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Impact Evaluation of Training in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Reading in Early Elementary School

Contract Information

Current Status:

Refinement of the study design and selection of the training provider(s) are underway.


September 2018 – August 2024



Contract Number:



American Institutes for Research
Instructional Research Group
School Readiness Consulting


A third of US students fail to develop foundational reading skills necessary to succeed academically, and students with disabilities (SWDs) fail to develop these skills at higher rates than their peers without disabilities. Stakeholders have increasingly turned to the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support for reading (MTSS-R) with the goal of addressing this issue. MTSS-R is a framework for providing high-quality reading instruction for all students, identifying students needing supplemental or more intensive supports, and providing these supports for those who need it.

MTSS-R implementation is consistent with the goals of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) as it (1) includes a focus on providing high-quality instruction to all students, including SWDs who are increasingly served in the general education classroom, (2) intends to promote better identification of students needing supplemental support as well as students in the category of specific learning disability, and (3) intends to prevent or mitigate reading issues that students may develop in the classroom.

The US Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs has provided support for the study and implementation of MTSS-R. Almost all state education agencies encourage districts to implement MTSS-R and districts commonly report implementing MTSS-R in their schools. However, a recent ED-sponsored study found that schools are not universally implementing the model in ways that align with best practice. Improving educators' training on MTSS-R may be one way to strengthen its implementation and, ultimately, yield better outcomes for students.

  • What are the initial impacts of training in the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support for reading on school staff practice including the provision of early reading instruction and targeted supports?
  • What is the impact of training in the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support for reading on student literacy? For students at risk of failing to develop foundational reading skills?

This is a randomized controlled trial of the impact of training in MTSS-R on school staff practice and student literacy outcomes in grades 1 and 2. The contractor, with assistance and input from the U.S. Department of Education, and in consultation with a panel of experts, will competitively select a MTSS-R training provider or a consortium of training providers. Approximately 100 schools will be randomly assigned to either training in MTSS-R or a business-as-usual control group. The MTSS-R training will focus on four core components: (a) differentiated and explicit instruction for all students (Tier I), (b) evidence-based intervention for at-risk students (Tier II), (c) screening and progress monitoring to assign students to instructional tiers, and (d) MTSS-R infrastructure. Treatment schools will receive training and ongoing technical assistance in MTSS-R prior to and across two school-years, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, and implement MTSS-R across these two years.

Data collection includes documentation of training delivery, a teacher survey, reading specialist survey, site visits, student records data, and individual student testing. These data will be collected across both implementation years and will be analyzed to answer the study's research questions.

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

The first report for the study is expected in 2024 and will be announced on