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Tier 2 and Tier 3 Intervention

Get an overview of how schools can organize their Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions within an MTSS/RTI framework. Tier 2 provides small-group targeted support and Tier 3 provides intensive individualized intervention.

Under an MTSS or RTI framework, educators use systematic ongoing assessments to identify students who may need extra support to be successful and drive the delivery of intervention that meets their identified needs. This page provides a quick overview of how schools may organize their Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions within an MTSS/RTI framework.

Tier 2: small-group targeted support

When a student fails to meet benchmark criteria on a universal screening test, additional instruction is required. This small-group targeted intervention is referred to as Tier 2 instruction.

During Tier 2, a teacher, paraeducator, or specialist increases the time and intensity of instruction beyond the core reading program for students who did not make adequate progress in the general classroom — the Tier 1 instruction. Although Tier 2 may vary from school to school, it’s common to see an additional 20-40 minutes per day in a small group (3-6 students) to work on up to three specific components of reading. Intervention in Tier 2 may emphasize building accurate and automatic recognition of words in text or building students’ language comprehension skills. Teachers and specialists use diagnostic tests to pinpoint specific skills that need extra support.

During Tier 2 intervention, the teacher assesses the students’ growth on taught skills to keep an eye on their progress. Results from progress monitoring tools drive the decisions to continue in Tier 2, adjust instruction, or to increase the level of support by moving to Tier 3 instruction.

Tier 3 : intensive individualized intervention

Students who make minimal progress in Tier 2 instruction need additional intensive support to learn to read. Tier 3 intervention provides a high level of intensity, time, and support for children who fail to respond to Tier 1 and 2 instruction and for those eligible for special education and related services.

During Tier 3 intervention, students receive more frequent, intensive intervention that is individualized to assessed needs. It is delivered daily in small groups ranging from 1 to 3 students per group. Intervention at this level is highly focused,  tailored to the assessed needs of each student, and typically uses a research-based program that is different from the core program used in the general classroom. Intervention at Tier 3 is usually delivered by a reading specialist or special educator, i.e., someone who has extensive knowledge and expertise in teaching reading.

Because students at this tier have made minimal gains in the past, the need for frequent and regular progress monitoring increases during this tier. Even if a student is identified and eligible for special education,  progress monitoring continues.

Looking at Reading Interventions video series

This video series features reading expert Linda Farrell working one-on-one with various students with reading difficulties. Many struggling readers have problems with word recognition and decoding. These videos demonstrate teaching students how to read words accurately and fluently. You’ll also find detailed Viewer’s Guides and Facilitator’s Guides for each episode, to support professional development in your school or district. Visit the Looking at Reading Interventions video series