ATSS Frequently Asked Questions for Teachers

What is ATSS?

ATSS is a framework to ensure that each school has a systemic process in place to analyze data, determine student strengths and needs, make a plan to respond to the needs, and monitor progress in a continuous, iterative cycle. The ATSS framework builds in multiple levels of support for students within the general education setting.  ATSS is a “Multi-Tiered System of Support,” and these systematic approaches are sometimes referred to as Response to Intervention (RTI).

What is not considered ATSS?

ATSS is not a service like special education or ESOL, a verb or something that is “done” to a student, a stand-alone 30-minute block of time called “ATSS” or a singular purchased program.

What is the benefit of ATSS for students?

ATSS as a framework that helps to ensure that every school is ready to provide supports for students. These include:

  • Support for ALL students
  • Proactive early intervention
  • Instruction, intervention and extension that is data driven
  • Collaboration among educators, families and community stakeholders
  • Partnerships with experts in the fields of mental health and social services as well as medical, juvenile justice, and cultural domains when needed
  • Address a need without formal assessments
  • Academic and behavioral supports within the general education setting
  • Support to school staff and families
  • Prevention of over-referral to special education

Is there research to support that RTI (ATSS) is effective?

Yes, multiple studies have found that RTI or MTSS is effective when implemented with fidelity. The framework incorporates screenings and assessments that inform the instructional needs of the students during core instruction and then is paired with additional targeted tier 2 or 3 instruction students may need. One common shortfall of RTI is that students do not receive a targeted Tier 2 or 3 intervention that is aligned to core instruction. Often schools provide a one–size-fits-all Tier 2 program that is not targeted enough to the particular need of the student and therefore students do not make the gains necessary to meet grade level expectations. 

Is the expectation that all APS schools implement ATSS in the same way? Why does it seem that schools do it differently?

There is an expectation that all schools fully implement a tiered system of support. This entails having a system in place to gather student data; analyze students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional strengths/needs; respond to those strengths/needs; and monitor progress in a way that can intensify or fade appropriately. While APS as a system works toward full implementation by providing key supports system wide, each school will move towards full implementation by incorporating existing practices/components, building on existing strengths, and addressing unique needs, thus developing toward the same goal in an individualized way.

Does APS have three tiers of support for every content area?

While that is the ultimate goal, at this time, ATSS is initially focused on literacy, math, and behavioral/social-emotional supports. These three areas help support success in other content areas. As we progress in the implementation of a tiered system of support, schools can broaden the supports available to other areas or in identified areas of additional focus.

Are teachers provided additional planning time to implement ATSS?

ATSS is a framework that ensures educators are using a systematic process for analyzing student data. Thus, this framework should be used during team meetings/CLTs to discuss, based on data analysis, the appropriate interventions and extensions. However, it is noted that planning time is a challenge and APS recognizes teachers continue to express a need for more planning time.

Does ATSS include supports for behavioral and social-emotional needs?

Yes, the ATSS framework focuses on academic, behavioral, and social-emotional success for students that are specifically provided for by school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers and substance abuse prevention counselors. For example, many elementary schools use Responsive Classroom as a Tier 1 social-emotional framework. Additionally, all APS counseling teams provide Tier 1 instruction through classroom lessons; in K-8, counselors use the Second Step and Mind Up curriculum. Addressing Tiers 2 and 3, counselors, social workers, and psychologists are working towards supporting more small groups for targeted support, using individual counseling sessions for one on one interventions, or referring families for additional support when necessary.

Should Art, Music, PE or other elective teachers be providing intervention?

Careful consideration should be given to who the most appropriate person is to deliver an intervention so that students are matched with educators who have expertise in their area of need.  Although most specialists are not certified in general education and typically have not had coursework in how to teach in the areas of Reading, Math, Science, and/or Social Studies, there are ways they support the invention/extension blocks. For example, at times, they may provide coverage in the general education setting while the classroom teacher provides an intervention. Other times a specialist can provide an extension activity. If a specialist (Art, Music, PE, Spanish) is trained in a research based intervention or certified in general education or special education, providing an intervention may be appropriate.

If my school has high test scores and only a few students struggle, why do we need to implement ATSS?

ATSS is not about improving test scores. ATSS is grounded in the principle that all students will learn at high levels and make at least a year’s growth. Many schools have overall high performance on statewide testing. ATSS is about looking at what supports and personalized needs students have day to day within the core classroom and how the school can have a system in place to address day to day needs for additional support or extension.

How do we address core instruction, assessment, intervention and extension in the 60 minutes our PLC meets?

One example is to think of the time allotted to the CLT as a cycle. One week the team may be focused on determining what the students need to know and be able to do, while another week might focus on creating pre/post assessments or common formative assessments. Another week might then include an analysis of various assessment data and determine how to respond, whether that is differentiation in the core class or ways to group students for additional supports/extension within other blocks of instructional time.

Does ATSS require a daily block of additional instruction for intervention? Does it have to be 30 minutes?

ATSS does not prescribe nor focus on a single unit of time; rather it is a process to ensure that throughout all available instructional time, staff are able to focus on each and every student, what data indicate their strengths and areas of need, how to respond to those strengths/needs within and beyond the core classroom, and systemically monitoring the additional supports/extensions provided and the impact they have on student learning.Research does show that in order for an intervention to be effective targeted instruction should range from 20-40 minutes 4-5 days a week. ( or or There are also specific requirements for research-based interventions that need to be implemented in order to maintain fidelity.

Does the intervention time have to be outside the time allotted for core instruction?

Intervention can happen at three levels. The first level is solid Tier 1 instruction where teachers group students and provide flexible small group instruction. For many students, this is the only level that will be needed. Other students may still need some additional time for support. Schools and teams can determine what model is best for the additional support. It might be time added onto the core instructional block or it might be at a different time in the day. The objective is for students who need additional support beyond core instruction is to have time allotted during the school day that does not remove him/her from missing any core instruction or to only have before/after school as an option.

Will APS consider extending the instructional day time to allow for more instructional time?

APS is always reviewing best instructional practices to maximize students’ opportunities for growth. This is done through conversations with various groups, such as Teacher Council on Instruction (TCI), Collaborative Professionals Strategies Team (CPST), Lead Teacher/Department Chair meetings, and Arlington Council of Instruction (ACI).

What do the students who do not need intervention do during the additional targeted block of instructional time?

Students who do not need an additional level of support beyond core instruction should be part of a group who are extending learning during the additional block of time. This extension builds on classroom instruction, focusing on depth, breadth, and pace. As a reminder, all students should already receive differentiation opportunities in core instruction that includes pre-assessment to determine where extension and additional supports are needed at Tier 1. For additional resources on extensions please visit the APS Gifted Resources Website and consult with your Resource Teacher for the Gifted at your school.  You can access the list of Resource Teachers for the Gifted by school at this link.

Should the students who are not in an intervention group be doing “fun” activities? Will this be unfair to the students who need additional help?

The purpose of ATSS is not to provide some students with “fun” activities while others receive remediation. All students should be engaged in meaningful learning opportunities related to the grade/content standards or part of a group working on strategies to support social-emotional learning and behavioral needs.

What if the students who need help don’t show up to the block of time where they can get additional help (e.g.: Patriots, Warriors, or Generals Period)?

Teachers are encouraged to call or email the family of the student to work together to support the student attending the time allotted for additional support. If this doesn’t work, then a parent-teacher conference could be set up.   

Why do we need ATSS when we have SOLs?

SOLs are a set of standards that define what our students have to know and be able to do. SOLs do not specify how to remediate or extend within a particular standard. ATSS provide a framework to use assessment, instruction, differentiation, interventions, and extensions to help a student master the SOL expectations. VDOE now provides social emotional learning guidance standards for grades K-12. You can access these guidance standards on the VDOE website.

Is there funding for ATSS?

The ATSS framework focuses on building the capacity of staff in existing roles (e.g., teacher, specialist, counselor, administrator, etc.) to support the successful development of all students within a model of shared responsibility for that outcome. To that end, the School Board has allocated funding to support ATSS implementation with trainings, materials, resources, and substitutes.

Will additional staffing be provided to schools to implement ATSS?

Each year during the budget development process, schools’ staffing allocations are calculated using APS planning factor formulas that are approved by the School Board and within the Virginia state staffing guidelines.

Where can I find information on what full implementation of ATSS is?

When ATSS is fully implemented, a school conducts a systematic and iterative process to assess students, analyze the results, determine student strengths and needs, and respond to those strengths and needs, first during Tier 1 and then (for those students who need additional support) in Tier 2 and 3. See infographic here.

Where can I find information on those areas to reteach?

Each core content area has worked with teachers across the district to identify Power Standards. Power Standards are a smaller subset of standards that have been agreed upon as the most essential to focus re-teaching on first.  If you are interested in learning more about your student’s grade level and/or content power standards, please consult your student’s classroom teacher (grades K-5) or content area teacher (grades 6-12).

Where can I find additional resources to help plan for interventions and extensions?

Starting in May 2017, the ATSS web page ( will provide some links to some additional resources such as videos, FAQ, and intervention/extension protocols.