MTSS, RTI, Special Education…OH My! Gaining an understanding of MTSS and RTI from Drs. Lynn Fuchs and Joe Jenkins

Response to Intervention (RTI) and Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) are frameworks for integrating instruction, evidence-based interventions, and assessments to meet the academic and behavior needs of all students. The essential components of MTSS are as follows: screening, progress monitoring, a multilevel prevention system, and data-based decision making (National Center on Response to Intervention, 2010). When MTSS is implemented with fidelity, success and improvement in performance occur among students with disabilities, as well as students who are at risk for academic failure (Gersten et al., 2012; Vaughn et al., 2015). Unfortunately, many educators and parents do not fully understand how to collect data and identify interventions to use within MTSS. To kick off the MTSS theme as part of Connected Educator Month 2015, the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII), the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform (CEEDAR) Center, the National Center on Response to Intervention at American Institutes for Research, and the National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI) had the pleasure of sitting down with Lynn Fuchs, Ph.D., and Joe Jenkins, Ph.D., and discussing RTI and MTSS. Together they have decades of experience in the field of education and have conducted extensive research in the areas of MTSS and RTI.

Drs. Fuchs and Jenkins address the following questions:

  • A lot of terms are used to discuss tiered systems. Are RTI and MTSS the same thing? How are they similar, and how are they different?
  • How has MTSS changed the landscape of education?
  • What are the essential components of an MTSS framework, and what challenges do schools face when implementing them?
  • What advice would you provide to school administrators, educators, and parents regarding MTSS implementation?

This interview is the first of numerous events that are part of the MTSS theme for Connected Educator Month 2015. Learn more on the Connected Educator Month website and view the calendar for a list of all relevant results. Do you have an event related to MTSS? Make sure you add it to calendar. Throughout Connected Educator Month and beyond, we want to hear from you. Send us questions or thoughts to or tweet us at @TheNCII@TheNCSI, or @CeedarCenter.

Numerous resources related to MTSS and RTI are available online. Many states have websites and resources associated with MTSS, and various Office of Special Education Programs–funded technical assistance centers highlight MTSS. The following list is a sample of websites that may be helpful to explore:

Lynn Fuchs is the Nicholas Hobbs Professor of Special Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on assessment methods for enhancing instructional planning, understanding mathematics development and disability, and instructional methods for improving mathematics and reading outcomes for students with or at risk for learning disabilities.

Dr. Jenkins is an Emeritus professor at the University of Washington. His interests include teaching students with learning disabilities to read and instructing special educators on effective literacy instruction. He also teaches special education assessment practices and instructional modifications for students with disabilities.


Gersten, R., Clarke, B., Jordan, N., Newman-Gonchar, R., Haymond, K., & Wilkins, C. (2012). Universal screening in mathematics for the primary grades: Beginnings of a research base. Exceptional Children, 78(4), 423–445.

National Center on Response to Intervention. (2010). Essential components of RTI—A closer look at response to intervention. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

Vaughn, S., Roberts, G., Swanson, E. A., Wanzek, J., Fall, A. M., & Stillman-Spisak, S. J. (2015). Improving middle-school students’ knowledge and comprehension in social studies: A replication. Educational Psychology Review, 27, 31–50.