Beyond One-Size-Fits-All: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Multi-Tiered System of Supports


This paper presents final results for a two-year randomized controlled trial of multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) in the Wake County Public School System. MTSS is a district-wide comprehensive school reform model designed to improve academic outcomes and reduce behavioral incidents through the delivery of tiered supports. MTSS was randomly assigned within 44 school-pairs in fall 2015. Treatment and control groups were balanced along student-level characteristics, prior achievement, and prior behavioral incidents. After the second year of implementation, MTSS did not significantly impact math achievement but did have an empirically small impact on elementary school reading. Hispanic students had the largest gains in reading and math at the elementary and middle school levels. MTSS did not significantly impact high school outcomes and had largely negative impacts on certain subgroups. The intervention did not impact short-term suspension counts and led to an unexpected increase in suspensions among select subgroups. MTSS did not meaningfully impact rates of special education referral or downstream outcomes such as high school graduation and dropout. The results herein suggest that the district’s random assignment of MTSS to a large sample of schools across grade levels did not have the hypothesized effects on achievement or behavior.
Last updated on 02/07/2019