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Early Childhood Special Education Services

Nebraska Department of Education
Department of Health and Human Services Early Intervention
Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE)

NeMTSS Framework


MTSS is a framework that promotes an integrated system connecting general education and special education, along with all components of teaching and learning, into a high quality, standards-based instruction and intervention system that is matched to a student’s academic, social-emotional and behavior needs.

MTSS is a framework that promotes an integrated system connecting general education and special education, along with all components of teaching and learning, into a high quality, standards-based instruction and intervention system that is matched to a student’s academic, social-emotional and behavior needs.

NeMTSS Website

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NeMTSS Framework

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The NeMTSS Framework is designed to provide an overview for MTSS practices in Nebraska. As such, it will chart the course for school-wide implementation from PreKindergarten through graduation. The framework is devoted to explaining the essential elements of MTSS and the systematic implementation in schools. It is intended to help school leaders to increase his/her understanding of the various aspects of the system and to identify areas that warrant future professional development within his/her school. It is not intended, however, to be a substitute for training.  Professional learning, along with ongoing district or ESU level coaching, is required to implement MTSS. Readers are encouraged to pursue supplementary training in each of the elements and processes discussed in this document

MTSS is an essential component of the Continuous Improvement Process and should not be seen as a stand alone initiative.  Local school districts and Educational Service Units (ESUs) are a critical part of the Nebraska MTSS network.  Each school district and ESU is charged with multiple improvement efforts, have a variety of local expertise, and possess unique context.  Making natural connections between the essential elements of the MTSS framework and other efforts that the school district or ESU are involved with, such as continuous improvement, will be beneficial.

The Nebraska MTSS framework encompasses the concepts of response‐to‐intervention (RtI), positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS), and special education eligibility determination. The MTSS framework is an educational systems change paradigm (Sansosti & Noltemeyer, Annual 2008; Shores & Chester, 2009) that provides a construct for supporting  students and staff as part of school improvement.

The development of an MTSS framework begins by establishing a strong core of literacy, mathematics, and behavior, PreK-12, for all students which provides the foundation of prevention within the entire system. Universal screening processes measuring fluency and accuracy of critical early skills that are predictive of future student skill attainment are used to identify students who may need additional support. Evidence-based interventions are implemented to provide a layered continuum of supports matched to student need. Ongoing progress monitoring data are used to determine student response to intervention and is essential to the data-based problem solving process to determine next steps for fading, exiting, or intensifying interventions for students.  Data from MTSS can be used as part of the process for the identification of students with exceptionalities (See the Special Education Eligibility Determination section of the NeMTSS Framework); however, in no way should MTSS delay the initial evaluation of a student that is suspected of having a disability.

KEY TO MTSS SUCCESS – The Problem Solving Process

An effective MTSS relies on teams utilizing data to guide decision making at all levels (i.e., district, school, grade, classroom, individual) of support. Some important things to consider when using a data-based problem-solving model:

(Adapted from Florida )

  • A problem-solving model provides the structure to identify, develop, implement and evaluate strategies to improve the performance of ALL students.
  • The use of scientifically based or evidence-based practices must occur.
  • The effectiveness of the problem-solving process is based on both fidelity of the problem-solving process itself and fidelity in the implementation of the instruction/intervention plan.
  • The problem-solving process is applicable to all tiers of instruction/intervention and can be used for problem solving at the community, district, school, classroom and/or individual student levels.
  • The problem-solving process is iterative. Teams may need to cycle through the problem-solving process multiple times to find successful solutions.

NeMTSS Framework Model


MTSS has been defined by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) as “the practice of providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals and applying child response data to important educational decisions.”  Following are MTSS Essential Elements as defined by Nebraska Stakeholders:

  • Shared Leadership
  • Communication, Collaboration, and Partnerships
  • Evidence-Based Instruction, Intervention and Assessment Practices
  • Building Capacity/Infrastructure for Implementation
  • Layered Continuum of Supports
  • Data Based Problem Solving and Decision Making  

Collaboration with UN-L

The Nebraska Department of Education and the University of Nebraska, working collaboratively, have established the RtI Consortium. The role of the RtI Consortium is to provide professional development and technical assistance to Nebraska schools in implementing Response to Intervention with fidelity. The RtI Consortium works with ESUs and school districts in this endeavor.


RtI Framework in Nebraska

Response-to-Intervention (RtI) Framework in Nebraska

Essential Elements of Response to Intervention (RtI)

The RtI framework depicted above creates a continuum of instructional supports for all students through a multi-tiered approach. In Tier 1, the bottom tier of the pyramid, the goal is to maximize learning for all students. Utilizing universal screening data and a scientifically/research-based core instructional program for all students, districts should expect 80-90 percent of students to meet benchmarks and standards.

In Tier 2 (targeted instruction – second tier of cone) appropriate instruction/intervention is provided to students not making sufficient progress in core curricula in Tier 1. Instruction that is matched to student needs and is more explicit and intensive is provided, in addition to core instruction in small, flexible, homogeneous groups.

Tier 3 instruction provides sustained support for students not making adequate progress with targeted support. Ongoing supports are designed to provide direct, systematic instruction with substantial opportunities for practice in small groups and student progress is monitored frequently.

When implemented with fidelity, the Essential Elements of RtI, which are represented in the base of the cone, provide a framework for prevention, early intervention, school improvement and valid data for eligibility decisions. The Essential Elements for RtI are based on principles identified in research for an effective RtI system and provide the overarching framework to guide the implementation of RtI.

The Essential Elements are described below.

Team Leadership

Within an RtI model, district and school-based teams provide leadership in assessment coordination, instructional modifications and intervention selection/implementation, and data analysis and decision making at the district, school, grade, and individual student levels. Teams may provide guidance in the implementation of the entire RtI process or may focus on specific components (e.g., school wide data collection, problem solving at the individual student level). Examples of team activities include but are not limited to: (a) reviewing school-wide data, (b) examining the research base of current or future core and intervention programs used in the school, (c) attending and providing professional development that pertains to RtI, (d) collecting progress monitoring data on students receiving interventions, and (e) adjusting student interventions based on data. RtI leadership team members are chosen based on their role in the school and the knowledge and expertise they bring to the team. Participants may include parents, classroom teachers, special educators, content experts, school psychologists, and those with other specialized experience. An administrator is also included to facilitate school wide ownership and support of the RtI process and resource allocation.

Parent Involvement

Within an RtI model, parents are informed and involved. Parents are provided with information about the RTI process, their child’s eligibility for and involvement in intervention(s), and their child’s academic progress (e.g., data reports). Procedures for obtaining parent permission, notifying parents, and explaining rights to due process are also included when appropriate. Information may be provided to parents through a variety of mechanisms, including newsletters, form letters, reports, and face-to-face meetings. Parents may be involved in several aspects of the educational process, including participation in the district and/or school-wide team(s), planning meetings, problem-solving teams, and progress-monitoring or decision-making meetings regarding their children. School personnel develop a plan for informing and involving parents at each tier or level of support and consider parents’ availability when scheduling meetings.

Scientifically-Based Core Instruction and Intervention

Instruction and intervention at all levels of intensity (Tiers 1, 2, and 3) within an RtI model is scientifically-based, or based on rigorous research in content covered and methods used. For example, in the area of reading, the content of scientifically-based instruction and intervention programs includes the “Big Ideas” found in research and outlined by the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Scientifically-based instructional methods for all content areas include modeling, providing multiple opportunities for active student responding and guided practice, and providing corrective feedback. Appropriate scientifically-based instructional materials at all levels of intensity provide a systematic scope and sequence that includes clear guidelines about which skills are taught and the order in which content are introduced. These materials can be used to differentiate instruction based on the level of student need (i.e., to support students, including English language learners, who are performing above grade level, at grade level, slightly below grade level, significantly below grade level, etc.). The scientifically-based instruction and intervention materials employed are appropriate for a system that uses student data and clearly-specified decision rules to guide implementation.

Universal Screening Assessment

Universal screening assessments are used to assess the performance of all students in a particular skill area(s) and are valid and reliable for the purpose of screening. Screening involves collecting data for all students several times a year during a specified period of time (e.g., within a two-week window). School personnel review assessment technical manuals prior to administering screening assessments to verify reports of adequate reliability and validity and appropriateness for use with diverse samples. In addition, they conduct ongoing reliability checks to ensure accurate data are collected for decision making. School personnel also participate in professional development on the administration and scoring of assessment measures and the use of assessment data for decision making. Routine teacher meetings (e.g., meetings after each screening assessment period) are conducted to review and analyze data and to make instructional changes.

Individual Progress Monitoring

Individual progress is monitored for students who are identified for intervention within an RtI model. Objective, reliable, valid, and sensitive measures are used in this process. Multiple assessment forms or probes are used at each grade level, allowing regular assessment without duplication of probes. Assessments are administered on a regular basis (e.g., weekly); student progress is graphed for each student receiving intervention; and clearly specified, quantitative progress goals are set prior to intervention to inform decision making. To facilitate the decision making process, graphs include visual displays of baseline data, a pre-determined number of data points, an aim line, a goal line, and phase change lines. Individual districts or schools establish guidelines regarding the number of progress-monitoring data points (e.g., 7 data points) necessary to determine students’ response to intervention(s). An electronic database may be used to manage and document student data and to facilitate ongoing reliability checks to ensure accurate data are collected for decision making. Professional development on the administration and scoring of assessment measures and the use of assessment data for decision making is provided to school personnel.

Planned Service Delivery Decision Rules

Decision rules provide instructional guidance within an RtI model based on individual student goals and changes in student performance (i.e., rate, level, consistency) over time as determined by progress monitoring assessments. Decision rules for intervention selection and modification, movement between tiers of service, and responsiveness to intervention are established before RTI is used. Decision rules typically include information regarding how data are validated, which data are used for educational decision making, and criteria for making instructional and intervention decisions at each tier of support.

Intervention Delivery

Within an RtI model, scientifically-based interventions are provided in addition to core instruction. Skilled, certified personnel deliver or supervise the delivery of scientifically-based interventions. Personnel delivering interventions are trained on both the specific intervention being delivered and on effective instructional methods such as modeling, and providing multiple opportunities for active student responding, guided practice, and corrective feedback. Interventions are selected and modified by RtI leadership teams based on students’ needs identified using data from diagnostic and progress monitoring assessments. Leadership teams establish minimum standards for the intervention duration and the amount of data collected before determining whether a student is responding or not responding to intervention and before making substantive intervention changes. Intervention intensity increases when students are less responsive.

Fidelity of Instruction

Scientifically-based instruction and intervention at all levels of intensity (Tiers 1, 2, and 3) within an RtI model is delivered with fidelity (as intended by the program developers). To support high quality instruction and prevent drift in the intervention plan, an adherence plan is developed for core instruction, supplemental programs, and interventions. The RtI leadership team, including teachers, participates in the development of this plan, and the plan is not used for teacher evaluation. As part of the adherence plan, an impartial professional who is familiar with the instruction and intervention programs regularly observes instruction and intervention delivery using fidelity checklists and adherence protocols and provides feedback to the interventionists. Adherence checks are made more frequently as the intensity of interventions increases.

What Is RtI?

RtI is an educational service delivery system designed to provide effective instruction for all students using a comprehensive and preventive problem solving approach. It employs a tiered method of instructional delivery, in which the core curriculum addresses and meets the needs of most students (Tier 1), additional instruction is provided for those needing supplementary intervention support (Tier 2), and intensive and individualized services are provided for the students who continue to demonstrate more intensive needs (Tier 3). At its foundation, RtI includes measuring performance of all students, and basing educational decisions regarding curriculum, instruction, and intervention intensity on student data.


Why Implement RtI?

The rationale for implementing RtI within Nebraska schools is two-fold. RtI provides:

  • a multi-tier framework for utilizing best instructional practices to guide instruction for all students (in general and special education) through means of a continuum of services and
  • student performance data that can be used as part of a comprehensive evaluation for the identification of a student with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD).

The focus of RtI is on improved student outcomes for all students through the provision of high-quality scientifically/research-based instruction and interventions that are matched to student academic or behavioral needs. Through a multi-tiered framework, the RtI process enables districts to provide early support and assistance to students who are struggling to attain or maintain grade level performance. Teachers no longer have to wait for students to fail before interventions can begin. RtI provides a consistent model and procedures to make collaborative data-based educational decisions for all students.