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Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

Willmar Public Schools employs a multi-tiered systems of support model for students.

The first level of support occurs in the classroom with 90 minutes of core instruction delivered by the classroom teacher using the district’s literacy curriculum that is being aligned with the 2010 English Language Arts Standards. Research/based reading instruction will address the five strands of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension).

Teachers differentiate instruction in small groups, according to the needs of their diverse learners. In addition teachers will be utilizing Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) to support the core.

Based on screening and diagnostic assessments, the second level of support identifies students not meeting grade/level targets who are then provided supplemental reading interventions according to their skill deficit(s). This level of support will be provided in 20 five minute blocks per day, five days per week.

Students not responding well to the interventions provided at the second level are referred to, and receive, the third level and most intensive and individualized level of support outside of the 90 minutes of core instruction. Students receiving Special Education services are sometimes included at this level.


  • Tier one: Core Curriculum. All students, including students who require curricular enhancements for acceleration.
  • Tier two: Targeted Group Interventions. Students who need more support in addition to the core curriculum.
  • Tier three: Intensive, Individual Interventions. Students who need individualized interventions.


MTSS can be traced to the work on data/based decision making by Deno and Mirkin (1977) and the U.S. Department of Education’s report A Nation at Risk (1983). The framework is a systematic use of assessment data to efficiently allocate resources to improve learning for all students (Burns and VanDerHeyden, 2006). A meta/analysis of research found that MTSS led to improved outcomes such as fewer children referred to and placed into special education programs. Additionally, results included higher achievement scores and reduced behavioral difficulties among all students (Burns, Appleton, and Stehouwer, 2005). Children at/risk for reading failure demonstrated improved reading skills (Marston, Muyskens, Lau, Canter, 2003; Tilly, 2003).