What people believe about the plan influences how well it will go.

Dr. Kathleen Lane

University of Kansas

Sustaining MTSS

Sustaining MTSS efforts relies upon social validity on multiple levels.  Social validity within MTSS has traditionally considered staff buy-in as a factor in fidelity.  Staff buy-in occurs when teachers, leaders, and support staff believe in the significance of a practice, accept the procedures, and recognize the importance of the effects of an evidence based practice on desired outcomes. 

Equitable MTSS practices expand social validity to include multiple stakeholders in the community including students, families, and community partners involved in your district or school and their beliefs of the significance of current practices, acceptance of the procedures, and experienced outcomes. 

How are your students currently experiencing your learning environments? 

How do you know?

Student voice has become a powerful tool in reimagining the educational environment of MTSS.  In a recent survey conducted by the Search Institute involving over a thousand students in a diverse high school, teachers were over 50% more likely to perceive they connected students’ interests in daily lessons than students who participated in those same lessons. 


Surveys, focus groups, interviews, and opportunities for authentic conversations about school experience are tools we can use to socially validate experiences and improve outcomes for all students. Pennsylvania’s focus on school climate work has produced a wide array of supports and materials to help districts improve social validity in the educational environment across multiple academic and social domains. Contact the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit  for more information on accessing and using school climate surveys for students, staff, families, and communities.

Additional MTSS REsources

Social Validation

Embedding Equity into MTSS Behavior

How do you respond to staff or community members who question the practices of SEL, school climate, or PBIS as oppressive systems? Addressing social validity and the implementation of evidence-based practices, Dr. Ambra Green, University of Texas, provides advice on how to build equitable MTSS structures while addressing these concerns.

Beyond the Binary: A Toolkit for Gender Identity Activism in Schools

This toolkit is a collaborative project of Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It is designed for student leaders, activists, and gender non-conformers who want to challenge the gender binary system in schools by ensuring gender-inclusive policies exist in schools and by raising awareness about gender through education of students and staff about gender non-conformity and transgender issues.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out What it Means to Me

In this blog, principals and teams share how they listen for the “Mama Rule” and enhanced social validity through defining school processes and using student and community centered language systems that emphasize mutual respect between home and school.

Districts Advancing Racial Equity Tool

From 2-way communication to best practices and considerations for student-centered budgeting, this peer-reviewed tool developed by the Learning Policy Institute provides concrete observable quantitative and qualitative social validity examples for districts developing equity plans.

Equity in the Classroom and Beyond

Video blog from Education to the Core with guest speaker Nikole Hollins-Sims who discusses equity conversations and the 4-step process that includes student voice and adult reflection.  This video includes multiple examples of how principals and districts handled situations where inequity became public and involved students in the solution.

Beautiful Differences

Learning for Justice shares how to involve students at the elementary level at early ages in improving the experience for all students, including students with disabilities, using student voice as part of the identification and solution process.

Pennsylvania Equity and Inclusion Toolkit

The Pennsylvania Equity and Inclusion Toolkit is designed to assist all school entities in their efforts to prevent and address bias and discrimination across multiple demographic and social variables.  Prevention strategies in this document help schools and districts set up social validity throughout the planning process.


The Safe2Say Something system teaches youth and adults how to recognize warning signs and signals, especially within social media, of individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others and say something, using our anonymous reporting system, BEFORE it is too late.  Information from this database provides quantitative social validity in your school safety efforts of MTSS.

“Active listening is such a powerful tool in education.  We use it in so many educational practices: trauma-informed practices, building positive and appropriate relationships, equitable and culturally responsive practices, and academics.  Students truly need to be heard.  We can learn so much from the student’s perspective of what they need at that moment in time.”


Dr. Nikole Hollins-Sims, PaTTAN, Special Advisor to PA Department of Education on Equity