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

Contract Information

Current Status:

Implementation and data collection in study schools are underway.


November 2013 – August 2020



Contract Number:



American Institutes for Research
Decision Information Resources
Harvard University


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) is the most recent reauthorization of a law passed in 1975 to promote a free appropriate public education for children with disabilities. Districts are able to use a portion of their IDEA funds to provide services to students who are not identified as needing special education, but who need additional support to succeed in a general education environment. Training school staff in supporting the behavior of all students, a potential use of these funds, is becoming increasingly attractive to districts and schools as a vehicle for school improvement.

Implementation of multi-tiered systems of support for behavior (MTSS-B) is an approach to improving school and classroom climate as well as student outcomes. MTSS-B is a multi-tiered, systematic framework for teaching and reinforcing behavior for all students as well as for providing additional support to those who need it. Over a third of U.S. districts report implementing multi-tiered systems of behavior support at the elementary school level. Recent small-scale studies have shown the promise of MTSS-B. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of MTSS-B in a larger-scale setting.

  • What is the impact on school staff practices, school climate, and student outcomes of providing training in the MTSS-B framework plus universal (Tier I) positive behavior supports and a targeted (Tier II) intervention?
  • What are the impacts for relevant subgroups (e.g., at-risk students)?
  • What MTSS-B trainings and supports were provided? What MTSS-B activities occurred in the schools receiving MTSS-B training? How do these activities differ from those in schools that do not receive the training?

This is a randomized controlled trial of the impact of training in MTSS-B on school climate, school staff practice, and student outcomes. The contractor, with assistance and input from the U.S. Department of Education, and in consultation with a panel of experts, competitively-selected a MTSS-B training provider, the Center for Social Behavior Support, which is a collaboration between The Illinois-Midwest PBIS Network at the School Association for Special Education in DuPage, Illinois and the PBIS Regional Training and Technical Assistance Center at Sheppard Pratt in Maryland.

Approximately 90 elementary schools were randomly assigned to either training in MTSS-B including universal supports (Tier I) plus targeted interventions for at-risk students (Tier II) or a business-as-usual control group. Treatment schools are receiving training in MTSS-B prior to and across two school-years, 2015–2016 (Tier I) and 2016–2017 (Tiers I and II), and implementing MTSS-B across these two years.

Data collection includes a staff survey, teacher ratings of student behavior, classroom observations, site visits, and student records data. These data are being collected from the 2015–2016 through 2018–2019 school years and will be analyzed to answer the study's impact (first and second) and implementation (third) research questions.

Key findings will be available after the study report is published.

The first report for the study is expected in 2019 and will be announced on