In a previous posting, as well as in our book Envisioning a Collaborative Response Model, we have discussed the value of creating a pyramid of interventions at the school level and the value of honouring current practices and supports in its initial development. This collection of strategies, accommodations, and interventions becomes the foundation of a school’s pyramid, to be refined, added to, and further clarified over time. But once this initial work is completed, where do we go next? How do we ensure that we do not establish yet another document that is placed in a binder or becomes a laminated poster on the wall, making little impact on support for students?
Here are some next steps for consideration when moving forward and continuing to refine the use and fidelity of the school’s pyramid of interventions.
Make it Useable
Once created, the school’s pyramid of interventions needs to be organized into a usable document that is front and center during the collaborative team meeting. Whenever the critical question “So what are we going to do?” is asked, we want team members to go back to the pyramid, focusing on strategies, accommodations and interventions listed that could be put in place for students. In order to support the conversations, it needs to be accessible and organized. Here are some examples (click on the image to open a PDF version of the sample) – please note that for all samples, they represent a school or district’s pyramid at one moment in time – it is very possible that they have shifted and changed since they were shared with us.
Developed initially at the district level (through conversations with principals and central office support), the pyramid at Nipisihkopahk Education Authority is intended to be a starting place. Schools are then encouraged to continue to add to the pyramid at the school level, to capture anything specific to their site to support students. Note the large number of strategies and accommodations identified at the classroom level, before ever considering moving beyond the classroom for support.
The pyramid at Minchau School follows a very similar format but focuses on supports in the area of literacy, numeracy and behaviour (please note that anything sharing a specific staff member name has been blacked out). It also references supports that are typically specific to particular grade levels.
The pyramids at Mecca Glen School and Lacombe Junior High School both reflect a number of next steps to be considered at each tier. Note that for the Mecca Glen pyramid, Tier 1 reflects the commitment to an Excellent Learning Environment as defined at the district level. Without strong tier one level instruction articulated and supported, the rest of the supports at tier two and higher become unsustainable and overloaded.
The final example shares a behavioural support pyramid developed at the school formerly known as Claresholm Elementary School (now West Meadow Elementary). It is interesting in this pyramid to note all the tier one supports in place to support positive behaviour in school, while tiers two, three and four are about supporting positive behaviour choices, not consequences when behaviour expectations are not met.
Further samples can be found in our CRM Network – ask to become a member to view a number of samples and other resources from educators in numerous different schools and districts.
Continue to Refine
The pyramid of interventions that is established is never a finished product. It is constantly being refined in two ways:
- Adding additional supports to be considered
- Removing “lower impact” supports
Ultimately, the goal is to be continually refining the pyramid of interventions, addressing gaps that exist in the school’s overall response and ensuring the indicated supports will have the greatest possible impact for students.
Here are some considerations for refinement:
Determine gaps that exist – as a staff, review the pyramid and determine if there any areas lacking effective supports? Often, reviewing other school pyramids can help to surface some strategies, accommodations and interventions that could be considered for inclusion in your pyramid. The CRM Network has access to a number of other school samples to review.
Debrief after professional development – after any staff have engaged in professional development, determine if any new strategies, accommodations or interventions were learned or considerations taken away from the professional learning that could be added to the school’s pyramid. Continue to think of the pyramid of interventions as the “collective toolbox” – as teachers add to their own instructional toolbox of strategies, the school’s pyramid can also reflect the enhanced instructional practices.
Determine high impact and low impact – a great staff activity is to have staff determine which strategies, accommodations and interventions would be considered high impact (highly effective in most situations) and low impact (lacking overall effectiveness or unpredictable in their effectiveness). Even using a simple 1, 2, 3 ranking system will help to identify those highest impact supports that should be accessed more frequently…and also lead to a conversation of potentially removing lower impact supports that have have less overall effectiveness. In time, we want the pyramid to be a collection of the high impact supports that we should be employing most frequently and regularly with students.
Determine supports with research-based evidence of effectiveness – consider having a committee review the supports in your school/district’s pyramid to ascertain which have research-based evidence of effectiveness for students. Alternatively, a great staff PD day activity can be dividing the supports identified in the pyramid to teams of teachers to engage in a “Google search” of evidence that backs up the use of the various supports. Any strategies, accommodations or interventions that the team is unable to find supporting, credible evidence (a random teacher blog is not evidence) should result in a discussion about it’s future inclusion on the pyramid. Learn Alberta’s Inclusive Education Library is a great place to start. The California Department of Education also has links to some possible resources for examination. Many other resources exist that could help in this examination.
Determine Local Experts and Professional Development Opportunities
Consider this staff activity. Share copies of your school’s pyramid with each staff member and provide two colours of highlighters. Have each individual staff member:
- Use one colour to identify the supports that they either lack expertise in implementing or are unsure what that support would look like in practice
- Use the other colour to identify the supports that they are confident in employing – essentially, they could teach it to someone else
This activity identifies areas for potential professional development (either in groups or whole staff for supports identified by multiple staff members) or coaching. It can also assist in potentially identifying areas for individual staff professional growth planning.
It also identifies your local experts – those that could provide coaching or professional development on site. Expertise does not always have to come from outside the building. Consider the implementation of “mini instructional strategies sessions” at staff meetings, led by your local experts. This is a great way to recognize the expertise that exists in the school, as well as the “go to” people when considering a particular support for a student or group of students.
Consider posting your Pyramid of Interventions on your school’s website, to show how you support students needing different levels of support. Check out Ponoka Secondary Campus’s Pyramid of Intervention on their school website, which is also employed during their collaborative team meetings.
Use with Students and Parents
Consider the following:
- When meeting with parents, have the pyramid of interventions as part of the conversations, working with parents to determine the best strategies, accommodations and interventions to employ to support their child
- Have the pyramid of interventions present during conversations with students, asking them which supports they feel would be most effective when considering next steps to support their learning.
It is important to understand that a school’s pyramid of interventions (or continuum of supports or whatever language best fits) is an ever-evolving resource that should help to focus and support all those involved in responding to the needs of students. It also helps shift the school conversation from “a Tier __ student” to “a student who currently needs Tier __ supports for success”. Having the pyramid as a vital resource for those conversations (not just a theoretical framework or guiding graphic) is critical.