When implementing a multitiered approach, frequent communication must occur at each tier and with all stakeholders, including parents, to efficiently and effectively address student needs. Because instruction and movement across tiers must be dynamic and performance based, strong collaboration and communication is required. Let’s explore how you can establish effective cross-tier communication with all stakeholders, especially when reviewing and making decisions about eligibility and student progress in Tier III intervention.
Every person in your school who works directly with a student should have ongoing knowledge of the student’s
- assessment data (screening, diagnostic, progress monitoring);
- areas of strengths and needs, including specific skill deficits;
- individualized instructional focus at each tier;
- response to the intervention(s) that have been provided; and
- instructional changes within the multitiered framework, including adjustments in the intensity of support students are receiving (Building RTI Capacity for Implementation, Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, 2008).
Communication and collaboration about individual student progress across tiers may occur during periodic grade-level or department data analysis meetings, and if necessary, you can schedule additional time to focus only on students who are making insufficient progress in Tiers II and III. Ideally, every person who works directly with that student will be in attendance.
Scheduling data analysis meetings can be challenging, but it is important that all educators and specialized staff who serve Tier III students attend these collaborative meetings. As Hall (2011) suggests, “There should be two or three staff members who attend all the meetings . . . the principal and RTI coordinator . . . reading specialist . . . the classroom teacher, an intervention teacher, and an ESL or special education teacher, if the student is receiving those services. Sometimes a school psychologist or speech-language pathologist is also present” (p. 109).
Your campus-based leadership team will need to discuss the challenges of scheduling such meetings and establish a way to successfully gather the appropriate personnel. The purpose of these discussions is to examine student progress in supplementary Tier II and Tier III intervention and determine the next steps—either to continue or intensify instruction to best meet a student’s needs.
These meetings often include a recap of progress monitoring data; an overview of all interventions received to date; a discussion about the levels of intensity; and a decision regarding any instructional changes in and across tiers (Hall, 2011).
“Data changes everything in these meetings. It focuses the team on student achievement and provides a foundation for meaningful professional dialogues . . . [T]he team’s discussion focuses on what’s been provided so far and what else can be done to intensify intervention instruction” (Hall, 2011, p. 108).
Additional information about collaboration across the tiers of instruction can be found in To Learn More at the end of this section.
Let’s look at how one middle school collaborates across tiers to determine the next steps for one student who is receiving Tier III instruction.
Scenario: At LMN Middle School, the principal, RTI coordinator, and all the teachers in the school who work (in any capacity) with struggling students come together for a 15- to 20-minute meeting. These meetings occur periodically to help everyone collaborate and intervene when a student receiving either Tier II or Tier III instruction is not making sufficient progress. Before the meeting, the teachers do their homework and arrive ready to talk about their kids. They come prepared with progress monitoring data, intervention logs, work samples, and other relevant information on the specific student who is having difficulty.
Today they are discussing Theo, a struggling eighth-grader. The meeting begins with the Tier III interventionist sharing Theo’s progress monitoring data. The team discusses the slope of the trend line on his graph. Theo has fluctuating scores with the majority falling below his aim line. Based on this current rate of progress, it’s evident he is not going to reach his end-of-year goal. Next, the team examines the data of the other three members in his Tier III group. They discover that Theo is the only one not responding to the current intervention.
Before they determine what instructional changes should be made, they delve deeper into Theo’s intervention history. Because LMN teachers use a type of collaborative instructional log to track student performance across tiers, Ms. Hernandez, his Tier I teacher, is able to quickly showcase the interventions Theo has received prior to beginning Tier III. These logs provide detailed information, including assessment data, specific instructional focus areas, attendance, group size, materials, duration, interventionists, and observational notes.
Next, the team discusses whether more intense intervention instruction might help Theo get back on track. The team agrees to add more instructional time, decrease the size of his group, and monitor his progress more frequently. Theo will immediately begin receiving Tier III instruction twice a day with a 1:2 teacher-student ratio. Because his progress monitoring scores have fluctuated widely, the interventionist will monitor his progress twice a week to get a more accurate assessment of how he’s responding to the new intervention. Theo’s parents will be notified of the changes to his instruction, and his progress monitoring data will be shared during the next parent-teacher conference. (Adapted from Hall, 2011; Shapiro, n.d.)
As you can see, it’s important to keep records of all progress monitoring data and collaborative decisions in the file of each student receiving Tier III services. You should establish a consistent record-keeping system to use during collaborative meetings to facilitate communication across tiers with all stakeholders, including parents. For example, a Collaborative Instructional Log can be used to help coordinate instructional efforts and review student outcomes (Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, 2008).
Now let’s take a closer look at how to use progress monitoring results and predetermined criteria to identify the next steps of intensive intervention, including whether to begin, continue, or discontinue Tier III intervention.
If a student receiving Tier I and Tier II support demonstrates a consistently inadequate response “after every adjustment to Tier II has been made” (Hall, 2008, p. 85), it may be necessary for the student to begin receiving more intensive (i.e., Tier III) instruction. A change may also be necessary if, early in the progress monitoring process, a student receiving only Tier I support demonstrates severe or significantly low literacy performance. In this case, the student can begin receiving Tier III services right away to get the necessary intensive and individualized support required in a timely fashion rather than delaying access by making the student wait to receive Tier II support first (Ervin, n.d.).
Students receiving Tier III support, as well as other struggling learners, especially benefit from instruction provided by teachers who are collaborating and communicating. You should ensure grade-level Tier III intervention instruction is consistent with the other tiers of instruction in and across grade levels.
Never lose sight that in RTI, “students should move back and forth across the levels of the multi-tiered instructional framework based on their success (response) or difficulty (minimal response) at the level where they are receiving intervention . . . ” (National Center on Response to Intervention, April 2010, p. 13).
With effective intervention instruction, your school will have some students who discontinue Tier III intervention and receive only Tier I or Tiers I and II instruction. Your campus-based leadership team and administrators should ensure that a system of collaboration and communication is in place to provide the substantial support and frequent monitoring these students will need to maintain adequate progress. If students begin to experience difficulty, they can once again receive Tier III support.
“Schools should carefully develop each tier of instructional support . . . in response to students’ instructional needs. The essential features of purposeful instructional design and delivery, prioritized content, protected time and grouping, and performance monitoring can help schools focus on critical factors within their control to maximize the instructional time for students who do not have a minute to lose” (Harn, Kame’enui, and Simmons, 2007, p. 181).
Tier III is typically delivered outside of the general education classroom. Your school needs to decide how it will address the relationship between Tier III and special education. For example, Tier III can include special education services, or it can be considered part of general education with students receiving both Tier III and Tier I literacy instruction (Burns & Gibbons, 2012; Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts, 2005).
TO LEARN MORE: The following resources provide additional information about establishing assessment-driven collaboration and communication in a multitiered system.
“Tiered Instruction and Intervention in a Response-to-Intervention Model” by Edward S. Shapiro and published by the RTI Action Network explains the different dimensions of instructional intensity at each tier and the importance of collaboration across tiers and within school structures.
“Considering Tier 3 Within a Response-to-Intervention Model” by Ruth A Ervin and published by the RTI Action Network provides specific information about decision making processes for Tier III and special education.
Additional information about the role of special education in a multi-tiered system is available in Lesson E5—Meeting diverse needs.
NEXT STEPS: Depending upon your progress with implementing Tier III instruction, you may want to consider some of the following next steps:
- Examine your current Tier III intervention practices within and across grade levels to determine if they are evidence based and effective in increasing students’ literacy achievements. Determine actions your campus needs to take, which staff will be responsible, and any further resources needed.
- Schedule professional development (e.g., collaborative planning, observation and feedback, coaching, professional learning communities) as needed, based on your assessment of current Tier III intervention practices.
- Explore the resources listed in To Learn More for Parts 1 and 2, taking particular note of further opportunities to improve any Tier III interventions currently in place.
- Determine how you will facilitate data-based collaborative decision making within tiers and across grade levels and document student progress in Tier III. Consider all stakeholders (e.g., special education teachers, parents, coaches, principals, and paraprofessionals). Schedule meetings between relevant groups or individuals, as appropriate.
- Determine the relationship between Tier III and special education services and schedule meetings that include both the campus leadership team and the special education department, as appropriate.