology-enhanced content with many ways to customize the program to meet differentiated learner needs. The high-interest, informational texts and built-in corrective feedback motivate learners, increasing their time on task. Computer-generated graphs and reports automate progress monitoring to facilitate data-based decisions to adjust instruction when necessary.


Read Naturally programs provide the data that educators and MTSS teams need to make decisions about the assignment and adjustment of interventions. In Read Naturally Strategy programs, this includes the following:

  • Effort data in the form of the number of stories completed and the number of independent practices necessary for the student to achieve a goal rate.
  • Outcome data including word-reading accuracy, reading rate, expression, and comprehension of the material.
  • Trend data including the goal targets met and performance-improvement trends over time.

The available data are perfectly suited for establishing long-term and shorter-term IEP goals or for monitoring progress in reading interventions for Title I, ESL, migrant education, summer school, or other programs.

The many data types support educators to make a variety of important decisions including the following:

  • Checking initial placement in a program.
  • Customizing supports and adjusting rigor based on real-time data.
  • Conferencing with learners about their progress to maintain motivation and provide just-in-time mini lessons to increase the reading skills.
  • Progress monitoring to ensure desired learner outcomes.
  • Documentation and reporting for the purposes of program evaluation, accountability, professional learning, and communication and collaboration with colleagues and families.


To support leaders and educators in the successful implementation and use of programs, Read Naturally provides many free online resources including guides, online courses for Read Live, teacher and student training videos, webinars, and more. In-person training options include district or regional training, remote coaching services, and one-on-one support from Read Naturally staff, who are available to answer questions and help troubleshoot issues.


Please let us know what questions you have so we can assist. For Technical Support, please call us or submit a software support request.

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