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The review of the literature indicates that there are several causes for the lack of social skills in elementary students. Negative behavior that interferes with learning is on the rise (Elisa & Weissberg, 2003). Beland (2007) points out there are behavior and school situations such as stress and anxiety that divide or exclude students from receiving positive feedback on their daily behavior log. Off-task behaviors can be caused by students who engage in conversation with others when given directions or during teacher-directed instructions. Many of the behavioral problems stem from what is going on at home. Poverty, divorce, bad role models, and neglect can cause children to become disruptive in class (Atici, 2007).

According to Meier et al. (2006), teachers have expectations of social behavior that are sometimes inconsistent. If teachers view students as incapable of acting or thinking on their own, students give up their independence, individuality, and initiative forming a self-fulfilling prophecy (Metzger, 2004). Warger and Rutherfod (1997) state that teaching respect and responsibility is not enough; teachers need to break each down and teach the distinct skills and behaviors of each. Each should be taught as social skills.

Elias and Weissberg (2003) note that a person who is lacking in social and emotional learning may not be successful in school and the workplace. They may also have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends. If a student has trouble saying what they really mean, controlling their impulsive actions, and making reasonable decisions, they may not be truly aware of their feelings. Students who have trouble expressing their feelings may find themselves in risky or grown-up situations that can cause anxiety, fear, and excitement but children who have positive relationships with teachers have better social-emotional adjustment (Wang, Hatzignianni, Shahaeian, Murray & Harrison, 2016).

Furthermore, the students who are anxious, angry, or sad have a more difficult time solving problems and concentrating. These students are impressionable and they can often be swayed by their own need to be liked by others and to belong. Their actions and judgments affect relationships as well as their health. Children need the prompts to deal with the real-life situations before they occur so they have the ability to make difficult choices (Elias & Weissberg, 2003).

According to Bru (2006), elementary students are more vulnerable to social comparison and place emphasis on competition. Beland (2007) agrees that labeling, stereotyping, isolation, facial expressions, and negative actions are all actions that set children apart. Children are expected to possess these critical social skills which are crucial to school success. According to Meier, et al. (2006), children need to get along with people who are different and need to respond respectfully in various situations. Yet, elementary school students are particularly sensitive to the emotional aspects of their peers, including their connections with trusted adults, which is critical to their responsiveness to behavioral expectations. These relationships can be accurate predictors of student achievement as early as the elementary years (Pianta & Nimetz, 1991) and continuing into the middle school grades (den Brok et al., 2005; O’Conner & McCartney, 2007).

Shechtman and Leichtentritt (2004) wrote that children’s behavioral problems are triggered by distorted thoughts and poorly-controlled emotional responses to stress. Wentzel (2003) found that in contrast to high-achieving students, the lowest achieving students choose other types of social goals, such as to have fun and to make and keep friendships, and generally are unwilling to try to conform to the social standards of the classroom.

Disruptive student behavior can be caused by divorce, substance abuse, frequent relocation, and other problems facing our society (Rathvon, 1990). Utay and Utay (2005) state that parents should make sure their children have the skills to effectively interact when they are negatively confronted, or when the rules suddenly change. Without these skills, children are more likely to experience negative emotionality in these situations, which could lead to impulsive altercations.

Elementary students are more concerned with social issues than learning. Sometimes children need help with making friends. They may be lonely, depressed, have low self-esteem, or other health issues. They may show their frustration through anger instead of sadness. Teaching social skills to a child who is feeling rejected is vital (Utay & Utay, 2005).

Students need to develop better social skills in school (Kidron & Fleischman, 2006).

Meyer, et al. (2006), feel that these critical social skills are crucial to school success. They need to get along with people who are different. They need to be able to spend free time appropriately, and respond in an appropriate fashion when they are bullied or teased by a peer. According to Denham, et al. (2006), social skill interventions need to be taught to children with interpersonal and adjustment problems. Even with limited resources, schools are responsible for the improvement of their students’ academic and social behavior. Schools are lacking the expertise to resolve these problems. Student behavioral problems ranged from verbal interruptions of teacher or student directions, to causing injury to oneself or another individual (Fairbanks, S., Guardino, D., Lathrop, M., and Sugai, G., 2007).

Putting this into perspective, what drives the necessity and pursuit of more effective options for discipline, other than out-of-school suspension? Removing students from their educational setting has many negative effects including increasing the likelihood that students will enter the juvenile justice system or end up in prison (Maynard & Weinstein, 2019). According to the Civil Rights Data Collection of the 49 million students enrolled in public schools in 2011-2012, 3.45 million were suspended out-of-school (Maynard & Weinstein, 2019). Notwithstanding the fact that black students were suspended three times as much as their white counterparts, and disabled students twice as many as their non-disabled peers: a matter of disproportionality to be studied in specific detail in the future.

Hence, the significance of this work in avoiding such outcomes, and the pursuit of alternative and/or preventative programs. Proactive and preventive behavioral interventions reduce discipline incidents and protect students from suspension and expulsion (Gregory, Allen, Mikami, Hafen, & Pianta, 2013). This is where the focus needs to shift: preventative options and/or programs. High quality prevention programs that aim to increase students’ social and emotional learning skills have demonstrated reductions in student behavior problems and suspension rates (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger, 2011). In recent years, schools have begun to approach these issues with the use of programs like Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports, or MTSS.

Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

Ongoing research shows that some students struggle with academics while others struggle with behavioral challenges. Still others struggle with both. The MTSS framework has come to lend support.

The Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework that many schools are using to give targeted support to struggling students. It is also called the MTSS framework, the MTSS process, or the MTSS model. MTSS uses a cohesive continuum of data driven practices that give support to academics and behavior with the use of frequent data monitoring driving the decision making process. In this case, behavior includes more than just referrals. Behavior in the sense of MTSS includes everything from attendance issues to physical altercations. MTSS also supports the staff at schools as well, emphasizing the need for professional development and highlighting the importance of feedback to staff. It shows the importance of the home/school/community collaboration and attempts to have all parties involved to help students succeed. The MTSS model grew out of the combination of two other intervention-based frameworks: Response to Intervention (RtI) and PBIS.( CITATION) Copyright © 2021 PBIS Rewards 

MTSS is designed to help schools identify students that struggle academically and to try to provide assistance early in their academic careers. It uses a “whole child “approach which supports the students’ academic growth, but assist in many other areas, too. These areas may include behavior, social and emotional needs, and absenteeism (not attending school). In addition, the MTSS framework has grown to encompass all students at every level.

A central goal of the MTSS frameworks is to prevent reading difficulties before they become entrenched and intractable, similar to prevention models in public health (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009; Lembke, McMaster, & Stecker, 2010). In addition, to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, special education services should be supported by effective MTSS practices. Such practices should be implemented school-wide, and should provide a continuum of supports for all students, including students with disabilities (Coyne, Kame’enui, & Simmons, 2001; Fuchs, Fuchs, & Stecker, 2010; Harn, Chard, & Kame’enui, 2011).

Research shows that students in regular education classes that are exposed to early intervention services generally do not have experience with intense reading instruction may happen until third or fourth grade. However, research again shows that schools that provides early intervention through MTSS frameworks, all students experiencing reading difficulties receive intensive instruction and intervention, beginning in kindergarten. Therefore, when a student is identified for special education services, the initial Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be developed as a continuation and expansion of current and ongoing reading instruction and intervention (Fuchs et al., 2010)
( difference between RtI and MTSS?)

Key Components of MTSS

As an alternative to the “waiting to fail” assessment model, MTSS takes a more proactive approach to identify student with academic, behavioral, social or absenteem needs.

The key elements of MTSS include:

· Universal screening of all students early in the school year

· Tiers of interventions that can be amplified in response to levels of need

· Ongoing data collection and continual assessment

· Schoolwide approach to expectations and supports

· Parent involvement

The cohesive instruction model of MTSS uses collected data to assess the students’ needs and provide them with deep and explicit interventions in appropriate tiers.

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Three Tiers of Support

The tiers of support are a huge part of MTSS. They get more intense from one level to the next. For example, a child getting small group interventions may need to “move up” to one-on-one help.

Three Tiers of Support

MTSS provides a method of early identification and intervention that can help struggling students to catch up with their peers. As such, MTSS uses three tiers of support to assist all students at various levels. These three tiers include:

Tier 1 – Universal or primary – Majority of students (75-90%)

As the largest tier, and the foundation for the entire framework, Tier 1 encompasses the entire school with core instructions and basic interventions. This structure helps to build positive relationships between staff and students. It includes proactive classroom management strategies aimed at creating a supportive atmosphere. Students who do not respond to these interventions may move into Tier 2.

Tier 2 – Secondary – Small groups of students (10-25%)

Some students need a little extra assistance in meeting academic and behavioral goals, and it is in Tier 2 that these individuals receive that help. Often these interventions and supports are delivered in small group settings, such as reading groups. Check-In/Check-Out (CICO) interventions are often a part of Tier 2, as well. This targeted support allows students to work toward catching up with their peers.

Tier 3 – Tertiary – Individual students (< 10%)

A subset of students has significant challenges that do not respond to the interventions and supports in Tier 1 or Tier 2. Tier 3 gives these students individualized supports and can include assistance from outside agencies such as behavioral counselors or family therapists.

MTSS tiers help schools to organize levels of supports based on intensity so that students receive necessary instruction, support, and interventions based on need. As such, student identities are not based on tier levels. Instead, individuals are identified as students in need of supports. This helps educators to respond appropriately and provide students with the assistance they need to prosper in the classroom.

Employing the MTSS Framework

Schools using MTSS seek successful educational and behavioral outcomes for all students, regardless of challenges. This may involve significant interventions for a segment of the student population, with the goal of moving these individuals into reduced interventions as they progress. The flexibility of this framework allows students to move from tier to tier as needed, without prescribed timelines. The elements of MTSS include:

· Multiple tiers of instruction, intervention, and support

. Includes learning standards and behavioral expectations

. Increasing levels of intensity

· Problem-solving process

. Collaborative and team-based decision making to determine which students need interventions

· Data evaluation

. Interpretation of data to determine student progress and action steps

· Communication and collaboration

. Teamwork focused on building relationships and using data to improve those relationships

· Capacity building infrastructure

. Professional development and coaching along with written plans

· Leadership

. Active involvement and administration of practices

School Climate and MTSS

MTSS creates a positive environment for all students which in turn impacts school climate. Positive school climate is the leading indicator for such outcomes as increased academic achievement, increased teacher retention, and reduced discipline referrals.

The interventions and supports found in MTSS help in relationship building, which is a key factor in student success. Additionally, a supportive school environment allows each student to work through their challenges and catch up with their peers. Defined tiers of intervention for both academic and behavioral challenges enables educators to address student needs, both as a group and individually.

It’s important to note that MTSS tiers may look quite different from school to school. MTSS focuses on the overall needs of individual students, and what may be a Tier 2 intervention in one school might be a Tier 1 in another. It is up to each school to develop an MTSS framework that addresses challenges specific to that school community.

PBIS as a Part of MTSS

As part of an MTSS framework, PBIS can help educators build an awesome school culture and address behavioral challenges in a positive way. These interventions, when paired with the academic assistance found in RtI, can help students to improve in all areas. The tiered structure of a PBIS initiative helps educators to provide students with the help they need to develop the behavioral skills necessary for success. This social-emotional learning coincides with academics, and each can help strengthen the other.

Schoolwide expectations, tiered systems of supports, and consistent data analysis are all hallmarks of PBIS. These factors are critical to the success of MTSS, as well. Employing the MTSS framework helps to focus educators and students alike on positive interactions, creating a school climate focused on student success.

Behavior Interventions

Although there are some significant differences in behavioral interventions across age groups, aligning an intervention with the function of a child’s behavior applies to all age groups. For younger students, it is important to make sure that behavior expectations are developmentally appropriate.

Current Behavior Interventions


Changes in federal and state laws have directed schools to focus more on helping all children learn by addressing problems earlier within the general education setting. These new laws emphasize the importance of providing high quality, scientifically-based instruction and interventions, and hold schools accountable for the adequate yearly progress of all students. This new process of providing interventions to students who are at risk for academic or behavioral problems is called MTSS (Multi-tiered System of Support).

 Handling the needs of students can be one of the biggest challenges that a teacher faces on a daily basics. Some students struggle with academics while others struggle with behavioral challenges. Still, there are many students that struggle with both. So, to meet these demands standards both with academics and behaviors, schools began using a framework of interventions and supports designed to address these behavioral and academic challenges. Thus, the multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) was developed. MTSS was implemented to be the overseeing body of both response to intervention (RTI) for academics and positive behavior interventions and support (PBIS), dealing with behaviors (Harlacher, Sakelaris, & Kattelman, 2013; Hunter et al., 2015).

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Understood For All Inc.

 MTSS is an “umbrella” term. It includes some multi-tiered systems of support you may know already:

Response to intervention (RTI) helps students who are struggling with academics. It provides increasing levels of support to help them catch up. Learn more about 

Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is an approach schools use to promote school safety and good behavior. All students are taught how they’re expected to behave. These expectations are described in a positive way. (“Be respectful” instead of “Don’t talk back.”) Learn more about 

This new and groundbreaking framework, known as MTSS, helps schools to identify struggling students early so that they may receive assistance quickly.

MTSS is increasingly being used as a framework for supporting the needs of all learners through strong core instruction while simultaneously allowing for supplementary supports for some students as needed.

However, despite the increasing prevalence of MTSS, students with disabilities continue to experience persistently poor academic and behavioral outcomes (Danielson & Rosenquist, 2014).

Research also shows that 3–5% of the general school population does not respond to the core and supplementary interventions that are typically delivered through MTSS (D. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton, 2012; Wanzek & Vaughn, 2009).

These students are those who exhibit the most severe and persistent learning and behavioral needs and who require intensive intervention

MTSS framework is comprised of five major components.

 Curriculum and instruction that is evidence-based must be administered to students at a universal level. Students must be individually screened for academic, social, and emotional needs. Evidence-based, instructional interventions must be implemented at the targeted audience and at the appropriate intensive level of rigor. These instructional interventions must be differentiated based upon individualized student needs. Students that receive targeted instruction must be continually monitored to ensure that best practice is being conducted. Finally, it is vita that all decisions are data-based and best serve the need of the students (Iowa Department of Education, 2016).

 There is also little disagreement that MTSS frameworks have great promise for meeting the needs of students with, or at risk for, reading disabilities (Gersten et al., 2009; Samuels & Farstrup, 2011). Yet many times, when schools adopt an MTSS framework, they underestimate the work that it takes to coordinate and align MTSS practices, and overestimate the degree to which MTSS practices are implemented fully and with fidelity (Arden, Gandhi, Zumeta, & Danielson, 2017; Coyne, Oldham, Leonard, Burns, & Gage, 2016)

 What is MTSS? MTSS is a process designed to help schools focus on high quality instruction and interventions that are matched to student needs and monitored on a frequent basis. The information gained from an MTSS process is used by school personnel and parents to adapt instruction and to make decisions regarding the student’s educational program. What Are the Benefits of MTSS? Perhaps the greatest benefit of an MTSS approach is that it eliminates a “wait to fail” situation because students get help promptly within the general education setting. As soon as assessment data indicates a problem area for a student or a group of students, interventions are put into place to address these concerns. While the interventions are taking place, school staff monitors any progress that these students are making in their problem areas.

These progress monitoring techniques used within the MTSS process provide information that allows teachers to better evaluate student needs and match instruction, resources and interventions appropriately. What is the MTSS Process? Most MTSS systems are divided into a three-tier intervention model as illustrated below: 1-5% Of all Students 5-10% 5-10% Of all Students Of all Students 80-90% 80-90% Of all Students Of all Students Tier 1: -Core Curriculum – 80-90% -Whole Group/Core Instruction -For All Students in the Class Tier 2: -Small Group Interventions 5-10% -For Some Students (At-Risk) -Done in Addition to Tier 1 Tier 3: -Intense Interventions – 1-5% -Customized Interventions -For a Very Small # of Students -Done in Addition to Tier 1 & Tier 2


MTSS Process

Step 1: Screen all students three times a year. Step 2.:Use screening data and teacher input, identify at -risk students, and determine interventions. Step 3: Implement appropriate interventions Step 4: Monitor progress Step 5: Evaluate the intervention to determine whether student has made sufficient progress. Step 6: Increase or decrease interventions based on student need

What If My Child is recommended to the School’s “Problem Solving Team”? Attend team meetings. Remember, you are the expert of your child! Help plan interventions for academic and/or behavioral problems. Implement or reinforce any strategies or interventions at home. Always ask questions w when things are not clear!

How can Parents Be Involved? Frequently communicate with your child’s teacher(s). Attend school functions such as parent -teacher conferences. Monitor and assist with your child’s homework assignments.

MTSS has the potential to meet the academic and behavioral needs of all students. Unfortunately, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities often are not included in this framework even though they should be. When a group of students with disabilities is not included in an MTSS framework, the foundational concept of all students being general education students first, with special education services supplementary, is eroded.


As this concept of a continuum of tiered instruction and interventions has evolved, its value as a framework that is beneficial for all students, including those identified as students with disabilities, has emerged. Even with this evolution, MTSS typically has not explicitly included students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. This omission may be due to the assumption that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities already are identified as needing special education services that are individualized. Of course, this would not preclude them from being included in an MTSS framework. Despite the lack of application to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, a number of states indicate that they will use an MTSS framework to reduce the numbers of students participating in the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS). States also are seeking to align inclusive services for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities with MTSS implementation


Equally important, the impact of the MTSS initiative on the reading achievement of students identified as at risk for reading disabilities was also statistically significant and educationally meaningful (Coyne et al., 2018). Effects of intensive Tier 2 intervention were evaluated using a regression discontinuity design, which demonstrated accelerated student reading growth of students with and at risk for reading disabilities beyond what would be expected if they had only received Tier 1 reading instruction. Results from both analyses suggest that when these schools were able to implement coordinated and sustained MTSS practices and systems, their students – including students with, and at risk for, reading disabilities – demonstrated accelerated reading achievement that was evident across grades K-3, and that these gains increased across years of implementation (Coyne et al., 2016; Coyne et al., 2018).


Although most components of MTSS require additional development (L.S. Fuchs & Vaughn, 2012; Gersten & Dimino, 2006), intensive intervention may be the component least well developed. Given their specialized expertise, special education administrators are in a unique position to provide needed guidance and leadership in districts and schools struggling to educate their students with the most intensive learning and behavioral needs

Further, there is evidence that suggests that partial implementation of RTI or MTSS models may not improve student outcomes, particularly students with, or at risk, for learning disabilities (Balu et al., 2015; Harn et al., 2011). Although many schools implement practices and components of MTSS at a surface level, they haven’t established the systems and tools that make accurate, deep, and sustained implementation possible (Balu et al., 2015)

K-3 reading initiative, school teams needed to go beyond typical MTSS practice and “delve into the details” (Coyne et al., 2016) in order to overcome barriers and build the systems and infrastructure needed to support high quality implementation of MTSS in reading that met the needs of all students

 Supporting School-Level Reading Implementation:

Activity Timeline Common Barrier:

We Have a School Literacy Plan, But We Do Not Use It to Guide Our Day-To-Day Practices Schools often create a school literacy plan that outlines broad reading goals and objectives for the upcoming school year (Jones, Burns, & Pirri, 2010).

 A growing school-based mental health (SBMH) movement has positioned schools as an ideal context for the provision of mental health services for youth, especially given the barriers associated with children’s access to psychological services in outpatient settings (George, Zaheer, Kern, & Evans, 2018). Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), a prevalent model of service delivery in schools for academics and behavior (e.g., Barrett, Eber, & Weist, 2013; Sugai & Horner, 2009), has been posited as a promising framework for the delivery of mental health supports due to its focus on preventing mental health concerns, universal screening to determine students at risk, and matching of intervention intensity to students’ needs, among other characteristics (e.g., Doll, Cummings, & Chapla, 2014). In line with this trend, researchers have more recently begun examining the application of the MTSS model to address students’ mental health concerns, including universal screening of internalizing risk (e.g., Eklund, Tanner, Stoll, & Anway, 2015; Miller et al., 2015), progress monitoring tools for internalizing behavior (e.g., Hunter, Chenier, & Gresham, 2014; von der Embse, Scott, & Kilgus, 2015), and school-based mental health interventions (e.g., Carnevale, 2013; Stark, Streusand, Arora, & Patel, 2011). As this literature base continues to grow, there is a need for additional research on the provision of school-based mental health services within an MTSS model, specifcally with a focus on practical implications to guide school-based practice (Kilgus, Reinke, & Jimerson, 2015). As such, the purpose of the current special issue is to advance the integration of SBMH and MTSS by (a) highlighting additional research that has examined various aspects of school-based mental health service delivery within a tiered model and (b) providing practical guidance regarding the selection of specifc assessments an

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