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Impact Evaluation of Training in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior

Contract Information

Current Status:



November 2013 – July 2022



Contract Number:



American Institutes for Research
Decision Information Resources
Harvard University


Students' early problem behaviors in school can be disruptive and even hinder their learning and long-term success. To prevent these incidences, 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 limited evidence on which MTSS-B strategies work, this study tested an intensive program of professional development and assistance. Over two years the program provided more than 60 hours of training and help to schools, local coaches to support implementation, and data systems to track and analyze student behavior. This program was competitively selected based on its common use and promise.

  • What were the impacts on student behavior and achievement for all students? What were these impacts for struggling students?
  • What were schools' MTSS-B implementation experiences? And, was any variation in impacts related to variation in these experiences?

For this study of effectiveness, 89 elementary schools were randomly selected either to participate in the training program or to continue with their usual strategies for supporting student behavior. Data collection for both groups of schools, during program implementation, included: (1) teacher ratings of student behavior to identify struggling students and to estimate impacts on their outcomes including disruptive behavior; (2) student records to estimate impacts on these students' academic achievement, (3) staff surveys and observations of practice to provide information about behavior support and the extent of staff professional development; and (4) documentation of program implementation. The collection of student achievement data and documentation of program implementation continued for an additional year to examine if and how the schools sustained MTSS-B implementation and whether impacts on achievement were maintained.

A report, titled Study of Training in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior: Impacts on Elementary School Students' Outcomes, was released in July 2022.

A restricted-use file containing de-identified data is available for the purposes of replicating study findings and secondary analysis.

  • The MTSS-B program was no better than schools' usual strategy for students overall. The program did not improve the disruptive behavior, any other student behaviors, or the achievement of students overall.
  • The program had behavioral and academic benefits for the 15 percent of students identified at the outset of the study as struggling the most with behavior. At the end of the second year when full implementation supports occurred, this subset of students had significantly less disruptive behavior and higher reading test scores in participating than in non-participating schools. However, the effects on reading were not sustained in the follow-up year, after the program's training and assistance had ended. The program did not improve any other behavior outcomes or math in any year.
  • The program helped put in place most intended MTSS-B systems and practices in participating schools, resulting in better classroom management and functioning and some aspects of school-wide climate compared to non-participating schools. The program led to greater use of all classroom management practices measured and, consistent with these improvements, teachers were observed to have better control of their classrooms and fewer student disruptions.