Integrating Social-Emotional Skills Within the MTSS Pyramid

Many school districts are using a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework to support students through tiered interventions. This approach ensures that all students have access to the resources they need to succeed. When students have research-backed, tiered practices to support their growth, they have realistic benchmarks that make it easier for educators and families to track their progress.

Why the MTSS Pyramid?

The MTSS pyramid is a visual guide to explain how intervention can scale based on a student’s needs. The pyramid’s base is referred to as “Tier 1,” or the universal supports. Around 80% of students fall into this group. Using foundational practices like classroom rituals and routines helps build the climate and culture for social and emotional learning (SEL). 

An MTSS approach for social emotional learning infographic

Typically, one can expect 15% of students to fall into the middle section of the MTSS pyramid, or “Tier 2.” At the Tier 2 level, interventions educators use include small group and individual student strategies. Students may need Tier 2 support if universal supports are not enough, and these interventions give students more tools to develop their social and emotional skills.

Tier 3 is at the top of the pyramid and usually only encompasses around 5% of students. Tier 3 supports are more intensive and personalized to best support the individual student’s unique needs.

What Does MTSS Stand For in Education?

MTSS in education can be supported through SEL!

SEL focuses on teaching the essential skills students need to succeed while in school and out in the community. With an SEL assessment system like Aperture Education’s Aperture System, there’s a range of tools to support students across the MTSS pyramid. 

The DESSA-mini is a universal screener of social and emotional competence. The Aperture System has Foundational Practices to support this Tier 1 activity. Within the Foundational Practices are ways to promote SEL within the classroom, in students’ homes, and in their communities.

If students are flagged during the DESSA-mini process, their educator will be prompted to complete the full DESSA assessment to get a better understanding of their social and emotional strengths and areas they need support. With students in Tier 2, the data educators get from the full assessment supports the formation of small groups to help students leverage their strengths to develop their areas of growth.

At the Tier 3 level, educators can export data from the full DESSA assessment to develop IEPs and other support plans. The student’s specific strengths can be incorporated into their intervention plan to aid in the development of their areas for growth. Typically, Tier 3 students meet with other school personnel like school counselors, social workers, or school psychologists. The Aperture System is a great tool to use for progress monitoring and tracking what interventions are working.

All students benefit from MTSS, just like all students benefit from SEL.

MTSS & SEL in Action: Boerne ISD’s Story

One of Aperture Education’s long-term partners, Boerne ISD, has seen first-hand the impact of integrating SEL to support its MTSS work.

One of the district’s goals centered on college and career readiness. District leaders wanted to integrate strength-based SEL activities to reach this goal. What they found was that using evidence-backed tools from Aperture gave staff the tools to build an environment students could thrive in.

After one year, they saw an 80% reduction in out-of-school time suspensions, 53% reduction in in-school suspensions, and a 47% decrease in office referrals.

District leaders’ desire to improve educators’ understanding of SEL and integrate it more intentionally in class lead to students spending more time in class learning and less time redirecting behaviors!

Download Your Copy of the MTSS Alignment Guide to Learn More! 

Are you interested in reading more about the transformation Boerne ISD and other districts’ saw by integrating SEL and MTSS? Download the MTSS Alignment Guide for their stories and additional resources!