Students will be identified early for reading failure through screenings and sustainable assessments that chronicle a student's ongoing attainment of specific reading development markers, reading fluency, language, writing, and other learning skills. This type of assessment system involves considerable teacher and school-based knowledge in the use of evaluation, communication, and collaboration to guide instructional supports and ensure continuous, organized planning for each students' progress.

The major instructional strategies of MTSS utilize individualized data to determine intensive and multi-component methods as appropriate for reading, writing, and spelling proficiency of each student. MTSS is designed for teachers of reading to scaffold instruction in small class settings at the first signs of a student or students falling behind lesson accomplishment.

Extensive research and numerous syntheses have been conducted in the area of reading instruction and intervention for reading difficulties to be ameliorated and eradicated. Success requires that teachers and schools no longer wait until a student is significantly behind grade-level reading before assessing skills and providing supports. Each school will provide continual data driven assessment and provide MTSS intervention quickly and as needed for each student's reading literacy attainment.

With MTSS in force, students currently in grades K-3 will achieve grade-level reading proficiency by grade 4, and begin "reading to learn." However, for the current community of SEEDS students that have missed the opportunity to become reading literate by grades 4-12, specific interventions and strategies will be provided to support the SEEDS community of students who have struggled to learn to read in early elementary school and are currently performing below grade level in reading. All schools will provide intense reading development interventions that serve as an alternative to English Language Arts class, and literacy instruction in content subject areas of instruction. Success requires a school culture that recognizes that every content area teacher is a literacy teacher, because reading and writing is involved in every subject area. Therefore, reading and writing literacy strategies are implemented as a school-wide program in connection with a school culture and vision that works toward high levels of student achievement in reading literacy. All classrooms provide every opportunity for students to read, practice their strategies, in every subject, every day, to enhance their development of the reading skills they need to become full literate.

MTSS in Grades K-3

The term MTSS refers to a comprehensive system of differentiated supports that includes evidence-based instruction, universal screening, progress monitoring, formative and summative assessment, research-based interventions matched to student needs, and educational decision-making using academic progress overtime. All SEEDS have the opportunity to benefit from this process of instruction, intervention, and, if necessary, referral to Special Education.

Principles of Multitier System Supports (MTSS):

  • Assumption and belief that all students can learn;
  • Early intervention for students who demonstrate risk for literacy failure;
  • Use of a multitier model of service delivery (to achieve high rates of student success, both the nature and intensity of instruction may be differentiated);
  • Use of a problem-solving or standard-protocol method to make decisions within a multitier model;
  • Use of research-based, scientifically validated instruction/intervention to the extent available;
  • Monitoring of student progress to inform instruction; and
  • Use of data to make decisions.

Three tiers in MTSS for students who struggle to aquire reading development through to fluency skills

  • Tier I - Foundational Reading Instruction involves (1) the use of a scientifically-based instructional program for all students, (2) ongoing monitoring and assessment of student progress in reading achievement at each skill level, and (3) the use of flexible grouping by teachers of reading to target specific skills and differentiate instruction for all students.
  • Tier II - MTSS Intervention is designed to meet the needs of SEEDS who do not respond quickly to foundational reading instruction. MTSS are provided in the regular classroom setting, where students receive intensive small group reading instruction in General Education. The teacher of reading emphasizes all essential components of early literacy during the reading intervention. Progress monitoring on the targeted skills of reading development occurs at least every two weeks to ensure students' adequate advancement and learning. A set of goals for each student is identified and established, and progress monitoring data will be analyzed, interpreted, and documented. Students who meet set criteria on targeted skills as a result of Tier II Interventions are reintegrated into the regular classroom setting (Tier I).
  • If at any time during or after the student's Tier II Intervention (maximum of 10 weeks), the student's progress in the essential components of reading shows no advancement and/or the student demonstrates characteristics associated with learning disorders such as dyslexia or specific learning disability, the teacher of reading shall recommend a formal diagnostic assessment for the student.
  • Tier III - MTSS Intensive Instruction addresses the small percentage of students who have received Tier II Intervention in General Education and continue to show marked difficulty in reaching grade-level reading development. It is more explicit and is specifically designed to meet the individual needs of these students, who will be monitored on targeted skills at least every two weeks to ensure adequate progress and learning. The approximate time for Tier III Intensive Instruction is 8-10 weeks. After this intensity of instruction the students can return to Tier II Intervention support before reintegration into the regular classroom setting (Tier I).
  • If at any time during or after Tier III Intensive Instruction, the student shows no progress in the essential components of reading development and/or demonstrates characteristics associated with a learning disorder such as dyslexia or specific learning disability, the teacher of reading will immediately recommend a formal diagnostic assessment.

Reading Interventions and Strategies for Older Students Grades 4-12

In elementary school grades K-3 reading is considered a separate subject, but in middle school it is important to establish a school culture that recognizes every content area teacher as a reading teacher, because reading is involved in every subject area. Therefore, reading strategies will be implemented as a school-wide program in connection with a school culture and vision that promote high levels of student achievement in reading literacy. Specific interventions and strategies will be provided to support SEEDS who have struggled to learn to read and are performing below grade level in reading. Schools will provide every opportunity for students to read and practice their strategies in every subject, every day, in order to develop the reading skills they need to become better readers and, ultimately, reading literate.

Each school provides intensive reading interventions to SEEDS with reading problems in grades 4-12. While the expectation is that students will learn to read with understanding before entering middle and high school, the reality is that many students reach these schools unable to read grade-level text effectively and with understanding. SEEDS with demonstrated reading difficulties are provided, as an alternative to English Language Arts class in middle and high school, with 32 to 26 weeks of supplemental reading interventions that directly address their vocabulary, comprehension, and word reading challenges so they are able to perform significantly better in reading subject material text and can achieve grade-level reading literacy. Research supports identification and MTSS to help:

  • Identify students who are more than one grade level behind in reading in order to provide daily reading intervention. Each day, during a dedicated period with a certified teacher of reading, students with reading difficulties that are one grade level or more below expectations are provided with reading instruction, approximately 40- 50 minutes per day, focused specifically on their instructional needs. Providing students with specific interventions focused on their learning needs requires identifying whether a student's reading comprehension difficulties are a result of (a) word-reading problems (e.g., decoding unknown words), (b) word meaning problems (e.g., vocabulary), (c) inadequate knowledge to understand text (e.g., background knowledge), (d) unusually slow text reading (e.g., fluency), and/or (e) inadequate use of strategies to promote reading comprehension. Through diagnostic assessment, teachers can determine which of the above are contributing to the reading difficulties and target their instruction.
  • Target instruction for each student by providing systems of support in three tiers with an outline of assessments of skill accomplishments and a timeline for stages of support.
  • During Tier I Intervention for Grade 4-12 students who need intervention in word study, a certified teacher of reading provides students with approximately 25 lessons taught over 7-8 weeks depending on student mastery. The daily lessons are composed of Word Study to teach advanced decoding of polysyllabic words. Students' mastery of sounds and word reading determines their progress through the lessons. Students receive daily instruction and practice with individual letter sounds, letter combinations, and affixes. In addition, students receive instruction and practice in decoding and spelling polysyllabic words by breaking them into known parts. Word reading strategies are applied daily to reading in context in the form of sentences and passage reading. During Tier I Intervention, high levels of teacher-of-reading support and scaffolding are provided to students in applying the polysyllabic word-reading strategy to reading words and connected text and to spelling words. The use of oral reading fluency data, along with the pairing of higher and lower readers for daily partner reading, facilitates fluency instruction and promotes increased fluency (accuracy and rate). Students take turns reading orally while their partner reads along and marks errors; after reading, partners are given time to go over errors and ask questions about unknown words. The higher reader always reads first. Partners read the passage three times each and graph the number of words read correctly. The teacher of reading is actively involved in modeling and providing feedback to students, teaching the meaning of a word through basic definitions and by providing examples and non-examples of how to use it. Students review new vocabulary words daily by matching words to appropriate definitions or examples of word usage. During and after reading, students address relevant comprehension questions of varying levels of difficulty (literal and inferential) while teachers assist them in locating information in text and rereading to identify answers.
  • During Tier II Intervention the instruction emphasis is on vocabulary and comprehension, with additional instruction and practice provided for applying the word study and fluency skills and strategies learned in Tier I Intervention. Lessons occur over a period of 17-18 weeks depending on students' progress. Word Study and Vocabulary are taught by applying the sounds and word study strategies learned in Tier I to reading new words. Focus on word meaning is also part of word reading practice, and students learn word relatives and parts of speech (e.g., politics, politician, politically). Finally, students review the application of word study to spelling words. Vocabulary words for instruction are chosen from the text read in the fluency and comprehension component. Three days a week teachers use subject matter lessons and materials to guide students through reading and comprehending expository text, while two days a week teachers use novels with lessons developed by the research team to guide students through narrative text. Fluency and comprehension are taught with an emphasis on reading and understanding text through discourse or writing. After reviewing the content and vocabulary needed to understand the text, students read the text at least twice with an emphasis on reading for understanding. During and after the second reading, students discuss comprehension questions of varying levels of complexity and abstraction. Students also receive explicit instruction in generating questions of varying levels of complexity and abstraction while reading (e.g., literal questions, questions requiring students to synthesize information from text, and questions requiring students to apply background knowledge to information in text), in summarizing and identifying the main idea of the text, and in employing strategies for multiple-choice, short answer, and essay questions.
  • Tier III Intervention continues the instructional emphasis on vocabulary and comprehension, with more time spent on students' independent application of skills and strategies. Tier III occurs over approximately 8-10 weeks.

Building Literacy with Vocabulary, Dialog, Concepts, Background Knowledge, Comprehension Strategies, Collaborations, and Engagement

Each content area teacher will identify key content subject words for each student to learn and will teach at least two new words every day and review one from the previous day. This practice can be readily implemented across all content area instruction to provide students with opportunities to expand their academic vocabulary, increase their background knowledge, and better understand the key ideas that they are reading and studying. One way a content area teacher can do this is to select words in a unit that are high-priority and high-utility words. Assuming that a unit is three weeks long, they can then determine the key words students need to know, explicitly teaching them each week and also reviewing them in subsequent weeks. There are several ways that these words can be taught:

  • Teachers can use vocabulary maps that present the key word, pictures of the word, related words, a student friendly definition, and how the word can be used in a historical context.
  • Teachers can illustrate the word, show a representative picture, or read one or two sentences that describe the word in ways that allow students to make informed decisions about its meaning. Then the students and the teacher can use this information to co-construct the meaning of the word.
  • Key words can be taught within the context of a debate or structured discussion in which students use those key words in their written and oral arguments.


While students read, and after they follow the text while listening to the teacher read, teachers should monitor comprehension and learning by encouraging students to ask questions. Students who are actively engaged while listening and reading are more likely to understand and remember what they read or hear. Teachers can also promote this practice by instructing students to ask the class one of their questions. Students benefit from having question stems to help them develop these questions.

Concept Words

Teachers must teach word meaning strategies within content area classes. Concept words are the key to learning the big ideas of content as well as the necessary academic vocabulary for success. Each content area (e.g., math, science, social studies, and English language arts) has a unique vocabulary used to communicate concepts and explain processes. Students need to learn what these words mean and how to use them within the multiple contexts of reading, writing, and speaking. Adolescents encounter approximately 10,000 new words per year, the majority of which are the complex terms of the content areas. Research supports two practices for helping students learn academic vocabulary:

  • Teachers must provide explicit instruction of the academic or concept words integral to students' mastery of key ideas. These words need to be shown alongside a picture, video, or other demonstration to make the words vivid in students' minds. Teachers then need to work with students to discuss what the word does and doesn't mean. A critical step is to return to these words regularly throughout the lesson and throughout the instructional unit to ensure that students can use them with understanding in their speaking and writing tasks. When teaching students the multiple meanings of words, teachers need to emphasize their meaning within the context of learning.
  • Teachers must provide instruction in word-learning strategies. Although explicit instruction is important, the sheer number of words students need to learn requires that they develop strategies for independently determining the meanings of unfamiliar vocabulary words. One means of equipping students to understand the content area terms they encounter is to teach the component morphemes (prefixes, roots, and suffixes) and how they affect meaning. Students taught to analyze words by morphemes were able to infer the meanings of untaught terms in subject-matter text. Other research indicates the practice is particularly effective with SEEDS when done systematically and coupled with multiple opportunities to practice, such as the application of learned morphemes to words used in different content areas. Another word-learning strategy teaches word meanings directly through the use of a picture that ties together a mnemonic word association and the definition of the word.

Background Knowledge

Teachers must instruct students in how to build and activate appropriate background knowledge for understanding text content. Researchers report that background knowledge is second only to vocabulary in enhancing reading comprehension outcomes for secondary readers. A lack of prior knowledge makes understanding informational text particularly challenging. Research supports this strategy for building background knowledge:

  • Teach students to use text to support answers and consider whether they can locate text-based support for positions, and
  • Teach students to elaborate on why statements can or cannot be supported by the text.

According to researchers, this technique requires students to link their background knowledge to the statements and to provide adequate justification for their responses. When used in connection with text-reading, it encourages students to return to important information to further elaborate on their responses. Students are asked to determine whether they can or cannot adequately support the statement using prior learning and text to support their views.

Comprehension Strategies

Teachers must teach students to use reading comprehension strategies while reading complex text. Too often, adolescents proceed through text with little understanding of what they are reading or awareness of when their comprehension has broken down. They need to be taught how to recognize when they do not adequately understand text and how to build comprehension. Research supports these strategies for reading comprehension:

  • Teach students to generate questions while reading to build comprehension skills. Doing so prompts students to stop at regular intervals to think about what is being communicated and how the information relates across paragraphs. Studies have shown that this practice can increase comprehension of content area text for students of different ability levels. The first level of questions is the most literal in that is based on facts that can be identified in one place in the text. The second level of questions combines information that is located in two different parts of the text, and the third level of questions relates information in the text to something the reader has experienced or learned previously.
  • Teach students to be active readers and to monitor their own comprehension by generating main idea statements for single or multiple paragraphs. Adolescents and teens who learn to identify the explicitly or implicitly stated main ideas of a text have shown increased understanding and recall of important information. Referred to as either "Paragraph Shrinking" or "Get the Gist," these three steps have successfully taught students at a range of ability levels and language backgrounds to generate a main idea statement:
    • Identify who or what is the focus of the paragraph or section;
    • Determine the most important information about what the key person/place/thing has, is, or does;
    • Succinctly state the who or what and most important information about him/her/it in a sentence.


Teachers must guide and engage students in activities that are text-related. Through both classroom discussion and written assignments, students will learn to apply critical analysis, inference, interpretation, and summation of printed material. The goal is to guide the student in understanding text and responding through productive discussion and written answers. Research supports the following strategies for encouraging reading for understanding:

  • Foster discussion in small groups. Give students the opportunity to return to texts a number of times to explore, discuss, and revise their developing understanding of the ideas and concepts. This practice can be fostered through the use of reciprocal teaching, a multi-component strategy intended to support student comprehension. In reciprocal teaching, the teacher leads the dialogue about the text until students learn to assume different roles independently: summarizer, questioner, clarifier, or predictor. After reading a short section of text (generally a few paragraphs at first, but increasing to several pages with practice), the summarizer highlights the key points for the group. Then, the questioner helps the group consider and discuss what was read by posing questions about anything that was unclear, puzzling, or related to other content information. In this portion of reciprocal teaching, students apply question generation skills that go beyond surface-level information. The clarifier in the group of students is responsible for seeking out portions of text that will help answer the questions posed. However, all members of the group participate in discussing the information and connecting ideas. In doing so, students must return to the current selection and, possibly, other readings to look for textual evidence in support of their responses. Finally, the predictor offers suggestions about what the group can expect to read in the next section of text. These predictions are focused on activating relevant background knowledge, setting a purpose for reading, and relating new information to that just discussed by the group.
  • Teachers must instruct students in how to summarize text. Students who are explicitly taught to summarize text are better able to discern the relationships among main ideas and significant details. When students work collaboratively on summaries of expository text, such as in reciprocal teaching, they reach higher levels of comprehension and retain more content information. Teachers must thoroughly explain and model each step multiple times with different types of text before students will be able to complete them in collaborative groups or, eventually, on their own.

Maximize Students' Opportunities to Read

Teachers must maximize all opportunities for students to read printed material. Both middle and high school content area teachers will have a range of readers in their classrooms, providing challenges for assignments that require text-reading. For this reason and others, many classroom teachers require students to read very little both inside and outside of their class time. Teachers, perceiving text-reading as inaccessible, also report that they increasingly rely on reading text aloud or using other media (e.g., videos) as a means for providing students with content knowledge. Reading and understanding text requires practice, and students need opportunities to read a range of text types (e.g., textbooks, letters, descriptions, original documents, poetry). Research supports the following strategies to enhance opportunities for students to read and respond to text:

  • Prepare students to read text by providing key ideas and key words. Providing the big idea and connecting principles (or soliciting them from the class) before having students read the text will facilitate comprehension. Present the key words, including all proper nounds, prior to text reading; this can be done orally, on the board, or on a handout.
  • Provide daily opportunities for students to read for a specific amount of time, and provide a prompt for student response (e.g., 2-3 minutes for reading and 1-2 minutes for responding). Students can be asked to respond to predetermined prompts such as, "What is this section mostly about?" "How does the author describe _____?" "What did you learn about _____?" Students can respond in writing using learning logs or they can respond orally by talking with a partner for 1 minute.
  • Have students participate in partner reading (typically a better reader and a less able reader), asking them to take turns reading the same passage with the better reader going first. Students can partner-read for a specified amount of time (e.g., 3 minutes) and can use 1-2 minutes to write responses by determining the main idea, writing and answering a question, or summarizing the text.


Teachers should organize students into collaborative groups for reading tasks. Student involvement and learning are greatly enhanced through well-structured collaborative groups designed to promote both individual and group accountability. These groups can be used within content area classes and are associated with improved reading comprehension for students when implemented two or more times per week. Research supports the following strategies for collaborative groups:

  • Have students utilize Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR), which occurs in two important phases. The first phase involves learning the four reading comprehension strategies: (1) previewing text (preview), (2) monitoring comprehension while reading by identifying challenging key words and concepts (click and clunk), (3) thinking about the main idea while reading and putting it into one's own words (get the gist), and (4) summarizing text understanding after reading it (wrap up). The second phase involves teaching students to use cooperative groups effectively as a means of applying the strategies. Once students have developed proficiency using the four strategies with teacher guidance, they are ready to use these same strategies in peer-led cooperative learning groups. Some teachers ask students to first work in pairs and then move into a group, while other teachers find it better to start with cooperative groups.
  • Forming CSRs will be a success if the teacher is aware that not all students will function equally well in a group and that groups are more effective when the teacher focuses on designing a well-functioning team. Teachers assign approximately 4 students to each group, considering that each group will need a leader and a student with reading proficiency in order to represent varying abilities. Teachers assign students to roles in the group and teach them to perform their role. Roles rotate on a regular basis (e.g., every couple of weeks) so that students can experience a variety of roles. Student roles are an important aspect of effective implementation of cooperative learning and allow all group members to participate in a meaningful task and contribute toward the group's success.
  • The teacher's role in CSR, while students are working in their groups, is to ensure that the students have been taught their role and know how to implement their responsibility. Forming successful and productive groups is an important accomplishment because it allows the teacher to circulate among the groups, listen to students' participation, read students' learning logs, and, most importantly, provide clear and specific feedback to improve the use and application of the strategies. Teachers can help by actively listening to students' conversations and clarifying difficult words, modeling strategy usage and application, and encouraging students to participate. It is expected that students will need assistance in learning to work in cooperative groups, implementing the strategies, and mastering academic content.

Executive Summary