Monthly Archives: January 2012

Using Tier II to Inform Tier I

By Joanne Allain

As a result of widespread implementation of Response to Instruction/Intervention (RtI), we now assess students to determine their specific needs. These assessments often show that large numbers of students perform below grade level and require additional work with Tier II or Tier III intervention. In fact, many schools fall far from the optimum RtI configuration of 80 percent at Tier I, 15 percent at Tier II, and 5 percent at Tier III.

In response to this data, schools develop sizeable intervention systems designed to accelerate student growth. Interventions are necessary and welcome, but they are only part of the solution.

A primary component of a comprehensive RtI system is the use of a research-based core curriculum in Tier I (Batsche et al., 2007). However, when a significant number of students fall through the cracks, we must question the effectiveness of our Tier I curriculum, even if it is research based.

Is the current Tier I instruction strong enough to keep students from falling back into intervention after they have been successful in Tier II and supports have been removed? Have we created an instruction/intervention yo-yo effect by focusing solely on intervention and ignoring first instruction?

Two critical questions come to mind:

  1. Have we analyzed patterns in Tier I data to determine why so many students are in need of intervention?
  2. Have we identified which skills are most frequently taught in Tier II that should have been addressed in Tier I?

Ultimately, we have to question the rationale that the need for intervention is the fault of the student. Adjustments in Tier I content and instruction must be responsive to students, and we can use the patterns of skill instruction needed in Tier II to inform that response.

Consider this scenario for School Y:

Screening and diagnostic data indicate that 50 percent of students in grade 4 are in need of Tier II intervention for decoding. We know it is unlikely that 50 percent of fourth grade students in School Y have inherent decoding difficulties. It is much more likely that, for this fourth grade, the current Tier I curriculum is deficient in explicit decoding instruction or that insufficient time is devoted to that instruction. Additionally, if the pattern is particular to students from one class, we can use that information to monitor Tier I fidelity and continuity across a grade level.

Since many schools have implemented RtI for multiple years, we now have the opportunity to use patterns found in Tier II to improve Tier I. Identifying, planning, and implementing Tier II skill development not only inform what skills need to be taught in intervention but also dictate the changes that must be made in Tier I to keep students proficient and prevent the intervention/instruction yo-yo effect that currently exists.

Educators who implement RtI are discovering that it is not sufficient to have a research-based Tier I, even with good instruction, reteaching, and differentiation. Effective Tier I instruction consistently responds to the changing needs of students (Allain & Eberhardt, 2011).

We know the essential content outlined in reading research, but not all students have the same needs. Tier I must be responsive to students by adjusting how much, how often, and how explicitly we teach each reading/writing skill. We have to use all the information at our disposal to truly meet the needs of our students in Tier I at every grade level, and thus prevent the need for intervention with most students. Data from Tier II provides much of that information.

Let’s walk through an example of using Tier II information to inform Tier I instruction:

Based on assessment, a majority of seventh grade students in School Z requires vocabulary intervention. After determining the appropriate intervention for the students, we turn our attention to Tier I and ask the following questions:

  • Is the vocabulary content and instruction in Tier I sufficient? If not, identify supplemental programs and/or adjust instruction to increase the focus on vocabulary. If yes, is Tier I being taught as designed?
  • Is the current Tier I vocabulary instruction explicit enough? When choosing a supplement, attend to this distinction. If many students require intervention, perhaps first instruction should be more direct and explicit. More of the same instructional method does not support differentiation in Tier I and will not be sufficient to make a difference.
  • Should we increase the daily time allotment for explicit vocabulary instruction in Tier I? How much time will be required to prevent the need for intervention?
  • Should we change Tier I lesson pacing to allow more time for explicit vocabulary instruction? What pace will allow us to adequately teach high value standards while responding to the vocabulary needs of students in Tier I?

RtI relies on continuous problem solving to identify appropriate interventions, but the process should not stop with students. We must also use this process to problem solve and intervene with each school system. The effective implementation of RtI has much to teach us—about our students’ intervention needs and about our Tier I instruction. We just have to be willing to listen.

Joanne Allain, M.A., serves as a national consultant with 3T Literacy Group, where she specializes in the planning and implementation of RtI systems. She is the author of Logistics of Literacy Intervention: A Planning Guide for Middle and High School (2007), Logistics of Literacy Intervention: An RtI Planning Guide for Elementary Schools (2008), and coauthor with Nancy Eberhardt of RtI: The Forgotten Tier (2012). Joanne can be reached at or

About Joanne Allain

Books by Joanne Allain: The Logistics of Literacy Intervention

Categories: Professional Developement | 2 Comments

“Now What Do I Do?” Coaching Tips for Educators of Children With LD and ADHD

 By Steven A. Richfield, Psy.D.

Children with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) challenge and enrich the daily experiences of teachers and school counselors. The vulnerability of a fragile ego, the unthinking behaviors rooted in impulsivity, or the steep decline of yet another emotional meltdown can prompt a call for help from even the most experienced educator.

The above-mentioned scenarios fall under what I have come to call the “Now what do I do?” syndrome. It is a question that echoes through the minds of adults trying to help kids in the throes of emotion but realizing that we’re not sure what will help. No doubt it’s a familiar position to parents of all children.

Today’s children are often bombarded with social, academic, familial, cultural, and personal pressures that sometimes make growing up feel like living in a boiler room. Add to these situations the diminished resources of ADHD and LD, and such pressures intensify. Since the children I treat as a child psychologist are among this group, I have developed coaching tools to help them prepare for and effectively manage these pressures.

“Coaching” is the term I use to designate how caring adults use informed knowledge to help all children—especially those with special needs—manage the bumps and bruises along their childhood paths. This knowledge is used to help children improve upon their self-control and social skills in a world with high expectations and sharp penalties.

The selection of the “coach” role grows out of my belief that those who guide children benefit from a reference point to guide their own efforts. While much of my professional time has thus far been devoted to developing and expanding upon the parent coaching approach, the tools and techniques lend themselves directly to educators. If you are one of the millions of teachers or school counselors who seek to steer ADHD and LD kids straight along the path of growth, I offer these tips to you. Hopefully, these notions will provide some answers during the “Now what do I do?” moments.

1. The coaching role stresses that adults demonstrate through words and actions that they are on the same “team” as the child.

When emotions are peaking, children with ADHD and LD tend to perceive adults as taking sides and rushing to judgment. Sometimes these perceptions are accurate. Therefore, the coaching approach requires a nurturing tone of voice and an open mind to listen to the child’s point of view. Foremost in the coach’s mind is the thought, “I want to make this child feel safe enough to let me use this situation to help them improve their handling of it next time around.”

2. When it’s time to huddle, have your “verbal playbook” ready.

Once you have built a trusting dialogue, it’s time to offer them your explanations about what went wrong. Explain how their thinking side (the part of their mind that makes good decisions and watches over their behavior) sometimes loses control over their reacting side (the part of them that reacts emotionally to triggers in their life). This commonsense dichotomy resonates with most children’s experience and allows you to explain how certain traps in their life trigger the reacting side. Typical traps include being teased, insulted, or feeling embarrassed by some difficulty. Give examples of how this has happened in your life and perhaps in the lives of famous people.

3. Offer “thinking side messages” as preventive strategies.

Many children don’t appreciate the significance of how their thoughts fuel their actions. This internal language is often running in the background of their interactions with others, sometimes spurring them on to an impulsive response to one of their traps. Explain how the way we talk to ourselves when we are facing one of our traps sets the stage for whether the thinking side or reacting side wins the battle for control over our behavior. Emphasize “we” to reduce the chances of sounding accusatory or blaming. Give examples of how if they say to themselves, “I’m going to get even with that kid,” the results are going to be much different than if they say to themselves, “I’m not going to take the bait from that kid.”

4. Offer “talking tools” to manage the power of peer dynamics.

One reason that kids succumb to their traps is the wish to “save face” during potent peer encounters. But well-chosen words—to which ADHD and LD kids may not have quick access—convey power. Here are several responses to propose to the child who becomes inarticulate when the pressure builds: “This is just the kind of situation that leads you on the wrong road; Be my guest, but don’t wait for me to follow because you’re on your own; I don’t have to prove anything to you that I already know to be true; If you can’t see where this is heading, then I suggest you take some time to think it over.”

5. The prevention of future trouble is aided by practicing and processing.

You can prepare the child for improved coping by speaking beforehand about what is likely to happen in a given situation. Self-control is also fostered by rehearsing situations with the child so that they can practice their silent self-control strategies. Afterward, process the child’s experience by reviewing how well they coped with their trap. Reassure them thatit requires a lot of practice for all of us to use our thinking side when our traps are tempting us. Praise them for their willingness to discuss and desire to change for the better.

Please accept these suggestions as my expression of appreciation and offer of help to those who devote their professional time to enriching the lives of children with ADHD and LD. It is my sincere hope that some of these ideas will make for more meaningful experiences for you and those you teach and/or counsel.

Steven Richfield, Psy.D., is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He has developed a child-friendly self-control/social skills-building program called The Parent Coach. He can be reached at or 610-238-4450.

About Steven Richfield

Products by Steven Richfield: The Parent Coach

Categories: Family, Positive School Climate | 7 Comments

Implementing Behavioral Interventions With Fidelity and Measuring Effectiveness Using a Social Validity Scale

By Ray  Beck

Among the challenges in bringing the Response to Intervention (RtI) effort to the shop floor is the fact many of our general classroom teachers leave preservice programs without the course work, training, and skill sets necessary to implement specific behavioral interventions. With curriculum and instructional methods being the focus, behavior management has often been left on the back burner.

However, with the advancement of RtI, most general education teachers will encounter and be asked to teach atypical learners who often exhibit behaviors described as hyperactive, off-task, aggressive, inappropriate, troublesome, rude, mean-spirited, disruptive, unruly, distractive, disorderly, and so on.

One of the problems—whether it be a new teacher recently out of a university program or a seasoned veteran—is providing quality staff development, training, and consultation embedding evidence-based interventions that are practical, user-friendly, and cost-effective.  Frankly, given the resources available, teachers find many intervention trainings beyond the scope of reality.

If staff development is complicated, time-consuming, or unfriendly, teachers simply won’t use the interventions. If, on the other hand, staff development is practical and user-friendly, teachers will be eager to implement the interventions.

Professional development modules should provide quality training in: (1) choosing an appropriate/practical intervention to match the problem behavior; (2) developing the skill set associated with the intervention; (3) implementing the intervention with fidelity; and (4) collecting data and evaluating the extent to which the intervention was effective.

Using a research-based intervention, Check-In/Check-Out (Hawken et al.), “fidelity of implementation” and “evaluating effectiveness” will be briefly explored.

Challenges of Implementing  Interventions With Fidelity  

When interventions fail, we might hear: “I tried that, and it didn’t work; … too many other students; … not a good match between the intervention and problem behavior; … no follow-up; … not research-based; …too many other things going on; … I need more help;  …he/she should be removed from my class; … my focus is academics; … and, as for RtI, this too shall likely pass.

Bottom line: Many interventions are determined ineffective for lack of implementation fidelity.

Fidelity, as used here, refers to ensuring the intervention was implemented as the designers intended. Three critical steps are necessary to ensure positive outcomes when implementing interventions:

  1. First, there needs to be a good match between a problem behavior and a research-based intervention (primal screaming is not research-based).
  2. Second, teachers must be appropriately trained in using the intervention the way it was designed.
  3. Third, a follow-up plan must be in place to measure implementation fidelity.

In one fidelity study (Noell et al.), teachers were trained in specific behavioral interventions and divided into three groups. Each group was followed using behavioral coaches as consultants. The first group received brief weekly visits where the coach asked, through a scripted interview, how things were going. The second group received brief weekly visits where the coach reminded the teachers of their commitment to the intervention. The third group had weekly meetings where the coach reviewed “performance data,” including charts, graphs, incident reports, etc. Researchers found the most promising fidelity model was weekly consultations where frequent performance data were discussed.

Challenges to Determining the Level of Effectiveness

There exist a number of designs to measure effectiveness/impact of interventions, but if data collection becomes too complicated or time-consuming, teachers may neglect this critical element. Data collection plans must be developed keeping in mind the “collector.”

Recently an argument has been made to consider social validity as a scale in determining the level of an intervention’s effectiveness.

The idea behind social validity (consumer satisfaction) is that it is simple, straightforward, and well-accepted within the research community (Kazdin). Basically, the concept of social validity as used here requires a teacher, on returning from in-service on a specific behavioral intervention, to answer three central questions: (1) To what extent did he/she use the intervention; (2) To what extent did he/she like the intervention; and (3) To what extent did he/she find the intervention effective?

From these data, we can make intervention decisions and ultimately determine a level of statistical and/or educational significance.

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), through a contract with Sopris Educational Services, employed the use it, like it, effective scales in measuring a major RtI staff development initiative involving hundreds of teachers. The Georgia State Department of Education used the same scales to measure the effectiveness of a Sopris product, resulting in a statewide adoption. Results from the Georgia study showed a strong correlation between teachers who “liked” the intervention and found it “effective.”

Check-In/Check-Out (CICO) is a targeted support intervention designed so that students can receive feedback about their behavior throughout the school day. After each subject or period, teachers provide a simple evaluation of progress toward specific goals using a behavior report card. Progress is graphed, and students are reinforced when criterion for performance is met. Lastly, parents may be asked to sign students’ daily progress report to facilitate communication between home and school.

To ensure fidelity of implementation, a “coaching card” with a Likert-type scale might be used by the behavior coach and/or teacher to rate the extent to which the following CICO steps were completed:

  1. Identify the student and describe one to four “appropriate behavior” goals.
  2. Teach the student appropriate behaviors.
  3. Determine through functional behavioral assessment (FBA) if the student uses problem behavior to gain/get something or escape/avoid something.
  4. Develop a numeric rating (0-2) to award points with a procedure to summarize daily scores and evaluate progress.
  5. Teach the student how points are awarded on the daily progress report. Explicitly explain all aspects of the CICO program.
  6. Write a behavior contract that defines expectations for students, the CICO coordinator (designated school person if available), and parents/guardian.
  7. Summarize weekly data and monitor progress on meeting daily points. Use data to determine if a student should be continued, modified, or faded from the program.
  8. Behavior report cards are signed by a parent/guardian and brought to school the next day.

From the eight steps listed in the CICO intervention, participants are asked to judge on a five-point scale the extent to which they used, liked, and found effective each step and requirement. Keep in mind you can use something, but not like it; or like it, but not use it; or like and use something, but not find it effective.

When it comes to implementing behavioral interventions with fidelity and measuring their effectiveness, a coaching card listing the essential elements of the specific intervention, along with a social-validity scale, can simplify the process and significantly increase positive results.

Ray Beck, Ed.D., is a consultant, author, and former vice president for Sopris Learning. As a school psychologist and former director of special education in Great Falls, Montana, he directed the development of two U.S. Department of Education-validated programs: Project RIDE (Responding to Individual Differences in Education) and Basic Skill Builders.

About Ray Beck

Books by Ray Beck: RIDE Behavior Intervention BankOne Minute Fluency Builders SeriesOne-Minute Academic Functional Assessment and InterventionsPracticing Basic Skills in ReadingPracticing Basic Skills in Language Arts BookPracticing Basic Skills in MathBasic Skill Builders


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