When examining typical pyramids of intervention in RTI literature, we often find models with 3 tiers focused on universal, targeted and individualized supports. In the Collaborative Response Model we support the use of a Four Tier Intervention Model.
So why consider a four-tier intervention model, when most conventional RTI models are built upon a three-tier model of intervention? For us, the answer is in the power of collaboration for teachers in developing the school-wide pyramid of interventions.
Essentially, tier 3 and 4 of our model resembles tier 2 and 3 of a traditional RTI model, where students are involved in supports beyond the classroom, with supports at the upper tier of the model highly individualized and intensive. In our Four Tier model, supports at the tier 1 and 2 level resemble the instruction typically defined in tier 1 of the standard three-tier RTI model. Essentially, we subscribe to the power of articulating differentiation school-wide which is described in tier 2 of our pyramid of supports.
In our four-tier model, teachers work together to define the tenets of sound classroom practice (tier 1). This does not involve all educators committing to a specific instructional approach or program in their classrooms but rather agreeing to what effective instruction should look like at the classroom level. If the pyramid of interventions developed is specific to literacy, the school staff work together to articulate what effective literacy instruction looks like at the classroom level. This is powerful conversation and commitment for the school community and becomes tier 1, the instruction that is in place for all students to succeed in each classroom. Further refinement of Tier 1 can produce the instructional “non-negotiables” that help to articulate what effective classroom practice involves (at the school or district level). This is further discussed in a blog posting that examines next steps to take after developing the foundation of the four tiers of support.
In workshops, we have defined tier 2 as the place where teachers publicly open up their “instructional toolkit” to share the differentiated approaches they take to support struggling students in the classroom. For instance, it may involve more regular involvement in guided reading groups (at one school where we’ve worked, a tier 2 intervention was “daily guided reading”, where the student was involved in a daily guided reading experience in the classroom, where other classmates had guided reading 2-3 times weekly) or individual fluency passages in a literacy pyramid of interventions. It may involve a classroom behavior plan or checklist system for behavior-related pyramids. It may involve basic fact practice pages for home for numeracy-focused interventions. Whatever the focus of the interventions, this model pushes teachers to share the differentiated approaches that they deem most effective to develop a school-wide repository of tier 2 interventions, strategies and accommodations. Over time, tier 2 interventions are monitored for effectiveness and added to as other strategies and approaches are considered. The school ensures the interventions are articulated (using a tool such as the Intervention Description template) and teachers work together to help each other implement them effectively in their classrooms.
By having tier 2 in place, there is always the discussion (in a Collaborative Team Meeting) of what tier 2 interventions have been tried/implemented without success prior to considering tier 3 interventions for students. It ensures that we are doing all we can at the classroom level to support students and teachers are supported with a flexible list of interventions to consider implementing in the classroom for their students (see a shared folder that shares within it a number of sample school intervention menus). Without a solid tier 1 and 2 established in schools (through collaborative conversation and professional sharing), tier 3 and 4 interventions will be overrun with students in need of support, leading to an intervention model that will not be able to be sustained in schools. If we can collectively work together in schools to ensure effectiveness at the foundational levels of our Response to Intervention models, we can ensure that supports at the upper tiers are most effective for the students most in need of them.