You’ve learned about Tier II and the steps you need to take to establish Tier II intervention at your school. Now let’s explore how you can use assessment data to make informed decisions about Tier II.
Assessment drives the entire process, including identifying students who need additional support or intervention in Tier II. The content and intensity of instruction for each student needs to be fluid within the RTI framework, meaning that students should begin, continue, or discontinue Tier II and III instruction as needed. Periodic screening and ongoing progress monitoring assessments inform the instructional decisions for all of your students receiving each tier of instruction (Tiers I, II, and III).
It is essential within the RTI framework to establish a process for identifying students in need of Tier II intervention. Lesson E1—Data to inform instruction discusses how to establish criteria to identify when students require additional Tier II intervention and when students no longer need it. Both criteria help you decide if students need to begin Tier II, are ready to discontinue Tier II (because they’re achieving grade-level targets), need more Tier II (at the same level or a more intensive level), or need to participate in Tier III instruction for more intensive intervention.
Remember, Tier II is not provided to all students. Students are typically provided with Tier II instruction when they are not making sufficient progress in Tier I and their scores meet the criteria you have already established.
You may need to set guidelines for the duration of Tier II intervention. For example, one option is to have one round of Tier II coincide with the timeframe of your school’s grading periods (lasting six or nine weeks).
During that time period, student progress is monitored frequently, at least every two to three weeks. This allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention for individual students and determine if they are on a positive trajectory toward grade-level targets. If students aren’t making adequate progress, you should make adjustments to intensify the Tier II intervention to more effectively meet students’ needs.
At the end of a round of Tier II instruction, students whose data show they are on course for closing their performance gaps can receive another round of Tier II instruction. The specifics of the intervention should be closely monitored and evaluated to ensure that student progress continues to be accelerated.
If student progress is not sufficient at the end of a round, the group size might be reduced or more instructional time added. For example, you might have a group of fifth-graders who show sporadic and insufficient growth after their first round of Tier II intervention. Their instructional time would need to be slightly increased and the time divided up: 30 minutes in the morning during the scheduled intervention block and an additional 15 minutes in the afternoon for review and additional practice. Their progress would be monitored on a weekly basis to determine the effectiveness of this more intensive support. Making adjustments to Tier II instruction, like the ones in this example, should always occur before any struggling learner begins receiving Tier III instruction for more intensive intervention.
Students typically discontinue Tier II instruction and go back to receiving only Tier I instruction when they have reached the predetermined criteria. It’s important to frequently monitor these students’ progress in Tier I to ensure they are able to sustain their gains without additional intervention support.
“ . . . [Tier II] is not designed to last forever; it is intentionally designed to be short term” (Hall, 2008, p. 66).
Let’s take a closer look at how one elementary school uses assessment data to inform its Tier II intervention.
Scenario: MNO Elementary School has established a schedule to monitor the progress every two weeks of all students receiving Tier II services. Teachers use this data to inform their Tier II intervention. For example, if one student isn’t making adequate progress in a Tier II group, they provide review, additional instruction, and practice. If all of the students in a group are struggling, teachers check to see if the intervention is moving too fast for students to master targeted skills. If this is the case, interventionists make adaptations to their Tier II instruction, such as providing more I Do modeling and We Do practice opportunities with teacher scaffolding. They also regroup Tier II students to accommodate their changing skill levels or adjust the amount of time spent in Tier II intervention, and they strive to keep Tier II groups as homogeneous as possible so that targeted instruction can be delivered in each lesson.
At MNO, progress monitoring data is also used to determine when students can discontinue Tier II instruction. The school has established a criterion of three data points at or above the grade-level target(s) identified by RTI progress monitoring assessments. When students reach this criterion, they no longer participate in Tier II intervention and go back to receiving only Tier I instruction. Tier I teachers continue to frequently monitor these students’ progress to see if they are able to sustain their gains. This type of close monitoring in Tier I lasts for at least one month after students discontinue Tier II and serves as a safety net. These students will be provided with Tier II instruction once more if their progress lags or if data show that they need the additional support to achieve grade-level expectations. On the other hand, if students continue to be successful in Tier I, their teachers gradually reduce the frequency of progress monitoring to match student performance levels in the core literacy program.
Progress monitoring data are also used to plan and effectively deliver high-quality differentiated Tier II instruction. Tier II instruction is predicated on providing targeted lessons to the specific needs of small homogeneous skills-based groups of students.
“Teachers need to have small enough group sizes to be able to set the tasks at just the right challenge level and provide corrective feedback followed by deliberate practice activities that will lead to mastery” (Hall, 2011, p. 95).
You may need to monitor Tier II intervention instruction and adjust grouping, materials, and instructional time to increase student achievement. An observational checklist for monitoring Tier II intervention is provided in To Learn More at the end of this section.
Tier II interventionists don’t just cover the content; they make sure their students are learning it by frequently monitoring student progress and making adjustments accordingly. These interventionists are well prepared and flexible—always ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help each student improve his or her literacy knowledge and skills. Tier II lessons should have a clear instructional focus, and they need to be delivered explicitly and systematically. These lessons also need to include much practice with immediate and corrective feedback, providing cumulative practice over time.
TO LEARN MORE: The resources below may be helpful as you implement assessment-driven Tier II instruction in your school.
The “Intervention Observation Checklist” may be used to monitor Tier II intervention instruction.
“Tier II: Intervention” provides specific guidelines for implementing Tier II Intervention.
“Assisting Students Struggling with Reading: Response to Intervention (RtI) and Multi-Tier Intervention in the Primary Grades” is a practice guide that provides evidence-based recommendations for Tier II instruction (on pp. 19–23) and Tier II progress monitoring (on pp. 24–25).
“What’s Your Plan? Accurate Decision Making within a Multi-Tier System of Supports: Critical Areas in Tier 2,” published by the RTI Action Network, provides insight into making assessment-based decisions about Tier II.
“Tier II Intervention Video,” from the professional development module “A 3-Tier Model: Promising Practices for Reading Success,” illustrates the delivery of evidence-based instructional practices during a Tier II intervention lesson: http://ontrack-media.net/TSLP/video/EIF_E3_K-5/Video02/E3_Video02.mp4
NEXT STEPS: Depending upon your campus-based leadership team’s progress in implementing Tier II instruction, you may want to consider some of the following next steps:
- Peruse the resources listed in To Learn More for Parts 1–3.
- Examine your current Tier II intervention practices within and across grade levels to determine if they are both evidence based and increasing students’ literacy achievement.
- Determine how you will make data-based decisions for improving and enhancing intervention within and across grade levels.
- Identify (or re-evaluate the need for) professional development (e.g., collaborative planning, observation and feedback, coaching, professional learning communities) to build or continue to strengthen capacity for high-quality Tier II instruction.
- Determine how you will communicate and collaborate to effectively implement Tier II intervention across grade levels and with all stakeholders (e.g., special education teachers, parents, coaches, principals, and paraprofessionals).