Implementing MTSS to Improve Reading Instruction

by | Apr 27, 2023


In today’s educational landscape, fostering strong literacy skills is essential for student success. By implementing a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) for literacy instruction, educational leaders can ensure that all learners receive targeted, data-driven instruction to meet their unique needs.


MTSS is a proven framework for providing differentiated academic, behavioral, and social-emotional supports to students, which has been shown to significantly impact student proficiency in reading. By integrating the science of reading and structured literacy approaches, schools can offer a comprehensive, evidence-based program that benefits all students.


Leadership Strategies for Implementing MTSS in Literacy

As a school principal, the first step in implementing a successful MTSS for literacy is understanding the essential components of the framework. Key leadership strategies for developing an effective MTSS program include:


  • Establish a shared vision: Collaboratively develop a vision for MTSS implementation that is centered around student success in literacy. Engage all stakeholders, including teachers, support staff, families, and students, in shaping this vision.


  • Set clear goals: Develop specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for improving literacy outcomes. Establish benchmarks for progress and regularly evaluate data to inform decision-making.


  • Allocate resources: Provide dedicated time, funding, and personnel to support the implementation of MTSS. This may involve hiring literacy coaches, purchasing materials and technology, or reallocating existing resources.


  • Create a culture of data-driven decision-making: Encourage the use of assessment data to inform instructional decisions at all tiers of support. Promote a growth mindset and emphasize the importance of ongoing progress monitoring.


Building Systems for MTSS Success

To effectively implement an MTSS for literacy instruction, schools must establish systems that support the framework’s key components. These systems include:


  • A comprehensive assessment system: Implement a balanced assessment approach that includes screening, diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments to identify students’ needs, monitor progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction.


  • Collaborative team structures: Form teams of teachers, support staff, and administrators to analyze data, plan instruction, and make decisions about student supports. Regularly schedule collaborative team meetings to ensure ongoing communication and collaboration.


  • Tiered levels of support: Design a system that provides tiered interventions based on student need. This may involve small-group instruction, one-on-one support, or targeted instructional strategies within the general education classroom.


  • Evidence-based practices: Utilize research-based instructional practices and materials that align with the science of reading and structured literacy approaches. This includes explicit, systematic instruction in phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.


Professional Development and Coaching Support for Teachers

To ensure that teachers are equipped to implement MTSS and the science of reading with fidelity, it is essential to provide ongoing professional development and coaching support. This can be achieved through:


  • In-service training: Offer regular workshops and training sessions on topics such as the science of reading, data analysis, and instructional strategies.


  • On-site coaching: Provide in-classroom support for teachers by literacy coaches or other instructional leaders. This can include modeling lessons, co-teaching, or providing feedback on instruction.


  • Professional learning communities (PLCs): Establish PLCs focused on literacy instruction, where teachers can share best practices, discuss challenges, and learn from one another.


  • Access to resources: Provide teachers with access to research-based instructional materials, technology, and other tools to support their implementation of MTSS.


The Impact of MTSS on Student Proficiency in Reading

Implementing an MTSS for literacy instruction has been shown to have a significant impact on student proficiency in reading. According to the National Center on Intensive Intervention, schools that effectively implement MTSS experience improved student outcomes, including increased reading achievement and reduced achievement gaps among diverse student populations.


Case Study: Success at Elmwood Elementary

Elmwood Elementary, a diverse school in the Midwest, has experienced impressive gains in student reading proficiency since implementing MTSS. By prioritizing professional development and coaching support, they have equipped their teachers with the necessary skills to implement the science of reading and structured literacy approaches effectively. As a result, 75% of their students are now meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations in reading, compared to just 50% before implementing MTSS.


Unlocking Literacy Potential Through MTSS

Developing a multi-tiered system of support for literacy instruction is a powerful way to ensure that all students receive the targeted, evidence-based instruction they need to succeed. By focusing on leadership strategies, building essential systems, providing ongoing professional development and coaching support, and using data-driven decision-making, schools can create an environment where students thrive in reading. As educational leaders, it is our responsibility to champion these efforts and create a future where every child is empowered to reach their full literacy potential.



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