Capistrano Unified School District continues to build on its investment in its school-wide support system for students to thrive

By Cindy Arora

Capistrano Unified School District continues to invest and refine its schoolwide Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) to ensure the success of every student by working in partnership with the CUSD students, families and communities. The goal of MTSS is to identify struggling students early and provide the appropriate proactive support for only as long as the student needs.

The MTSS framework is designed to support the whole student, including emotional, social, and behavioral needs that can impact a student’s ability to thrive academically.

“We’ve noticed some of the bigger issues that need intervention these days are social and emotional,” said Dr. Greg Merwin, Associate Superintendent, Education and Support Services for CUSD. “These systems allow us to kick start intervention quickly. We have counselors, emotional support, and behavioral support in all three tiers, and we want parents and students to know we have this comprehensive program for our community. We can be of support to all of our families.”

MTSS is a  three-tiered system of support that breaks down the different levels of needs for all students starting with the foundations: student well-being, teaching and learning and positive behavior.



Through this system, teachers, administrators, and staff are able to provide support to students, while keeping track of whether students are performing at grade level or if they need to be moved to a different tier, which includes more support. This could mean additional academic help, being placed in small groups for more one-on-one assistance, or working with a school counselor.

Through  MTSS , teachers, school administrators and staff  are able to identify students by name and need and work collaboratively to identify the best strategies.  Identifying what students need allows teachers to better understand how to help their students succeed in school individually rather than a one-size fits all type of instruction.

The greatest take-away CUSD school officials want parents and students to know about the MTSS framework is that MTSS is available for all students — not just students who are having difficulties, but all students and parents who need additional support.

The three tiers, or levels of support, include:

Tier I –– Includes the instruction and support provided to all children, including Great First Instruction and school-wide behavior programs that meet the students’ academic and behavioral needs. Instruction consists of scientific, research-based programs and frameworks to align to state standards and best practices proven to be effective for all students.

Tier II –– In addition to Tier I, Tier II serves students needing more help. Students receive extra instruction and support, often provided in small groups. Student progress continues to be monitored by the MTSS Team.

Tier III –– In addition to Tiers I and II, Tier III interventions are for children who need intense support to succeed. Extra instruction and support that is more focused, intensive, and longer, often in even smaller groups or one-on-one, with specialists and with increased frequency.

Why Student Well-Being is important

Student well-being has become a key factor for school officials who understand the importance of students having positive relationships, fine tuning their decision-making skills, building emotional intelligence, and developing their perspective skills.

Great First Instruction supports grade level content, higher learning and critical thinking

Great First Instruction (GFI) is designed to engage ALL students in meaningful, challenging and innovative educational experiences. GFI aims to give all students the best opportunity to learn standards-based, grade-level content and skills the first time they receive instruction. As professional learning communities, teacher teams collaborate to plan lessons and assessments to support higher levels of learning, critical thinking and project-based learning.

Building schoolwide positive behavior

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is the foundation for building schoolwide positive behavior and student outcomes by supporting a students’ behavioral, academic, well-being and mental health. It supports all tiers of MTSS and focuses on setting clear expectations for behaviors, and implements procedures and practices for teaching the emotional and social skills needed for positive behavior. PBIS directly impacts academic success and student well-being.

Combining well-being competencies with academics helps students throughout the school day, allowing them to regulate their emotions, make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions with students and teachers.

Our investments in MTSS

Through state and federal COVID-19 funds, over $80 million was allocated to supporting MTSS and student success. This funding was used to hire teachers, counselors and school psychologists, provide resources for interventions and tutoring, help reduce class sizes and provide PE classes with credentialed teachers.

Families interested in learning more about the MTSS framework can go to the Capistrano Unified School District MTSS website.

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