Tiered Instruction

As stated in the section on Historical Perspectives and Evidence Based Instruction, it was clear across America that too many students were falling behind academically. It was also clear that too many students, especially students of minority or limited English proficiency were being placed into special education. Finally, it was clear that no matter how wonderful general classroom instruction might become, there will always be a need for remediation. It was time to view general instruction on a continuum, as opposed to the rigid lines that divide students only by grade levels.

The need for separate layers of instruction was needed for students that did not fit neatly into just general education or just special education, but needed a combination of the goals of each. This notion became a model known as Tiered Instruction. This model generally has from three to five tiers. Many schools have adopted the three tier model, with Tier 1 being the general classroom, Tier 2 as the tutoring and intervention of basic skills, and Tier 3 as intensive individual intervention and possible referral to special education. However, there are times that schools may want to sub-divide tiers to meet a wider variety of instructional or behavioral needs. Schools are encouraged to look at their demographics and student needs to individualize RTI for the best fit.

Schools were being challenged to think outside of the box regarding the standard grade level approach to developing a system that provided high quality general classroom instruction alongside the provision of high quality interventions. Students who were in need of remediation would be taught basic skills while remaining in their general education classroom. There will always be students who struggle despite the quality of the instruction provided in general classroom settings. As educators begin to utilize a variety of instructional programs that are supported by research, RTI can provide guidelines and strategies to group and educate students more effectively (Tilly, 2002).

Normed data used with screening and progress monitoring tools in RTI allow school personnel to view any campus in levels of skill or tiers. One of the most common RTI models is best depicted by the following 3-tiered triangle.

Pyramid showing three tiers of RTI

The first level (Tier 1) forms the basis of the triangle and represents the general classroom. It is expected that 80% of all students will progress well without additional attention. The second level (Tier 2) provides remediation in basic skills of reading, writing, math or behavior to approximately 15% of all students in addition to instruction from Tier 1. Students demonstrate needs for Tier 2 interventions by their academic performance and are automatically diverted into instruction that is targeted to meet their needs. The third level (Tier 3) is reserved for those students who are considered treatment non-responders and who need more intense specialized instruction and assessment than provided in Tier 2. Often, referral to special education services are begun at Tier 3 or higher tiers (Adelman & Taylor, 1999; Vaughn Gross Center for Reading Difficulties, 2005).

Mellard, Byrd, Tollefson, and Boesche (2004) propose a more descriptive 3-tiered model that addresses academic and behavioral skills for all students. As with all RTI models, the intensity of intervention and frequency of progress monitoring increases as the student moves up through the levels. The size of the instructional group decreases as students move up these levels because the interventions are moving from a larger universal or whole group approach to more individualized interventions at the tertiary level.

Pyramid showing primary, secondary and tertiary levels of RTI
Source: CEC's RTI Blog


DanielB | 12/04/2013

General instruction needed to become a continuum from grade level to grade level. Tier 1 has an 80% success rate (without intervention) Tier 2 is 15%, and tier 3 is reserved for nonresponsive students.

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