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 prevention system in your 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 secondary prevention level.

Tier II intervention is supplemental instruction provided outside the protected 90 minutes (or more) of Tier I literacy instruction. 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 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 phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Tier II instruction needs to be provided as soon as students experiencing persistent difficulties in Tier I are identified 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. Tier II interventionists can also intensify intervention by changing their instruction or the way they teach literacy skills and concepts to their struggling learners. With more time for instruction and fewer students per group, interventionists are able to personalize instruction and focus on specific areas of need. They can 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 instructional focus based on identified skill deficits and the amount of acceleration necessary for each student to reach grade-level expectations. Keep in mind as you form intervention groups that one-on-one instruction—the most intensive group size—is not always feasible, but fortunately, studies have shown that groups of 3:1 can be just as effective as 1:1 (Vaughn et al., 2003).

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, reading specialists, or other trained individuals. 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 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, 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., letter/sound cards, word cards, 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.

Intensive Reading Interventions for Struggling Readers in Early Elementary School: A Principal’s Guide” published by the Center on Instruction, provides information for developing and implementing an effective, school-level intervention program.

The resource “Effective Instruction at Tier II” on the IRIS Center website describes what high-quality Tier II instruction looks like in an elementary school.

Part 2—Establishing Effective Tier II Interventions

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 et al., 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).

Some have found that “ . . . when groups meet only three times a week, too much focus is lost between lessons and more time is spent in reviewing than when intervention occurs daily” (Hall, 2011, p. 51).

Regarding the amount of time allocated for each grade level, Tier II intervention can vary based on students’ developmental levels and skill deficits. For example, “an intervention session can range from 20 to 30 minutes for kindergarten students to 40 to 50 minutes for grade 2 students, depending on student needs. . . . [Keep in mind that] the time needed for interventions usually increases as the skills they need to catch up to their peers without reading difficulties broaden” (Gersten et al., 2009, p. 22).

Your administrators, 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.

When devising a master schedule, one option is to take time from consecutive classes (e.g., eight minutes from social studies, eight minutes from science, 14 minutes from “specials,” etc.). In addition, intervention blocks for each grade level can be staggered throughout the day to allow interventionists to teach different grade levels. Sample schedules are included in To Learn More at the end of this section.

Below, watch a video that illustrates one perspective on scheduling multitiered instruction.

Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, 2007

There are two basic approaches generally used to provide intervention within a multitiered model. It’s important to determine if your school will implement (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. For example, you may combine an appropriate grade-level intervention program with a problem-solving approach to identify students and provide targeted, differentiated Tier II instruction (Hall, 2008; IRIS Center, n.d.). You can find a more detailed comparison of the two approaches in To Learn More at the end of this section.

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 and materials 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. 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).

When establishing Tier II intervention, you should determine how it will be delivered at each grade level. Students may receive Tier II intervention in their general education classroom (the “push-in” model), or students may leave their classroom (the “pull-out” or “walk-to” model) to receive intervention.

Let’s see how these approaches are used to deliver Tier II intervention instruction.

Scenario 1: At MNO Elementary School, everyone views students receiving Tier II services as “our students” rather than “my students.” The principal has scheduled intervention blocks that are staggered throughout the day across grade levels. Because of the school’s limited resources, this type of scheduling permits the group of Tier II interventionists to float and support more than one grade level per day. MNO uses an in-class, or push-in, approach to deliver their Tier II intervention. All of the interventionists and classroom teachers have received Tier II training. During the 30-minute intervention block, a Tier II interventionist comes into the classroom and teaches a Tier II group. At the same time, the classroom teacher provides Tier II instruction to another Tier II group. This intensifies instruction by reducing the group size for their struggling learners. All of the other students in the classroom, who are at or above grade level, work in literacy centers or stations on enrichment and reinforcement activities selected by the teacher to target their specific needs and interests. At the end of the intervention block, the Tier II interventionist rotates to another classroom or grade level.

Scenario 2: At XYZ Elementary School, a walk-to-intervention approach is used. Each grade-level team places all students into groups based on their literacy needs and abilities. This team process involves all of the teachers, interventionists, and support staff using RTI data to collaboratively form flexible groups, plan instruction, and teach their students. First, they form their Tier II intervention groups. They determine group size and targeted focus areas based on identified skill deficits and the total number of students from their classrooms who need Tier II intervention. To intensify instruction, they place the students with the highest needs in the smallest groups (3:1). As they place the remaining students receiving Tier II services into groups, they balance the number of groups with the number of trained interventionists and teachers available during their intervention block. They make adjustments to ensure that these groups have six or fewer students. Then, each grade level uses the data to form teacher-led groups for their other students who are at or above grade level. To provide targeted instruction, the team varies each group’s size based on student data. For example, during the intervention block, a group of 30 students will work on fluency building, while another group of 15 will work on “getting the gist,” a comprehension strategy. After all the groups are formed, the team then decides who will teach each group. Now the walk-to-intervention approach is ready to go (Hall, 2011).

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

The video “RTI Implementation: Developing Effective Schedules at the Elementary Level” is an informative resource provided on the Center on Response to Intervention website. This webinar provides detailed scheduling guidelines for the implementation of RTI at the elementary level, including the scheduling of core instruction, intervention time, progress monitoring, team meetings, and planning. Sample schedules are also included. You can access the recorded webinar, the accompanying slide presentation, or both.

The article “Reading Intervention Programs: A Comparative Chart,” published by the Reading Rockets website, provides basic comparative information about a range of commercially available intervention programs.

The article “Teaching All Students to Read: Practices from Reading First Schools with Strong Intervention Outcomes,” published by the Reading Rockets website, summarizes the Florida Center for Reading Research’s report about lessons they learned from visiting Reading First schools that demonstrated success in teaching struggling learners.

The article “Scheduling Considerations for RTI at the Elementary Level,” published by the RTI Action Network, provides guidelines for building multitiered master schedules.

The resource and video “Approaches to RTI” on the IRIS Center website provides specific information about the standard protocol and problem-based approaches to RTI.

Part 3—Using Assessment Data to Inform Tier II Instruction

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.

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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.

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:

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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 K–5

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., & 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.

IRIS Center. (n.d.). Star Legacy Modules: RTI (Part 1): An overview. Page 5: Approaches to RTI. Retrieved from

National Center on Response to Intervention. (2011, August). 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.

Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. (2007). A 3-Tier model: Promising practices for reading success. Austin, TX: Author.

Vaughn, S., Linan-Thompson, S., Kouzekanani, K., Bryant, D. P., Dickson, S., & Blozis, S. A. (2003). Reading instruction grouping for students with reading difficulties. Remedial and Special Education, 24(5), 301–315. doi: 10.1177/07419325030240050501