I come across many educators across the country who spend the majority of their time, human resources, and money on providing quality Tier 2 and 3 academic and behavioral intervention. While putting powerful interventions in place for struggling students is extremely important, many underestimate the power of solid Tier 1 academic and behavioral strategies for ALL students as they rush to plug holes in a leaking bucket.
The power of Tier 1 academic and behavioral strategies is in the unified approach of a school or grade level or academic department to collaborate and coordinate their collective efforts on research-based strategies that meet the needs of their students according to data. While schools may approach this process differently, the bottom line is that there is a proactive strategy (rather than simply reacting to quarterly assessments or when something is obviously leaking) in place to meet student needs across the entire population. In order to be proactive, one must note data trends of the school population in years past. Most school populations are fairly consistent from year to year and the data can be utilized to put Tier 1 supports in place before students even start school in the fall.
Based on academic and behavioral data trends of students within a school, the following powerful strategies can be considered, planned for, and implemented prior to the start of the school year:
1. Extended use of homeroom time, even weekly, designated to a Tier 1 strategy: an example may be a school wide behavior lesson (content determined by present or past trend behavioral data).
2. Academic and behavioral non-negotiables/expectations based on past trend data: examples may be the expectation that all students be reading and traveling with a book at all times, that school wide behavior expectations be taught in every classroom daily, that all classes will take the last five minutes to practice math fluency, that all classes incorporate 3 essays within their curriculum monthly, all students will have at least one student-led conference with their parent during the school year, etc. These expectations need to be determined, shared, supported, valued, recognized, and rewarded by school leadership in order for them to be effective.
3. Allow past trend data to help drive scheduling adjustments: examples may include building in additional student support in academics during lunch, before school, after school, through flexible study skill classes; building in behavioral support through a school mentoring program or daily behavior lessons during the extended morning news.
4. Allow past trend data to help drive the use of valuable resources throughout the school: examples may be resources such as tutors, reading coaches, parent/community volunteers, guidance counselor, and an assistant principal. This should remain as flexible as possible so that data is driving where and when those resources are deployed in supporting Tier 1 goals.
The primary key in planning for powerful Tier 1 is to make strategizing a continuous process based on more current data throughout the school year. With effective Tier 1 strategies in place, using limited resources and managing Tier 2 and 3 interventions becomes much more manageable for everyone.