Study of Training in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior

Impacts on Elementary School Students’ Outcomes

Students’ early problem behaviors in school can be disruptive and can hinder their learning and long-term success. To prevent and address these problem behaviors, schools across the country report adopting multi-tiered systems of support for behavior (MTSS-B). The MTSS-B approach seeks to change the school learning environment by consistently teaching and reinforcing good behavior for all students, and then identifying and providing supplemental support to students who need it. Given the reported widespread use of MTSS-B but limited evidence of effective programs, this study evaluated a promising, intensive program of MTSS-B training and technical assistance. About 90 elementary schools in six states were randomly assigned either to participate in the program or to continue with their usual strategies for supporting student behavior. Comparing student and teacher experiences in the two sets of schools measures the effectiveness of the program.

Key Findings

  • The program was no better than schools’ usual strategies at improving overall student behavior or achievement, though it did have positive effects on teachers’ classroom management, classroom functioning, and some aspects of school climate. These intermediate effects may result from the greater use of MTSS-B practices in participating versus non-participating schools, even though principals and MTSS-B team leaders in participating schools indicated that there were challenges with some aspects of implementation.
  • For the 15 percent of students initially identified as struggling the most with behavior, the program had positive effects on disruptive behavior and reading achievement while the program lasted. But the effect on reading achievement was not sustained in the year after the program ended.
Condliffe, Barbara, Pei Zhu, Fred Doolittle, Mark van Dok, Hannah Power, Dakota Denison, and Anja Kurki. 2022. Study of Training in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior. New York: MDRC.