MTSS in Education: Using the MTSS Triangle to Overcome Learning Loss

“Learning loss” is one of the many buzzwords that emerged from the pandemic and continues to be a top priority for district administrators. Regarding MTSS in education, the MTSS triangle, often called the MTSS pyramid, supports student behavior identification and the subsequent allocation of resources to ensure students’ continued success. 

In a recent webinar, Aperture Education’s Dr. Lisa Micou, a nationally certified school psychologist, shared more about integrating SEL into MTSS in education to support students. Here are some of the key takeaways. 

Learning Loss in Context 

There’s no shortage of information out there on the impact of the pandemic on students and the field of education as a whole. Districts have focused on three overarching responses to overcoming challenges as a result of the pandemic: 

  • Learning loss 
  • Mental health needs 
  • Teacher retention 

Many under-resourced district leaders grapple with patching serious issues in their school communities, as the number of students in need of support continues to surge. In scrambling to find quick fixes, leaders oftentimes find themselves implementing strategies that don’t actually solve the problem. Or the solutions they chose don’t work well together, exasperating needs even more. 

Dr. Micou emphasized that achievement gaps and student disconnection weren’t caused solely by the pandemic. Rather, they have always been persistent issues. What gets sensationalized, she explained, are the post-pandemic outcomes and the decline in national assessment scores. She encouraged educators to look at the trends before the pandemic to fully grasp the emerging data. NAEP data shows stagnant or declining performance in reading, math, and science for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders pre-pandemic.1 

Dr. Micou suggests student dissatisfaction as a potential cause for the academic progress slowdown. 75% of high school students self-reported negative feelings about school, according to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. In fact, the most commonly used phrases for how students described their feelings about school? Stressed. Tired. Bored.2 The pandemic revealed long-standing sentiments of students, according to her explanation.

So, what can we do? Systemic problems do not have quick fixes. Finding the right, scalable solutions that accurately identify the level of need can help district and school leaders allocate resources appropriately. That’s where the MTSS triangle comes in. 

A Comprehensive Look at the Whole Child: MTSS in Education Going Forward 

What data is your district or school using to determine student need? How confident do you feel that the data provides a full picture of that need? For district leaders lacking confidence, Dr. Micou offers recommendations to build scalable support structures.

“Our decisions at this point in the MTSS process should be based on data-driven hypotheses on why we think the [student need] is occurring and what evidence-based practices are available to us to support us.” 

Educators need support to consistently implement scalable solutions. She encourages district leaders to build a communication plan, find resources, and use professional development to support educators first.  

“Give educators intentional time to build professional social-emotional competence so that they are better equipped at understanding what those skills look like in real-time for themselves and students, and then can model them for students. This positively impacts relationships, school culture, and skill-building in general for students, which may all be the hypotheses for why you’re seeing need in schools.” 

We need psychometrically sound data that can tell us whether the growth we see is significant and meaningful. The rigor of our data informs meaningful student progress. Generating meaningful student skill acquisition means re-engaging them while in the classroom. She encouraged educators to focus on practices that build students’ social and emotional strengths and connects students to feeling a part of their educational journeys. Students will feel like they have a space to connect and relate and feel confident in displaying skills educators ask them to demonstrate.  

When district leaders address students’ and educators’ psychological needs of belonging first, it fuels a stronger learning environment— supporting learning loss recovery. With MTSS in education, we are able to scale up our support to overcome learning loss, protect mental well-being, and retain educators. 

Are you looking to measure your SEL curriculum’s effectiveness? We’re here to help! 

You may already have an SEL curriculum in place that focuses on fostering these skills, but are you measuring its impact? Fill out the form below to get in contact with a member of our Partnership team, who will serve as your guide for scaling your SEL program. 


1 Jimenez, K. (2022, October 24). Reading and math test scores fell across US during the pandemic. how did your state fare?. USA Today. 

2 Belli, B. (2020, January 30). National survey: Students’ feelings about high school are mostly negative. YaleNews. 

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