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Strengthening MTSS Tier 2 Behavioral Systems and Supports

Strengthening MTSS Tier 2 Behavioral Systems and Supports

What is MTSS?

MTSS, or multi-tiered systems and supports, encompasses a tiered approach to academics, behavior, and social emotional learning giving us a better picture of the way these components all work together for our students. Tier 1 includes services that ALL students receive. To learn more about building a strong tier 1, check this out! By setting up a solid foundation and clear process, we are able to shift to a preventative lens, intervene earlier, and benefit ALL students. Today, we are digging into tier 2. With a strong foundation in place, around 10 – 15% of students will benefit from additional interventions provided at the tier 2 level. As a reminder, these students are receiving tier 1 AND tier 2 support to increase their academic, behavioral, and/or social emotional success. 


What is the role of the MTSS team in establishing and implementing Tier 2 Supports

The multidisciplinary team assesses, oversees implementation of, and evaluates mental health systems and supports. This includes, but is not limited to: policy evaluation/development, data tracking, program and intervention development across the tiers, coordinating with community partners, training, coaching and connecting with families. When looking at tier 2 specifically, this team will be most successful if they:

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities for staff members 

We want to clarify roles and expectations for our staff as much as we do for our students. Often in schools we are helpers – not afraid to jump in and do everything but we have to care for ourselves and each other to prevent burnout and to be effective in this difficult work! Setting up expectations ahead of time allows staff members to share the responsibilities in a strategic way. This also allows us to look at what we have staff doing so we can make some shifts to ensure they’re freed up to do their role!

  • Use data to make decisions for student intervention

When we consider gathering data for behavior and social emotional learning, student voice is a helpful piece. Universal screeners are a fantastic tool for gaining insight into the student perspective. Whether you create your own or use something like Panorama or DESSA mini, the data will allow you to intervene early and intentionally.

  • Help clarify behaviors and root causes

We can usually describe what we would like to see reduced if it’s big aggressive behaviors, but if we look at every “outburst” as a kid who needs anger management, we probably aren’t going to create change. We aren’t necessarily doing an FBA at this point but we do want to ask some questions

  • What is the presenting behavior? When is it occurring? What might be underneath that? A great resource is PBIS World!

  • Ask the student – they may not know either but that’s okay, let’s work together to notice when this is happening and see if we can find some patterns


Identifying Interventions

After ensuring that we have a clear system in place for universal strategies and identifying student needs, we must think about what interventions we have available, how we will use them, and when we will fit them in. Use the triangle below to outline what you have available. Where are you strong? Where are there opportunities for growth? 

MTSS Tier 2 resources

Tier 2 Behavioral and SEL supports

If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry! It is not necessary to create or buy new programs. A great first step is to simply think about how you can intensify the tier 1 systems you already have in place! For example, if you have an SEL program that you use such as Second Steps or Navigate 360, use their supplemental activities for intentional small group skill building. Determine who will run the small groups, when they will occur, and build them into your schedule so students can move in and out of them as needed. 


Regulate, relate, reason

Below is another great visual that demonstrates how we might intensify tier 1 supports while keeping the student nervous system in mind. We know that in order to reach a point where a student is ready and able to self-reflect or learn and practice new skills they must be regulated and feel connected. Keeping this in mind will set us up for success in introducing and practicing tier 2 interventions. 



You likely have regulation strategies as part of your tier 1 system. When moving a student to tier 2, intensify that support by offering more opportunities and tools to practice those skills. This may be:

  • Walk and talk – a time to do a lap around the school with a trusted adult

  • Breath break – built in time to practice breathing exercises

  • Movement break – built in time to regulate the body with intentional movement



Again, connection is likely a piece of your universal strategies, but how can you intensify that for tier 2? 

  • 2 x 10 is a fantastic place to start. It is evidence based to reduce unwanted behaviors and improve connection. 

  • Check in Check out is another great way to include connection, self-reflection, and skill building. 

  • Mentor program – pair a student with a trusted teacher or peer to build connection throughout the year and support the student in creating positive change. 


When you intentionally build time for regulation and connection, you are setting yourself and your students up for success. 


Shared Vision

Finally, remember, this journey is not just the classroom teacher’s responsibility. The student, designated support staff (administrators, counselors, social workers, instructional assistants), and family all have a responsibility to move the plan forward. Make a plan for communication between involved staff members. Send home implementation ideas to support the student and family outside of school. We are in this together!



Creating a system of support is instrumental in creating and sustaining long term positive changes. The more intentional and strategic we are in building a team, collecting data, and implementing interventions, the more able we are to intervene early, increase collaboration, and assist our students in finding solutions that will last long beyond their time with us. 



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