How SEL Can Support Your MTSS Framework

Social and emotional learning (SEL) and Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) go hand in hand. Developing social and emotional skills in youth has shown to be effective at improving academic outcomes for all students – from the valedictorian to the student most at-risk of dropping out. There are many ways SEL can support your school’s MTSS framework. These tips and specific strategies will ensure all students receive the supports they need to achieve success.

Tier I (All students)

Research consistently shows that all students can benefit from SEL screening and programming ― even students who are succeeding academically. SEL can address overt issues as well as latent ones that haven’t yet manifested themselves into academic risk or negative behaviors.

The best SEL programs promote building social and emotional skills with all students. This can include a focus on school climate and culture, quality evidence-based SEL instruction, and integration of SEL into all areas of academic instruction. Other components can include strong parental involvement and the use of high-quality SEL assessments to facilitate data-driven decision-making.

The DESSA is a research-based SEL assessment with strong reliability and validity. Used within Aperture Education’s Evo Social/Emotional system, schools can easily measure the social and emotional competence of all students. Robust reporting tools enable schools to identify which students need additional supports. Keep in mind that the results may surprise you ― even your best students may be struggling and could benefit from SEL!

Another way schools can promote SEL with all students is with a morning meeting. At the start of each day, educators should check-in with their students to address any issues that may be going on with their students. Initiate the conversation by telling students about a personal experience you had with a certain social and emotional competency, such as stress. Then, ask students to share experiences they’ve had and talk about ways to work through those issues. It’s important to use common language around social and emotional concepts and behavior. Then, once a week or so, devote additional time to address a specific SEL topic, such as managing stress, bullying prevention, or self-management strategies.

Tier II

Students who fall in Tier II of the MTSS model require more intensified classroom and small group interventions. This group typically comprises 7-10% of your student population and can be identified with screeners such as the DESSA. You can also identify students by looking at your school’s behavior reports. Unfortunately, a handful of students are typically responsible for the majority of behavior infractions. These students can also benefit from Tier II or Tier III supports.

SEL curriculum is highly effective with Tier II students. Working in small groups, you can use SEL instruction to improve students’ social and emotional skills. Access a free Evo SEL Intervention Strategy.

Keep in mind that many schools have found that the most effective Tier II interventions include a Tier I component. One model to consider is a school-wide SEL curriculum. Before and after the full-group instruction, counselors should work with Tier II students to give them additional time to learn and practice the skills of the lesson. This model has shown to be more effective at helping Tier II students than if they only participated in the SEL lessons on their own.

Tier III

Some students need more intensive one-on-one support. Typically Tier III students meet with a guidance counselor, social worker, or other specialized educator. In addition to one-on-one sessions, counselors should be involved in classroom instruction with these students. This is important so students learn how to apply the skills they’re learning.

One way to integrate small group supports with Tier III students is to start a lunch group. Ask a Tier III student to lunch, and ask the student to bring along two friends. Over lunch you can focus on a particular social and emotional skill, such as importance of peer supports, and guide the conversation around that topic with the students. This technique can reduce stigma against the at-risk student, since on the surface it just appears the student has invited some friends to lunch.

All students can benefit from SEL, and there are many ways to integrate this critical instruction within your MTSS. SEL can support the needs of students within each tier level of your MTSS. Try incorporating the tips and strategies outlined above to support the social and emotional needs of your students and ensure their academic success. Contact our SEL advisors to get started today!