Most RTI frameworks organize interventions according to intensity of intervention and frequency of data collection. Typically, interventions are organized into a pyramid. This Action Tool focuses on developing a three-tiered system. [Note: Some RTI proponents advocate for more than three tiers, in which case developers would still use the principle of organizing interventions by intensity and frequency of progress monitoring.]
- Tier 1. The bottom tier, which generally represents core instruction, addresses the needs of approximately 80 to 90 percent of students and contains accommodations and strategies that general education teachers may use to support struggling students. These interventions should be available to all students who need them and should be implemented within the general classroom framework. On an ongoing basis, teachers assess students to determine instructional strengths and needs.
- Tier 2. The middle tier usually addresses the needs of approximately 10 to 15 percent of students and contains supplemental supports that are reserved for students who have more significant challenges, whether academic, behavioral, or both. Tier 2 interventions often include assistance from specialists (e.g., reading), and activities such as tutoring or counseling.
- Tier 3. The top tier usually addresses the needs of students with significant academic or behavioral challenges who require the most intensive services in a school. In some schools, Tier 3 supports include individualized services such as special education or related services, mental health counseling, etc. In other schools, special education services are considered Tier 4.
The purpose of organizing resources and supports into a tiered system is to assist the RTI Intervention Team in identifying interventions and instructional strategies and materials that may be effective in meeting the needs of struggling learners. The structure allows the team to see how well the student is responding before recommending a new intervention; for example, one that is more intense. Because staff members do not always know what supports and services are available, the tiered model provides a means for showcasing them. The tiered structure also enables staff members to note where there are gaps in service.