Action Step and Orientation

E3. Provide evidence-based Tier II intervention to students at risk for literacy difficulties.

In this lesson, you will learn more about implementing a multilevel instructional support system through the RTI framework.

In Part 1 of this lesson, you will examine the characteristics of Tier II literacy instruction.

In Part 2, you will learn how to establish effective Tier II interventions at your school.

In Part 3, you will learn what it takes to effectively use assessment data to inform Tier II intervention.

To get started, download the Implementation Guide for this component and refer to the Action Step for this lesson. Review the Implementation Indicators for each level of implementation and note the Sample Evidence listed at the bottom of the chart.

Part 1—Characteristics of Tier II Literacy Instruction

Even with quality Tier I small-group literacy instruction, many students require more strategic intervention in Tier II, the second level of the RTI model.

Tier II intervention is supplemental instruction provided outside the regular English language arts class. Tier II instruction is more intense than Tier I instruction and focuses on the gaps in foundational literacy skills that students need to master. It is important for your staff to understand that expectations should not be lowered for these students; the expected level of mastery should still be the grade-level TEKS or other grade-level literacy standards. The goal of Tier II instruction is to accelerate student learning and help struggling learners get back on track so they can continue to succeed without further intervention.

Tier II instruction is data driven and targets students’ skill levels or the specific tasks they have not mastered within the critical areas of fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and thinking and reasoning about the text. Tier II instruction needs to be provided as soon as students in Tier I are identified as experiencing persistent difficulties or as at risk based on screening assessments, progress monitoring assessments, or a combination of both.

The use of evidence-based instructional practices—as described in Lesson E2—Tier I literacy instruction—applies to each tier of instruction. As in Tier I, Tier II incorporates high-quality evidence-based instructional practices such as explicit and systematic instruction with practice, effective error-correction procedures, and immediate and positive feedback.

A characteristic of Tier II instruction that distinguishes it from Tier I instruction is the level of intensity. Instruction and practice in Tier II intensify when you increase the amount of instructional time for intervention, reduce group size, or both. With more time for instruction and fewer students per group, interventionists are able to personalize instruction and focus on specific areas of need. A smaller group of students allows interventionists to

  • increase the amount and types of scaffolding provided in each lesson;
  • provide more opportunities for students to actively respond and engage in learning;
  • increase repetitions within the I Do, We Do, You Do cycle; and
  • provide more immediate and corrective feedback.

You may need to meet with grade-level teams to determine the level of intensity needed for each Tier II group. As you analyze student data, consider the amount of acceleration necessary for each student to reach grade-level expectations and the instructional focus based on identified skill deficits.

Campuses at the Planning Implementation level need to identify qualified interventionists for Tier II instruction at each grade level. Keep in mind that Tier II instruction can be provided by general education teachers or other trained individuals such as reading specialists. Certain intervention programs may be designed to be successfully administered by noncertified personnel, but qualified teachers are still needed to oversee student placement, program implementation, and progress monitoring.

“If paraprofessionals [or volunteers] teach intervention groups, two things are important: They need to be trained, and they need to be supervised” (Hall, 2011, p. 56).

It is wise to assess needs of classroom teachers and other instructional staff in order to plan evidence-based professional development that focuses on Tier II intervention programs, materials, and practices to support Tier II instruction. Remember that there are many effective formats for professional development opportunities, not just traditional staff development sessions.

When different people provide Tier I and Tier II instruction, collaboration and consistency are particularly important, especially when working with struggling learners. You may need to establish time and processes to align instructional resources, routines, and academic language (e.g., graphic organizers, thinking routines for active reading strategies, strategies specific to working with English learners) across each tier of instruction and monitor Tier II implementation.

Note: As you can see, the Action Steps of the Effective Instructional Framework are interrelated. Although you are learning about each one separately, you may not be able to implement them one at a time.

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TO LEARN MORE: The following resources can help you gain a better understanding of Tier II literacy instruction.

The Building Capacity for Response to Intervention Implementation Project at the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk contains links to resources that pertain to all aspects of RTI.

Response to Intervention for Literacy in Secondary Schools” provides a thorough overview of important considerations when establishing secondary Tier II intervention.

Part 2—Establishing Effective Tier II Interventions

Campus instructional leaders, along with other school personnel, must allocate time within the master schedule for Tier II intervention at every grade level, making sure it doesn’t overlap or interfere with Tier I. Tier II scheduling should be based on student need and your school resources.

There are several overarching recommendations for secondary Tier II programs. First, Tier II instruction is typically scheduled for at least 30 minutes at a minimum of three times a week, depending on student grade levels and needs (Gersten, Compton, Connor, Dimino, Santoro, Linan-Thompson, & Tilly, 2009). However, in the Introduction to the 3-Tier Reading Model, daily Tier II intervention is recommended (Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts, 2005). The ideal teacher-student ratio is between 1:6 and 1:10 (Burns, 2008).

A further general recommendation is that Tier II intervention be scheduled as an integrated, mandatory component of the regular school schedule during the middle of the day. Some schools have tried to establish an intervention program either before or after school or in a first-period homeroom. However, the students most in need of support are also likely to have inconsistent attendance at these times (Burns & Gibbons, 2012, p. 114).

Another important consideration is that motivation and engagement are often significant factors in the achievements of secondary students who need intervention. Schools can increase the likelihood of intervention success by tracking attendance and participation and by scheduling one-on-one conferences with students who seem particularly disengaged. It is developmentally appropriate to involve secondary students as much as possible in establishing their own goals and monitoring their own progress in order to increase their buy-in (Burns, 2008).

There are two basic approaches that are generally used to provide intervention within a multitiered instruction model: (1) a standard protocol approach that utilizes a single, evidence-based intervention program selected by the school or district for groups of at-risk students, or (2) a problem-solving approach that involves a school-based team selecting a variety of evidence-based interventions that target each individual student’s academic needs.

Both approaches should include the essential RTI components of universal screening and progress monitoring to inform decisions, multiple tiers of instruction, and evidence-based intervention programs and practices. You may choose one of these approaches or a blend of the two.

Before Tier II intervention begins, you should carefully examine the intervention programs, materials, and procedures already in place at your school. Depending on your level of implementation, you may need to identify and select evidence-based intervention or supplemental curriculum programs and materials for Tier II. Additional information about evidence-based intervention programs can be found in To Learn More at the end of this section.

Tier II intervention programs need to be compatible with your Tier I core literacy program. They should support and supplement core instruction using evidence-based practices (National Center on Response to Intervention, August 2011). However, keep in mind that the foundational and prerequisite skills often taught in Tier II may not be addressed in Tier I at the same time. As Gersten and colleagues (2009) remind us, “Alignment [with Tier I] is not as critical as ensuring that [Tier II] instruction is systematic and explicit and focuses on the high priority reading components” (p. 23).

Two possible approaches for scheduling Tier II intervention at the secondary level are (1) implementing interventions in small groups as part of a daily advisory period, and (2) scheduling Tier II students in an additional reading class.

Let’s look at the experiences of two schools using these models for Tier II intervention instruction.

Scenario 1: ABC Middle School schedules all students into a daily 30-minute advisory period immediately prior to lunch. Advisory classes are typically larger than a regular class section, which relieves specially trained teachers to meet with small intervention groups during that time. To make the most effective use of advisory time for Tier I students, administrators purchased a prepared college-readiness-and-career-exploration curriculum that advisory teachers can easily deliver while Tier II students receive interventions. Progress monitoring is performed at the three-week and six-week marks, and students are regrouped as needed every six weeks.

Scenario 2: XYZ High School offers 50-minute class periods. During the summer, administrators and data analysis teams met to review prior year data for students at all grade levels and to plan interventions. After considering the number of students in need of intervention and examining resources and scheduling options, they decided that Tier II students would be scheduled into an additional reading class. Because enrollment in a reading class limits the number of other courses students can take in a given year, administrators were careful to identify a credit-bearing course code from the state graduation plan that matched the objectives of the intervention. Furthermore, counselors were asked to carefully track the credit acquisition of Tier II students to ensure they were on track for graduation. To allow for small-group intervention during the reading class, class size was limited to 20 students, and teachers were assigned specially trained instructional aides. Additionally, professional development was provided to help teachers create systems and routines for working regularly with small groups on specific skills.

Two drawbacks to this common model described in Scenario 2 are that it may offer more than the necessary time for intervention, and it does not allow for flexible regrouping of students other than a schedule change in the middle of a semester or year; it is not completely responsive to student progress over shorter intervals of time.

(For more information about differentiating instruction in small groups, refer to Part 3 of E2—Tier I literacy instruction.)

Solutions for Tier II (and Tier III) scheduling at the secondary level might require creative and advanced planning. Models other than those given here are possible and will have advantages and drawbacks of their own. Furthermore, because the best solutions for students in need of intervention might involve broad changes or a need for flexibility in staffing, scheduling, and allocation of resources, it is important to build school-wide consensus around the benefits of such changes. Leadership teams will need to weigh these advantages and drawbacks carefully and take a scheduling approach that works best for the students at their campus.

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TO LEARN MORE: The resources below provide additional information about establishing effective Tier II interventions at all grade levels.

Response to Intervention for Literacy in Secondary Schools” outlines the pros and cons of various models of secondary Tier II intervention.

Effective Instruction for Adolescent Struggling Readers—Second Edition,” published on the website of the Center on Instruction, presents a detailed description of evidence-based practices for reading intervention.

Part 3—Using Assessment Data to Inform Tier II Intervention

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. 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 instruction (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 when they are not making sufficient progress in Tier I and their scores meet the entry criteria you have already established.

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 II instruction as needed. You may need to set guidelines for the duration of each round of Tier II intervention. 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. Given the predetermined targets for discontinuing intervention and the progress monitoring schedule, intervention teachers may establish specific milestones to coincide with progress monitoring intervals. Data analysis teams can use graphs to project the trajectory of student achievement. 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 student progress is not sufficient at the end of a round, administrators might consider ways to either increase the frequency of intervention or decrease group size. Student progress would then be monitored regularly 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.

At the end of a round of Tier II instruction, students whose data show they are on course for closing their performance gaps can continue in another round of Tier II. The specifics of the intervention should be closely monitored and evaluated to ensure that student progress continues to be accelerated.

Students typically discontinue Tier II intervention 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 middle school uses assessment data to inform its Tier II intervention.

Scenario: ABC Middle School, which implemented Tier II intervention as part of an advisory period, has established a schedule to monitor the progress of all Tier II students every three weeks. 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, teachers 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. Every six weeks, 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 ABC, 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 are rescheduled to participate in ongoing advisory lessons. Tier I English language arts 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 rescheduled into advisory intervention groups 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 English and language arts (ELAR) curriculum (Gersten et al., 2009, pp. 24-25; Hall, 2008, pp. 87–88).

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 as needed 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.

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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.

The “RTI Implementer Series Module 2: Progress Monitoring Training Manual,” beginning on page 10, explains how to use graphs to track and project student achievement.

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 evaluating and selecting an intervention curriculum for Tier II and for making assessment-based decisions about Tier II.

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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).


E3. Provide evidence-based Tier II intervention to students at risk for literacy difficulties.

With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step E3 in the TSLP Implementation Status Ratings document and then respond to the four questions in the assignment.

TSLP Implementation Status Ratings 6-12

In completing your assignment with your team, the following resources and information from this lesson’s content may be useful to you:

  • Refer to Part 1 for the characteristics of Tier II instruction.
  • Refer to Part 2 for establishing effective Tier II interventions at your school.
  • Refer to Part 3 for ways to use assessment data to inform Tier II intervention.

Next Steps also contains suggestions that your campus may want to consider when you focus your efforts on this Action Step.

To record your responses, go to the Assignment template for this lesson and follow the instructions.


Burns, M. K. (2008). Response to intervention at the secondary level. Principal Leadership, 8(7), 12–15.

Burns, M. K., & Gibbons, K. (2012). Implementing response-to-intervention in elementary and secondary schools: Procedures to ensure scientific-based practices (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Gersten, R., Compton, D., Connor, C. M., Dimino, J., Santoro, L., Linan-Thompson, S., & Tilly, W. D. (2009). Assisting students struggling with reading: Response to intervention and multi-tier intervention for reading in the primary grades: A practice guide. (NCEE 2009-4045). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Hall, S. L. (2008). Implementing response to intervention: A principal’s guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Hall, S. L. (2011). Jumpstart RTI: Using RTI in your elementary school right now. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

National Center on Response to Intervention. (August 2011). RTI essential components integrity worksheet. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, National Center on Response to Intervention.

Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. (2005). Introduction to the 3-tier reading model: Reducing reading difficulties for kindergarten through third grade students (4th ed.) Austin, TX: University of Texas/Texas Education Agency.