Using Tiered Instruction To Maximize Student Outcomes

tiered instruction article

As educators, your goal is to help every student in our classroom reach their full potential. However, with different learning styles, abilities, and needs, it can be challenging to meet the needs of every student in a class. This is where tiered instruction comes in, providing a framework that allows you to differentiate instruction to meet the unique needs of each student.

Understanding Tiered Instruction

What is tiered instruction.

Tiered instruction involves designing multiple levels of instruction for the same lesson or activity, with each level addressing the learning needs of different students. This approach allows you to provide support to struggling students, challenge advanced learners, and meet the learning needs of students in the middle.

Tiered instruction is a powerful tool because it allows you to differentiate instruction and meet the needs of all students, regardless of their abilities or learning styles. By providing multiple levels of instruction, you can ensure that all of your students are challenged and engaged in the learning process.

Benefits of Tiered Instruction for Students and Teachers

For students, the benefits of tiered instruction include the opportunity to receive instruction that meets their unique needs, which can increase classroom engagement and promote a growth mindset. When students feel that their learning needs are being met and you find that perfect balance of material that isn’t too easy or too challenging, your students are more likely to be motivated and invested in their own learning. 

As an elementary teacher, tiered instruction allows you to differentiate instruction and meet the needs of all your students, even in classrooms with a wide range of abilities. This can reduce the stress and frustration of lesson plans falling apart when half your students are struggling with material while half of your class breezes through and now is bored and waiting for more. Outside of helping you run more effective lessons, tiered instruction helps you ensure that all your students, regardless of ability, are meeting your desired learning outcomes.

Key Components of a Successful Tiered Instruction Model

A successful tiered instruction model includes several key components. These include identifying student needs and learning styles, creating tiered lesson plans and activities, differentiating instruction for each tier, and utilizing technology to support instruction.

Identifying student needs and learning styles is an important first step in creating a successful tiered instruction model. You must understand the unique needs of your students in order to create effective tiered instruction plans because this will directly impact how well you can adjust your materials to meet their diverse needs.

Creating tiered lesson plans and activities is another important component of a successful tiered instruction model. This involves using your knowledge of your students to design activities that are challenging and engaging for them regardless of their ability level.

Differentiating instruction for each tier is crucial for ensuring that every student is challenged and engaged in the learning process. Teachers must provide instruction that is tailored to the needs of each student, which may involve modifying assignments, providing additional resources, or offering one-on-one support.

Utilizing technology to support instruction is another important component of a successful tiered instruction model. Technology can provide students with additional resources and support, and can also help teachers to track student progress and provide targeted feedback. Kodable , for example, is an online educational game that helps teach K-5 students the basics of computer programming in a fun and engaging way. Because lessons are self-paced, this helps facilitate tiered instruction by allowing students to progressively work through levels at their own speed.

In summary, tiered instruction is a powerful tool that allows you to meet the needs of all students in your class. By identifying student needs and learning styles, creating tiered lesson plans and activities around those needs, differentiating instruction for each tier, and utilizing technology to support instruction, you can create a learning environment that is engaging, challenging, and effective for all your students.

Implementing Tiered Instruction in the Classroom

Implementing tiered instruction in the classroom can be a highly effective way to meet the diverse needs of your students. By grouping students according to their needs and strengths, you can provide targeted instruction and support that meets each student where they are at. Below are some key steps to implementing tiered instruction in the classroom.

Identifying Student Needs and Learning Styles

The first step in implementing tiered instruction is identifying students' needs and learning styles. This can be done through a variety of methods, including pre-assessments, observations, and conversations with students. By understanding each student's unique needs and learning style, you can create tiers that are tailored to each group of students.

For example, some students may be visual learners, while others may be auditory learners. Some students may struggle with certain concepts, while others may excel. By taking the time to understand each student's individual needs and strengths, teachers can create tiers that are optimized for learning and growth. See our full guide on teacher assessment tools for more information on pre-assessments and other types of assessments.

Creating Tiered Lesson Plans and Activities

Creating tiered lesson plans and activities is the next step in implementing tiered instruction. You should design each tier to include activities and tasks that address the needs and learning styles of the students in a particular group. These activities should build upon each other, with increasingly difficult tasks for advanced learners and additional support for struggling students.

For example, in a math class, the advanced tier may work on more complex problems that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills . The middle tier may work on similar problems, but with more support and guidance from the teacher. The struggling tier may work on simpler problems, with additional support and scaffolding from you.

Differentiating Instruction for Each Tier

Differentiating instruction for each tier is central to the success of tiered instruction. You should utilize a variety of instructional strategies, such as small group instruction, individualized instruction, and peer tutoring, to meet the needs of each group of students. You should also provide support and guidance as needed to help your students work through any challenges they may face.

For example, in a language arts class, the advanced tier may work on writing an essay independently, while the middle tier may work on the same essay with some guidance and support from the teacher. The struggling tier may work on a simpler writing assignment, with more support and scaffolding from the teacher. However, it’s important to make sure that when you create student tiers that you do so in a thoughtful way to ensure that students do not feel like they are in a superior or non-superior group.

Utilizing Technology to Support Tiered Instruction

Technology can be a valuable tool in supporting tiered instruction. You can use online resources, educational apps, and interactive whiteboards to provide additional instruction, practice, and feedback for students at each level. Thankfully there are even a number of free teacher technology tools that can help you get started with no budget needed.

For example, in a science class, the advanced tier may use a virtual lab to conduct experiments and analyze data. The middle tier may use the same virtual lab, but with additional guidance and support from the teacher. The struggling tier may use a simpler virtual lab, with more support and scaffolding from the teacher.

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By identifying student needs and learning styles, creating tiered lesson plans and activities, differentiating instruction for each tier, and utilizing technology, teachers can create a learning environment that is optimized for growth and success.

Assessing and Monitoring Student Progress

Assessing and monitoring student progress is a critical component of effective teaching and learning. It helps you understand what students know and can do, and it provides your students with feedback on their progress. In tiered instruction, a variety of assessment strategies can help you track student growth and make any necessary adjustments to instruction.

Formative and Summative Assessments in Tiered Instruction

Formative assessments are ongoing assessments that are used to track student progress in real-time. These assessments can take many forms, including quizzes, exit tickets, observations, and discussions. You can use formative assessments to identify areas where students may be struggling and to adjust instruction accordingly.

Summative assessments, on the other hand, provide a snapshot of overall student performance at the end of a unit or lesson. These assessments can take the form of tests, projects, or presentations. Use summative assessments to evaluate student learning and to determine if your students have met the learning objectives for a particular unit or lesson.

Learn more about formative, summative, and other types of assessments in our teacher assessment tools guide.

Tracking Student Growth and Adjusting Instruction

Based on the results of assessments, you should make any necessary adjustments to their instruction. These adjustments may include modifying lesson plans or activities, providing additional support or challenging students with more complex tasks, and revisiting content that students may have struggled with before. By tracking student growth and adjusting instruction, you can ensure that all your students are making progress and are being appropriately challenged by your material.

Providing Feedback and Encouraging Self-Assessment

Feedback is a critical component of effective teaching and learning that helps encourage achieving and struggling students to keep pushing on. You should provide feedback to students on their progress, both formally and informally to help facilitate this. Feedback can take many forms, including written comments, verbal feedback, and rubrics. By providing feedback, you help your students understand their strengths and weaknesses and provide guidance on how to improve.

In addition to providing feedback, you should also encourage self-assessment. By encouraging students to reflect on their own learning, you can help them take ownership of their progress and empower them to become independent learners. Self-assessment can include self-reflection, peer assessment, and goal-setting.

Overall, assessing and monitoring student progress is an essential component of tiered instruction. By using a variety of assessment strategies, tracking student growth, and providing feedback and self-assessment opportunities, you can ensure that all students are making progress and are being appropriately challenged.

Collaborating with Colleagues and Parents

Building a supportive school culture for tiered instruction.

Building a positive classroom culture is essential to the success of tiered instruction in your classroom. Collaborating with your colleagues to share resources and best practices and create a cohesive approach to tiered instruction school-wide is a great way to ensure that not just your classroom, but your entire school are taking the right steps to educate all students.

Collaboration among your colleagues can be creating and sharing lesson plans and activities across multiple classes, sharing strategies for differentiating instruction , and sharing strategies for supporting struggling students. By working together, you and your colleagues can create a supportive learning environment that benefits all students.

In addition to collaborating with colleagues, you can also seek out resources and attend professional development opportunities to learn more about effective tiered instruction strategies. By staying up-to-date on the latest research and best practices, you can strengthen their instructional practices and provide better support to all students.

Engaging Parents in the Tiered Instruction Process

You should also engage parents in the tiered instruction process to ensure there isn’t any misunderstanding. This can be done through parent-teacher conferences, newsletters, and other communication methods that you already are using today. By involving parents in the instructional process, you can gain valuable insights into their child's needs and strengths and build a partnership with parents to support student learning.

Parents can also be a valuable resource to provide information about their child's interests, learning style, and home environment. This information can help you create more effective instructional plans and provide targeted support to students.

Overall, building a supportive school culture requires collaboration and communication among teachers, parents, and students. By working together, you can help create a learning environment that supports the success of all students.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is tier 1 tier 2 tier 3 education.

Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 are terms often used in the context of Response to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). They refer to different levels or tiers of instructional support provided to students based on their academic needs. Here's a breakdown of each tier:

Tier 1: This is the core instruction that is provided to all students in the general education classroom. It encompasses the regular curriculum and teaching strategies used for the majority of students. Tier 1 instruction is designed to meet the needs of the average learner.

Tier 2: This tier involves targeted interventions provided to students who require additional support beyond the standard Tier 1 instruction. It focuses on specific skills or areas where students are struggling. Tier 2 interventions are typically delivered in small groups and can be provided by the classroom teacher or a specialist.

Tier 3: Tier 3 is the most intensive level of support and is tailored to meet the needs of students who require significant individualized assistance. Students in Tier 3 typically have persistent difficulties and may receive more specialized interventions or one-on-one instruction. These interventions often involve more frequent progress monitoring and may be provided by specialized interventionists or special education teachers.

The goal of the tiered approach is to provide targeted and differentiated instruction to ensure that students receive the appropriate level of support based on their individual needs.

What is an example of a tiered lesson?

A tiered lesson is designed to address the varied needs of students within a classroom. Here's an example of a tiered lesson for a science topic:

Objective : Students will understand the water cycle.

Tier 1: Students will identify and label the basic stages of the water cycle (e.g., evaporation, condensation, precipitation).

Tier 2: Students will explain the processes of the water cycle and their interconnections using diagrams or visual representations.

Tier 3: Students will investigate and analyze factors that influence the water cycle in different environments (e.g., temperature, wind patterns, topography) and present their findings through written reports or presentations.

In this example, each tier addresses the learning objective but provides varying levels of complexity and depth based on students' abilities. This allows students to engage with the content at a level that matches their readiness and skills.

How do you use tiered instruction in your classroom?

To incorporate tiered instruction in your classroom, consider the following steps:

Assess student needs: Use a variety of formative assessments, observations, and data to determine students' strengths and areas of improvement.

Identify tiers and design activities: Create tiered activities or assignments that address the same core objective but offer different levels of challenge, complexity, or support.

Group students: Organize students into appropriate tiers based on their assessed needs. You can use flexible grouping to rearrange or change groups over time as students' progress.

Provide instruction and support: Deliver instruction at each tier, ensuring that students receive appropriate content, strategies, and resources based on their tier placement.

Monitor progress: Continuously assess and monitor students' progress to determine the effectiveness of the tiered instruction and make any necessary adjustments.

Differentiate as needed: Be prepared to make further adaptations or modifications for individual students who may require additional support or enrichment beyond the tiered activities.

By implementing tiered instruction, you can meet the diverse needs of your students, provide targeted support, and promote their overall growth and achievement.

Tiered instruction offers a powerful framework for meeting the unique needs of all students in your classroom. By identifying student needs and learning styles, creating tiered lesson plans and activities, and utilizing technology to support instruction, you can differentiate instruction to provide the right level of challenge and support for each of your student. By assessing and monitoring student progress, collaborating with colleagues and parents, and building a supportive school culture, you can also create an environment where all students can thrive and reach their full potential. By maximizing student outcomes through tiered instruction, you can truly make a difference in the lives of your students!

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The Impact of Differentiated Instruction on Students’ Reading Comprehension Attainment in Mixed-Ability Classrooms

  • Published: 17 April 2021
  • Volume 52 , pages 255–272, ( 2021 )

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  • Ibrahim Suleiman Ibrahim Magableh   ORCID: 1 &
  • Amelia Abdullah   ORCID: 2  

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This explanatory sequential quasi-experimental study investigated the impact of differentiated instruction on reading comprehension attainment in mixed-ability classrooms. Fifty-four tenth grade students from two classes in two different schools took part in the study. They were randomly distributed into an experimental group (n = 27) and control group n = (27). The experimental group was taught reading comprehension following differentiated instruction strategies of homogeneous grouping, tiered assignment and tiered instruction in the areas of content, process and product. The experimental group was supported with modified reading comprehension texts from Action Pack 10, supplementary materials and leveled short stories. The control group was taught in the one-size-fits-all method using Action Pack 10th text books only. The study is a mixed-method design where quantitative and qualitative methods were used to collect data. The main objective was to investigate the effect of differentiated instruction on secondary stage. The researchers used the pre-test/post-test scores to collect the quantitative data followed by a student semi-structured interview after the experiment. T-test results revealed that differentiated instruction was effective in increasing reading comprehension achievement for the early secondary stage. The experimental group outperformed their counterparts in the control group.

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Tiered Approaches to the Education of Students with Learning Disabilities

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By Kyle Robinson and Dr. Nancy L. Hutchinson

The expression “tiered approaches” has been used in two distinct but related ways with reference to the education of students with learning disabilities (LDs). Each of these approaches is described below.

First, the Ontario Ministry of Education has advocated the use of what it calls the Tiered Approach to Early Identification and Intervention in both Education for All (2005) and Learning for All (2013) as a method of instruction and early identification of students with exceptionalities. Specifically, the Ministry defines it as “a systematic approach to providing high-quality, evidence-based assessment and instruction and appropriate interventions that respond to students’ individual needs” (2005, p. 22). The Ministry has devised a three-tier system, as shown in Figure 1. This is often referred to as Response to Intervention (RTI) outside of Ontario, a process whereby sound, evidence-based, differentiated teaching is used to instruct all students, but students who do not respond to this instruction, or who need further help, are moved up through a series of increasingly intensive interventions.

The second ‘tiered approach’ is used when designing classroom lessons and assessments. Students are grouped and then taught and assessed on different levels of content on the same general curricular topic, in fluid groupings. Students may choose or teachers may assign students to one of a number of levels of challenge in classroom learning tasks and associated assessment.

The Tiered Approach to Intervention (also called RTI)

The typical method of identifying students with LDs is often referred to as a “wait to fail” model – where referrals for additional instruction or educational support are only provided after a student has failed to learn. This method is prone to several disadvantages, which include “relatively late identification for students who have special needs; imprecise screening through teacher observation; false negatives (i.e., unidentified students) who are not provided necessary services or provided services too late; and the use of identification measures that are not linked to instruction” (Vaughn & Fuchs, 2003, p. 139). Through the Tiered Approach to Intervention, students are assessed based on risk, rather than deficit, meaning that intervention is proactive rather than reactive. Vaughn and Fuchs (2003) discuss several other benefits to this proactive approach, including early identification of students with LDs, a reduction in identification bias, and a strong focus on student outcomes.

The most common form of the Tiered Approach to Intervention is called Response to Intervention (RTI), and is a process whereby all students are taught using sound, evidence-based teaching practices designed to allow all students to succeed. If students fail to learn a particular concept, or struggle to learn it, they may be moved to Tier 2, which is intense and focused small group instruction. If a student grasps the concept, they can return to the general Tier 1 learning environment, but students who continue to fail to make progress are moved to Tier 3. This last Tier is typically comprised of individual instruction, “which may be special education in some areas” (Mastroppieri, Scruggs, Hauth, & Allen-Bronaugh, 2012, p. 231).

The Tiered Approach championed by the Ontario Government is mainly comprised of methods that would be considered interventions. The scientific studies cited are intervention-based and, as Mattatall (2008) suggests, Ontario documents use “more [of] the language and approach of RTI” than most provinces. Furthermore, “it appears that Ontario leads the rest of Canada in promoting a tiered format” to instruction and intervention” (Matattall, 2008, p. 15).

Research Supporting the Tiered Approach to Intervention

Sharon Vaughn and her colleagues have conducted the majority of research cited by the Ontario Ministry of Education documents in support of the use of tiered instruction. Vaughn, Linan-Thompson and Hickman (2003) showed that using a tiered approach to instruction could help improve student’s word attack (ability to decode words), fluency (ability to read rapidly and accurately), and comprehension (ability to understand what is read. They also found that the majority of students met grade expectations following tier two.

In a study from the same year Vaughn et al. (2003c) looked at how the ratio of teachers to students impacts instruction for students with reading disabilities. They reported that the lower the ratio, the higher the scores on typical reading measures. However, there was no significant difference between a 1:3 ratio teachers to students and a 1:1 ratio. This evidence strongly suggests that the movement to a smaller group increases a student’s ability to learn, especially for those at risk of a reading disability.

A similar study was conducted by O’Connor (2000), with Kindergarten students at risk for reading disabilities. O’Connor suggests that starting an intense process of tiered intervention in “kindergarten might ‘jump-start’ these [reading] skills among children who lacked exposure and opportunity and assist in identifying children who may be more ‘truly’ reading disabled” (p. 44). Essentially, O’Connor was looking to reduce the number of students being identified as having reading disabilities, when their low abilities in reading stemmed from environmental, rather than developmental, issues. The intense intervention did not result in a decrease in the proportion of students later identified for special education needs; however, there was a decline in reading failure rates. Interestingly, this finding contradicts the results from a Canadian study. Citing reports from the National Reading Panel (2000), Barnes and Wade-Wooley (2007) suggest that “up to 70% of later diagnosed LDs can be prevented with a combination of early screening, progress monitoring, and teaching that is responsive to emerging learning problems” (p. 10) – which are all contained within the Tiered Approach to Intervention.

Whether a tiered approach to intervention decreases identification of LDs or not, these studies suggest that an increasing intensity of instruction based on student needs creates a positive learning environment where students can continue to learn in their regular classroom environment. While the studies above focused mainly on interventions related to reading fluency and comprehension, the tiered approach can be used in many classes when teaching any concepts or skills with which students struggle. Several studies (e.g., Fuchs, Fuchs, & Prentice, 2004; Fuchs et. Al., 2005) have shown that RTI and, by extension, the tiered approach to intervention, has been useful in teaching number sense, word problems, and mathematical operations.

How Might We Use This?

The previously discussed studies have been combined to create a classroom model for tiered instruction that could be implemented in a school board. Although various researchers and texts use different language, the tiered approach (OME, 2005; OME, 2013), progress monitoring (Hutchinson, 2013), and RTI (Vaughn & Fuchs, 2003) embody similar teaching strategies. The tiered system described below is heavily inspired by the method briefly laid out in Education for All (2005), and later refined as part of Learning for All (2013). A basic model of this system is shown in Figure 1.

Tiered Approach represented in a pyramid. At the base there’s Tier 1: Universal Programming : General classroom education, taught by the regular classroom teacher. Conforms to basic principles of Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). May include tiered lessons and assessment. All students monitored closely for potential need to move up a tier. (This tier targets 80 % of students). In the middle of the pyramid there’s Tier 2: Targeted Group Interventions: Small (2 to 5 students) group instruction in addition to continued universal programming from Tier 1. Typically 10 to 20 weeks of extra instruction, 30 – 45 minute duration per session. Students may shift back to Tier 1 after successfully mastering a concept or skill. (This tier targets 15% of students). At the tip of the pyramid there’s Tier 3: Intensive Individual Instruction: Intense, individual interventions and instruction. Can include teaching basic learning skills such as organization and note taking. Includes help from outside the classroom, including special education teachers and administration. Students who are struggle in Tier 1 and 2 to this tier are also often referred for further psycho-educational testing, including screening for LDs. (This tier targets 5% of students).

Figure 1. The Tiered Approach to Intervention; commonly referred to as Response to Intervention (RTI).

Adapted from: Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011; Matattall, 2008; Katz, 2012.

Tier 1: Universal Programming. Tier 1 is the typical classroom environment. The teaching strategies and instruction used here reflect both methods of differentiated instruction and universal design for learning. Classes are structured and planned to reach every student in the class, regardless of exceptionality, and the curriculum goals are not modified. Throughout this process, the classroom teacher monitors the progress of students and notes students who are struggling and falling behind their peers.

There are many different methods to introduce differentiated instruction (DI) into the classroom. Nancy Hutchinson (2014) offers 10 introductory principles of DI to guide teachers:

  • Consider who the students are and use respectful tasks.
  • Be flexible in grouping students.
  • Form heterogeneous groups (based on abilities, interests, etc.).
  • Ensure all students have text they can read by choosing multi-level texts.
  • Ensure all students can respond meaningfully by providing an array of response formats.
  • Show students how to make connections between new and already acquired knowledge.
  • Help students to use strategies by modelling their use.
  • To engage all students, provide choice.
  • To ensure everyone learns, begin where the students are.
  • To show students what they have learned, create an array of assessment vehicles.

(Adapted from Hutchinson, 2014, p. 8)

Education for All (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005) suggests many of the same practices and includes ways in which a teacher might adapt these for specific use in the classroom. When these practices are used effectively, most students learn at a rate that is typical for their developmental stage in Tier 1. Shapiro (2014) suggests that up to 80 percent of students should reach successful levels of learning through Tier 1 support.

Tier 2: Targeted Group Interventions. Once the teacher has gathered enough evidence to show that a student or a number of students is struggling to learn, they are moved to Tier 2. Tier 2 includes more intensive, systematic instruction, often tailored towards a small group of students demonstrating similar difficulties. This could include extra help during school or after school, extra homework, varied readings, or co-teaching support. This Tier does not typically involve removal from the regular classroom environment; rather “the interventions take place in the original classroom, over a set period of time, with different students involved, depending on the skill or concept being addressed” (Katz, 2012, p. 139). Results of instruction and assessment are closely monitored. Once an individual or group of students has mastered the concept or skill, they can return to instruction at Tier 1 for future concepts and skills.

Hutchinson (2013) provides an example of Tier 2 instruction: “if some students in a Grade 1 class are not learning to read with their peers they could be taught in a small group of two to five; this often takes place for ten to twenty weeks for forty-five minutes on most days” (p. 9). The extra instruction provided to students in this tier is not a substitute for the universal programming instruction provided in Tier 1. Rather, it is supplementary to the base instruction (OME, 2005). This means students should essentially be receiving double instruction – some as part of the full classroom, and some in a small group. This tier will, on average, account for an additional 15% of students learning (Shapiro, 2014).

Tier 3: Intensive Individual Interventions. If students are still struggling with material after a period of group instruction at Tier 2, they are moved to Tier 3. This tier involves increased intensity (more instructional time, smaller group size or individual instruction) and increased explicitness (more focus on teaching specific skills). At this level, resources from outside the classroom are brought in to facilitate the learning. This could include a special education teacher, resource room teacher, or administrator. Instruction is tailored to the specific student, and is “precise and personalized” (OME, 2013, p. 24). Interventions in the third tier could also include “instruction in learning strategies provided outside the content area classroom that will enable students to learn independently once they are in content area classes” (Cook & Tankersley, 2013, p. 101). Learning strategies could be broad such as note taking, time management, personal management, or specific to a subject like reading.

Often, students who struggle enough in their learning to make it to this tier are referred for psycho-educational testing – screening for potential learning disabilities or other exceptionalities. Students who are struggling enough to move to this tier are also usually given an Individual Education Plan (IEP), and initial steps may be taken towards establishing an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC).

Wrapping Up the Tiered Approach to Intervention (RTI)

Education for All (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005), calls for teachers to receive “adequate professional development in teacher-based assessment practices, progress monitoring, and intervention strategies for students with special needs” (OME, 2005, p. 60). This tiered approach also requires the participation of the entire school community (administration, special educators, and regular classroom teachers) for its implementation. The separation of duties between classroom teachers and special educators – “in which universal [tier 1] and group [tier 2] interventions become the sole concern of general education and individualized supports [tier 3] the concern of special education” (Agran, Brown, Hughes, Quirk, & Ryndak, 2014, p.109) – is a concern and arises when all school roles are not involved in the tiered approach to intervention. Teachers, administrators, and special educators need to be involved in each step of the process. Thus schools or school boards typically take the initiative to implement a system of RTI or tiered instruction, rather than classroom teachers.

There are still lots of questions to be asked about the implementation of the Tiered Approach, to Intervention. For example, Fuchs and Deshler (2007) discuss the potential limitations of RTI in a secondary school setting. How do teachers successfully implement RTI for a Grade 10 student who is reading at a Grade 2 level (Fuchs & Deshler, 2007)? As well, while reading has been the primary focus of RTI studies (e.g., O’Connor, 2000; Vaughn, Linan-Thompson and Hickman, 2003; Vaughn et al., 2003c) and math (e.g., Fuchs, Fuchs, & Prentice, 2004; Fuchs et. al, 2005), how is RTI successfully implemented for other subjects, such as social sciences? And how can teachers take the initiative to implement this approach if it requires full-school cooperation? However, individual teachers can implement a second tiered approach, as a means of providing differentiated instruction, without outside help.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2005). Education for All: The report of the expert panel on literacy and numeracy instruction for students with special education needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6. Toronto, Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Access at:

The first place that teachers should go to learn about The Tiered Approach. To read about Ontario’s approach to RTI, see page 60. Chapter 2, on planning for inclusion, also provides excellent ideas on Tier 1 teaching strategies.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). Learning for all: A guide to effective assessment and instruction for all students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 . Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Access at:

This document builds upon the work of the earlier Education for All (2005). It includes diagrams and helpful hints at how The Tiered Approach could be adapted for secondary schools.

Kari Draper, Learning Support Teacher at Ottawa-Carlton District School Board  Access at:

Draper provides downloadable documents, charts, and calendars to help classroom teachers monitor the progress of their students when teaching using The Tiered Approach to Interventions in Ontario schools.

The RTI Action Network: A Program of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

This provides excellent articles and further ideas on how to implement RTI in a variety of ways. Content is geared towards the American school system, but can easily be adapted to fit the Ontario curriculum.

DeRuvo, S. L. (2010). The essential guide to RTI: An integrated, evidence-based approach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Although American, this teacher guide to RTI, part of a teaching series, provides excellent, clear ways to implement RTI in classrooms from Kindergarten to Grade 12. It also has easily photo-copied progress reports, student tracking forms, collaboration planning forms, and lesson plan templates to help teachers easily monitor student progress through the tiered approach.

Best practice for RTI: Differentiated reading instruction for all students (tier 1). Access at:

This article, from Reading Rockets, provides examples of how teachers might implement RTI when teaching reading in the early grades (1 – 3). Solutions for common “roadblocks” (or problems) are also discussed.

How can tier 3 be conceptualized in the RTI approach? Access at:

Teachers looking for more information on how Tier 3 (Intensive Individual Interventions) might fit into their use of the Tiered Approach to Intervention should check out this resource, which includes an interview with Dr. Lynn Fuchs, one of the preeminent scholars on RtI in the United States. Other pages help to distinguish between possible interventions provided in Tier 2 and 3.

The Tiered Approach to Classroom Tasks and Classroom Assessment (DI)

The tiered approach to classroom tasks and classroom assessment enables the teacher to provide differentiated instruction (DI) within the individual classroom, by offering opportunities for students to work at varying levels on tasks (and the associated assessment) drawn from the curriculum. This approach conforms to many of the common aspects of universal design for learning (UDL) as well as many of the goals set out in Growing Success (2008).

“Tiering” (for tasks and assessment) can come in two forms – student choice and teacher assigned. Student choice, sometimes referred to as challenge by choice, is an approach to assessment whereby teachers create a series of different tasks and accompanying assessments designed to evaluate the same skill or concept – and allow students to choose. Servillo (2009) suggests that choice is a method to motivate reading, especially for students considered at risk or who have LDs in reading. Servillio describes the creation of a reading activity and assessment that involves three difficulty levels of tasks, in two different areas of the curriculum. Students then choose one item from each difficulty level and area of the curriculum. When practicing comprehension and personal connection to a text, the teacher allows students to read the material in three ways; they may read the chapter silently alone, read every other page aloud with a partner, or follow along as they listen to an audio recording of the chapter. This helps students of various reading abilities to acquire and retain the information that is required to complete the next step, namely comprehension and personal connection questions.

Similar choices are given in the subsequent assessment. To show they comprehended the text, students can do one of three tasks: write answers to the questions they asked themselves as they read the chapter, summarize what was read (or heard) in the chapter, or use an advanced organizer to create a timeline of events for the chapter. This allows students of various levels of competence in reading to complete meaningful learning tasks and to demonstrate what they have learned in a way that works for them.

Tiered instruction and assessment can also prove useful in science, where Adams and Pierce (2003) suggest a process of tiered instruction and assessment that could differentiate learning in one of three ways: “content (what you want the students to learn); process (the way students make sense out of the content); or product (the outcome at the end of a lesson, lesson set, or unit—often a project)” (p. 30). Unlike Servillo’s (2009) student-choice model, Adams and Pierce suggest teacher-assigned grouping of various sizes to meet the learning needs of each student. Groups can be formed based on one of three characteristics: readiness level (below, at, or above grade level), learning profile (auditory, visual, or kinesthetic), or student interest. For example, students grouped together due to a low readiness level “might work very concretely by investigating the kinds of objects that a magnet can attract … A tier of students at a more advanced level of readiness, however, might investigate whether the size of a magnet affects its strength, a more abstract concept” (Adams & Pierce, p. 32). To avoid stigma associated with being a member of a lower level group, Adams and Pierce recommend that teachers consistently change the way students are grouped, using all three sets of characteristics laid out above.

There are times when grouping by readiness level is necessary. This is typically seen when teachers need to assign appropriate level texts to students grouped based on reading ability. Selecting more readable, or lower than grade level texts, is a difficult task. As students age, the content and look of texts tend to change as well. For example, when one compares the look of a young adult book to a book for pre-teens, there is an immediate difference in both content and overall look. Books assigned to the low-readiness group can look or sound childish, turning students who already have reading difficulties away from reading. It is important, then, to look for texts that are hi-low, that is, high in interest, and low in readability. ORCA Publishers ( click here to access the ORCA Publishers website ) specializes in such texts; for example, providing texts that have young-adult stories, but are written at a much lower reading level.

Providing students with lower-level texts is not always appropriate, nor necessary. The advancement of assistive technology in the classroom has made it possible for students to read and comprehend grade-level materials. One such device, the ClassMate Reader , is a portable text reader “designed to promote reading and learning independence” (Floyd & Judge, 2012, p. 52). This portable device reads the material aloud while highlighting the individual words and phrases in order for the student to follow along. Studying the effects of the device on student’s reading comprehension, Floyd and Judge found that students were able to increase their average score on a basic comprehension test while using the device. Some students more than tripled their score, with one student going from 20% without the device, to 80% with it. While the ClassMate Reader is a portable handheld device, many boards within Ontario have access to similar programs on their school’s desktop and laptop computers. Computer programs such as Read&Write Gold ( click here to access the Read&Write Gold website ) and Kurzweil ( click here to access the Kurzweil website ) provide the same functions as ClassMate Reader , and often have free trial periods.

Assistive technology can also help increase a student’s reading fluency. READ 180, from Scholastic, Inc., is one of the few assistive technology programs specifically designed for older students, specifically those in Grades 4 – 12. Using a blended classroom environment (part online, part in class) students learn about a variety of topics while reading ebooks (some books are also available as paperbacks as well). Students track difficulties with the software, using text-to-speech programs (like those seen in the previous paragraph) for particularly difficult segments. After reading, the software immediately provides instruction on key concepts or words the student struggled with. The online student dashboard monitors student progress, and outputs it in two ways. For students, it uses “research-based gaming behaviors,” turning the process of reading into a game – students are able to track their “streaks and trophies earned” (Read 180, 2013). Teachers receive student performance data, allowing for targeted interventions on areas individual students need most. It also allows teachers to group students for differentiated instruction, while providing lesson-planning tools. The program is a success, with one school board in the United States seeing “significant gains in reading fluency and comprehension for special education students” (Hasselbring & Bausch, 2005, p. 74). Perhaps the most exciting part about READ 180 are it’s long term effects – Palmer (2003) found that “18 percent of the students in the study no longer required special education services for reading after one year of intervention” (as cited in Hasselbring & Bausch, 2005, p. 74). Although the system is currently based on American Common Core standards, it can still be used in Canada as a powerful monitoring tool.

Concluding Comments on the Tiered Approach to Classroom Tasks and Classroom Assessment (DI)

Carol Tomlinson, a leading expert on differentiation, refers to this tiered approach as forming “the meat and potatoes of differentiated instruction” (Tomlinson, 2009, as cited in Adams & Pierce, 2003, p. 31). Like most differentiated instructional methods, this tiered approach reaches all students within a classroom not just those with LDs. Both elementary and secondary school teachers can use a multi-tiered lesson to teach concepts and skills. Similarly, assessments can be tiered in both panels as well. While there are many examples of this tiered approach to be found in the literature and in usage by thoughtful teachers, there are few rigorous studies.

Adams, C. M., & Pierce, R. L. (2003). Teaching by tiering. Science and Children, 41 (3), 30–34.

A step-by-step guide to creating a tiered lesson, using science as an example curriculum. Available through the National Science Teacher Association website. Click here to access the website.

Servillo, K. R. (2009). You get to choose! Motivating students to read through differentiated instruction. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus 5 (5), 1–11.

Like Adams and Pierce above, this is a step-by-step process to creating a tiered assessment, using reading as a curricular backbone.

Tomlinson, C. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

This textbook provides great, easy to read instructions on differentiating in your classroom, with a strong focus on tiering both lessons and assignments.

Agran, M., Brown, F., Huges, C., Quirk, C, & Ryndak, D. (2014). Equity and full participation for individuals with severe learning disabilities: A vision for the future. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.

Barnes, M. A., & Wade-Woolley, L. (2007). Where there’s a will there are ways to close the achievement gap for children with learning difficulties. Orbit, 37 , 9–13.

Canada. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2005). Education for All: The report of the expert panel on literacy and numeracy instruction for students with special education needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6. Toronto, Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Canada. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2008). Growing Success: Assessment, evaluation, and reporting in Ontario schools. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Canada. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2011). Learning for all: A guide to effective assessment and instruction for all students, Kindergarten to Grade 12. (Draft). Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Cook, B. G., & Tankersley, M. (2013). Research based practices in special education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Floyd, K. K., & Judge, S. L. (2012). The efficacy of assistive technology on reading comprehension for post-secondary students with learning disabilities. Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, 8, 48–64.

Fuchs, D., & Deshler, D. D. (2007). What we need to know about responsiveness to intervention (and shouldn’t be afraid to ask). Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 22 , 129–136.

Fuchs, L.S., Compton, D.L., Fuchs, D., Paulsen, K., Bryant, J. & Hamlett, C.L. (2005). Responsiveness to intervention: Preventing and identifying mathematics disability. Teaching Exceptional Children, 37 (4), 60-63.

Fuchs, L.S., Fuchs, D., & Prentice, K. (2004). Responsiveness to mathematical problem-solving instruction among students with risk for mathematics disability with and without risk for reading disability. Journal of Learning Disabilities , 4 , 293-306.

Hasselbring, T. S., & Bausch, M. E. (2005). Assistive technologies for reading: text reader programs, word-prediciton software, and other aids empower youth with learning disabilities. Educational Leadership, 63 (4), 72–75.

Hutchinson, N. (2013). Inclusion of exceptional learning in Canadian schools: A practical handbook for teachers (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: Pearson.

Katz, J. (2012). Teaching to diversity: The three-block model of universal design for learning. Winnipeg, MB: Portage & Main Press.

Mastroppieri, M. A., Scruggs, T. E., Hauth, C., & Allen-Bronaugh, D. (2012). Instructional interventions for students with mathematics learning disabilities. In B. Wong & D. L. Butler (Eds.), Learning About Learning Disabilities (4th ed.) (pp. 217–242). London, United Kingdom: Academic Press.

Mattatall, C. (2008, June). Gauging the readiness of Canadian school districts to implement responsiveness to intervention.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, Vancouver, B. C.

National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC:National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Shapiro, E. S. (2014). Tiered instruction and intervention in a response-to-intervention-model . Retrieved from:

Vaugh, S., Linan-Thompson, S., Kouzekanani, K., Bryan, D. P., Sickson, S., & Blozis, S. A. (2003c). Reading instruction grouping for students with reading difficulties. Remedial and Special Education 24 , 301–315.

Vaughn, S. & Fuchs, L. S. (2003a). Redefining learning disabilities as inadequate response to instruction: The promise and potential problems. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18 , 137 – 146.

Vaughn, S., Linan-Thompson, S., & Hickman, P. (2003b). Response to instruction as a means of identifying students with reading/learning disabilities. Exceptional Children, 69 , 391–409.

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Nancy L. Hutchinson is a professor of Cognitive Studies in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. Her research has focused on teaching students with learning disabilities (e.g., math and career development) and on enhancing workplace learning and co-operative education for students with disabilities and those at risk of dropping out of school. In the past five years, in addition to her research on transition out of school, Nancy has worked with a collaborative research group involving researchers from Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia on transition into school of children with severe disabilities. She teaches courses on inclusive education in the preservice teacher education program as well as doctoral seminars on social cognition and master’s courses on topics including learning disabilities, inclusion, and qualitative research. She has published six editions of a textbook on teaching students with disabilities in the regular classroom and two editions of a companion casebook.

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Tiered Lessons: One Way to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction

This article is about differentiation. Due to the broad range of academic needs among students, teachers find themselves in a dilemma. The Burris Laboratory School outlines how teachers can reach all the students in their classrooms when they are academically diverse, have special needs, are ESL learners or have some combination of any or all of these factors.

Author: Adams, C. & Pierce, R. Publications: Gifted Child Today Publisher: Prufrock Press Volume: Vol. 27, Issue 2, pp. 50-65 Year: 2004

The movement toward inclusion has impacted classrooms by requiring teachers to respond to a broader range of academic needs. How can we possibly reach all the students in our classrooms when they are academically diverse, have special needs, are ESL learners, or have some combination of any or all of these factors? An answer to this question lies in differentiating instruction. Working in the Burris Laboratory School, an inclusion school using a resource consultation model to serve the needs of all its students, we have found that using tiered lessons is a viable method for differentiating instruction.

What is Differentiation?

Although differentiated instruction is not a new idea, the differentiation movement has recently taken center stage as a means of meeting the needs of all students in the classroom. It is an organized, yet flexible way of proactively adjusting teaching and learning to meet students where they are and help all students achieve maximum growth as learners (Tomlinson, 1999). Instruction may be differentiated in content/input, process/sense-making, or product/output according to the students’ readiness, interest, or learning style. By  content , we mean the material that is being presented.  Process  activities help students practice or make sense out of the content, while  product  refers to the outcome of the lesson or unit, such as a test, project, or paper.  Readiness  refers to prior knowledge and a student’s current skill and proficiency with the material presented in the lesson. A student’s interest may be assessed with an interest inventory for the particular topic being studied or by an individual conversation with the student. Many teachers use the theory of multiple intelligences to characterize learning styles (Armstrong, 1994; Gardner, 1993; Martin, 1996).

Essential elements for successful differentiation include specific classroom management techniques addressing the special needs of a differentiated classroom, planned use of anchoring activities, and flexible use of time, space, and student groups. In a differentiated classroom, the management plan must include rules for working in a variety of configurations. You can only work with one group or individual at a time. Therefore, we have developed two critical rules that thwart chaos and preserve sanity. The first is “Use six-inch voices,” meaning that students should modulate their speaking level so that their voices can only be heard six inches away. The second rule is “Ask three before me.” If students need assistance completing a task or come to a stumbling block in a lesson and you are not available, they should find three other students to ask before they may interrupt you. If their three peers cannot answer the question, the student has permission to interrupt you. Adding the caveat that the student should also bring along the three students who were asked will nearly eliminate the chance that you will be interrupted except in extreme cases. Anchoring or “sponge” activities are provided for students to use when they are waiting for you to assist them before they can go any further or at the beginning of the class period to get them ready to work. A wide variety of materials and resources can serve as anchoring activities (see our  website  for a listing of books that have great activities for anchoring). Flexible grouping arrangements such as pairs, triads, or quads, as well as whole-group and small-group instruction, create opportunities to meet individual needs. A flexible use of time allows lessons to proceed to their natural conclusion, rather than being carried out in set blocks of time. The desks or tables should be arranged in such a way as to facilitate group work, as well as wholeclass groupings that encourage sharing of ideas.

A variety of instructional strategies, including compacting, learning contracts, cubing, and tiered lessons, can be used to differentiate instruction (for a discussion of these and other strategies, see Gregory & Chapman, 2002; Heacox, 2002; Smutney, Walker, & Meckstroth, 1997; Tomlinson, 1999; Winebrenner, 1992). It makes sense to alert your administration and the parents that you will be trying some new strategies in the classroom in case there are questions.

The tenets of differentiated instruction support both the Equity Principle and the Teaching Principle of the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000). These principles direct us to select and adapt content and curricula to meet the interests, abilities, and learning styles of our students; to recognize our students’ diversity; and to encourage them to reach their full potential in mathematics.

tiered instruction article

What is a Tiered Lesson?

Tomlinson (1999) described tiered lessons as “the meat and potatoes of differentiated instruction.” A tiered lesson is a differentiation strategy that addresses a particular standard, key concept, and generalization, but allows several pathways for students to arrive at an understanding of these components based on their interests, readiness, or learning profiles. A lesson tiered by readiness level implies that the teacher has a good understanding of the students’ ability levels with respect to the lesson and has designed the tiers to meet those needs. Think of a wedding cake with tiers of varying sizes. Many examples of lessons tiered in readiness have three tiers: below grade level, at grade level, and above grade level. There is no rule that states there may only be three tiers, however. The number of tiers we use will depend on the range of ability levels in your own classroom since you are forming tiers based on your assessment of your students’ abilities to handle the material particular to this lesson. Students are regrouped the next time you use tiering as a strategy. Hence, the idea of flexible, rather than static, groups is essential.

No matter how you choose to differentiate the lesson—readiness, interest, or learning profile—the number of groups per tier will vary, as will the number of students per tier. You are not looking to form groups of equal size. When you form groups based on the readiness needs of individual students, Tier I may have two groups of three students, Tier II five groups of four students, and Tier III may have one group of two students. When the lesson is tiered by interest or learning profile, the same guidelines apply for forming groups: Different tiers may have varying numbers of students. Even when students are already homogeneously grouped in classes by ability, there is still variance in their ability levels that must be addressed.

To take a closer look at the anatomy of a tiered lesson, we have included a mathematics lesson (see Figure 1) that was developed as part of the Javits Grant, Project GATE, a federally funded partnership between the Indianapolis Public Schools and Ball State University, both in Indiana. When developing a tiered lesson, we have found the eight steps described below useful.

  • First, identify the grade level and subject for which you will write the lesson.  In this case, the grade level is first and the subject is mathematics.
  • Second, identify the standard (national, state, district, etc.) you are targeting.  A common mistake for those just beginning to tier is to develop three great activities and then try to force-fit them into a tiered lesson. Start with the standard first. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know if you get there? The author of this lesson has selected the Content Standard “Number and Operations” of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ (2000)  Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (pp. 78–88).
  • Third, identify the key concept and generalization.  The key concept follows from the standard. Ask yourself, “What big idea am I targeting?” In this example, it is to understand and represent commonly used fractions. While there are many concepts that could be covered under the standard chosen, this lesson addresses only one. The generalization follows from the concept chosen. Ask, “What do I want the students to know at the end of the lesson, regardless of their placement in the tiers?” In this lesson, all students will develop their understanding of fractions as representing parts of a whole.
  • Fourth, be sure students have the background necessary to be successful in the lesson.  What scaffolding is necessary? What must you have already covered or what must the student have already learned? Are there other skills that must be taught first? Before engaging in this lesson, students have been exposed to halves and thirds. Fractions (halves/ thirds) have been introduced to the students, and they have illustrated them with pictures. There are several literature books that illustrate fractional parts using food that could be used to introduce the lesson.
  • Fifth, determine in which part of the lesson (content, process, product) you will tier.  You may choose to tier the content (what you want the students to learn), the process (the way students make sense out of the content), or the product (the outcome at the end of a lesson, lesson set, or unit—often a project). When beginning to tier, we suggest that you only tier one of these three. Once you are comfortable with tiering, you might try to tier more than one part in the same lesson. This lesson is tiered in content.
  • Sixth, determine the type of tiering you will do: readiness, interest, or learning profile.  Readiness is based on the ability levels of the students. Giving a pretest is a good way to assess readiness. Students’ interest in a topic is generally gauged through an interest survey, while the learning profile may be determined through various learning style inventories. In this lesson, the author chose readiness.
  • Seventh, based on your choices above, determine how many tiers you will need and develop the lesson.  When tiering according to readiness, you may have three tiers: below grade level, at grade level, and above grade level. If you choose to tier in interest or learning profile, you may control the number of tiers by limiting choices or using only a few different learning styles. For example, tiering on all eight of Gardner’s multiple intelligences in one lesson may not be a good place to start, so choose only a few, such as logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, and linguistic intelligence. (For further information on multiple intelligences in an easy-tounderstand format, see Wahl, 1997). For this lesson, students are placed in one of three tiers based on their ability to work with halves and thirds as assessed by the teacher through observation.Differentiation means doing something different—qualitatively different. Make sure you keep this in mind when tiering the lessons. Second, be sure that students are doing challenging, respectful, and developmentally appropriate work within each tier. In other words, no group should be given “busywork.” We don’t want one group doing blackline practice sheets and another doing a fabulous experiment.Notice in this lesson that all three tiers are working on fractions. Students in each tier use paper shapes to divide. However, the activities for each tier in the sample lesson, beginning in Tier I and moving through Tier III, differ from concrete to abstract and from simple to complex, to use Tomlinson’s Equalizer word pairs (Tomlinson, 1999).
  • Finally, develop the assessment component to the lesson.  The assessment can be formative, summative, or a combination of both. You may use some means of recording observations of the various groups, such as flip cards or sticky notes. You could develop a rubric for each tier based on the particular product that is created. You may give a formal paperand- pencil test. Whatever it is, choose your assessment based on your needs and your lesson design.In this lesson, the teacher observes the students as they share their answers and jots down notes for a formative assessment of each student. For example, which child is struggling with the concept? Which child is moving rapidly and accurately through the material? Whose answers show more thought and insight? Answers to these and other questions will assist you in determining who needs reteaching and who is ready to go beyond the material presented. A formal assessment is not used here since the standards emphasize that students should have “informal experiences [with fractions] at this age to help develop a foundation for deeper learning in the higher grades” (NCTM, 2000, p. 83).

When this lesson was taught, the students were engaged during the entire lesson. The lesson was introduced by reading the book  Eating Fractions  (McMillan, 1991). Students were placed in groups based on their level of readiness to interact with the content. Four students did not have a clear understanding of halves and fourths. These students needed a more concrete activity and were placed in Tier I. Another 12 students could recognize halves and thirds and were ready to complete the Tier II activity. They were placed in four triads. Two students had in-depth knowledge of halves and thirds and were placed in Tier III. This pair worked at a more abstract level, and the questions they were asked required them to use different critical thinking skills than the other two groups. Tier I and Tier II students were provided with activities from the book  Fractions  (Watt, 2001) to use as anchoring activities if they finished early or were waiting for the teacher’s assistance. The anchor for Tier III students was  Apple Fractions  (Pallotta, 2002), which introduced fifths through tenths.

The second sample lesson (see Figure 2) is tiered in process according to learning style. In this case, students are grouped heterogeneously based on one of two learning preferences: kinesthetic or visual. The same eight steps for tiering a lesson apply in this case. In the second lesson, notice that the activities are at relatively the same level of complexity. This would be the “layer cake” model as opposed to the “wedding cake” model used when tiering according to readiness.

Final Thoughts

Time, energy, and patience are required to learn to differentiate instruction effectively in an academically diverse classroom. In addition, you need administrative and peer support, as well as professional development over extended periods of time; therefore, don’t expect to have a differentiated classroom by Monday morning. Start small: Choose a favorite lesson in your next unit and differentiate it according to the needs of your students. Seek the expertise of specialists such as special and gifted education coordinators, media specialists, and others with whom you can collaborate to improve instruction in the academically diverse classroom.

For more information on tiering, contact the Center for Gifted Studies and Talent Development, Ball State University (BSU) .

Author Note

Research for this article was supported under the Javits Act Program (Grant R206A980067) as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. Grantees undertaking such projects are encouraged to express freely their professional judgment. This article, therefore, does not necessarily represent positions or policies of the government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

tiered instruction article

Armstrong, T. (1994). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory and practice. New York: BasicBooks.

Gregory, G. H., & Chapman, C. (2002). Differentiated instructional strategies: One size doesn’t fit all. Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin Press.

Heacox, D. (2002). Differentiating instruction in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

Martin, H. (1996). Multiple intelligences in the mathematics classroom. Palatine, IL: IRI/SkyLight.

McMillan, B. (1991). Eating fractions. New York: Scholastic. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.

Pallotta, J. (2002). Apple fractions. New York: Scholastic.

Smutney, J., Walker, S., & Meckstroth, E. (1997). Teaching young gifted children in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Wahl, M. (1997). Math for humans.

Langley, WA: LivnLern Press.

Watt, F. ( 2001). Fractions. New York: Scholastic.

Winebrenner, S. (1992). Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

Disclaimer : The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute’s Resource Library does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational and archival purposes only. The Davidson Institute bears no responsibility for the content of republished material. Please note the date, author, and publisher information available if you wish to make further inquiries about any republished materials in our Resource Library.

Permission Statement

This article is reprinted with permission of  Prufrock Press, Inc.

This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit .

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5 Key Building Blocks of Effective Core Instruction

A simple framework can help administrators outline the essential elements of quality core Tier 1 instruction.

Middle school teacher talking to class from front of the classroom

Through my position as an instructional coach, I often work with school and district leaders who want help to shore up their staff’s ability to deliver effective core instruction , also known as Tier 1 instruction. Core instruction is the critical whole-group lessons teachers produce in primary subject areas that serve as a good backdrop for the differentiation strategies required to support struggling learners and kids with diverse needs.

For example, a school looking to begin or enhance implementing tiered instruction as part of a multitiered system of support (MTSS) framework may need guidance in identifying and carrying out the components of Tier 1 instruction . Tiers are designed to challenge students at their appropriate ability levels. Similarly, schools looking to use a response-to-intervention (RTI) or project-based learning teaching model may need similar guidance on a good starting point for planning and facilitating lessons in tandem with helping teachers determine their students’ learning needs.

But it’s not enough for teachers to only have a sound system for planning and facilitating relevant lessons. They also need to intentionally monitor student engagement and learning. This allows for tweaking and refining practice over time from an informed approach.

To support the schools I partner with in instructional innovation , we created a versatile framework to serve as a good starting point for outlining the essential elements of good core instruction.

5 Must-Haves for Good Core Instruction

1. Relevant evidence-based curriculum. Curriculum refers to an evidence-based , standards and competency-aligned sequence of planned experiences that help learners capture content concepts and applied skills that follow local standards, graduate profiles, career skills, social and emotional learning, and learners’ interests.

Although there’s nothing wrong with carrying out core instruction using purchased curriculum and scripted resources, I don’t recommend following said resources verbatim. There must be personalization of what you are teaching your unique learners. Otherwise, we risk losing student engagement due to lack of relevance.

To assist you and your planning teams in designing core instruction in meaningful and compelling ways for kids, try the empathy mapping process in tandem with a straightforward backward design planning tool . The former can be powerful for determining relevance for students. The latter is a simple way to map and align learning goals with assessments, lessons, and sound instructional practices.

2. The promotion of literacy and numeracy skills across subject areas. Literacy and numeracy skills are undoubtedly foundational for reading, writing, reasoning, and problem-solving across multiple disciplines. Even if you’re not an English language arts or math teacher or utilizing a formal program for tiering and differentiation (e.g., MTSS, RTI), improving your core instruction should integrate literacy and math in ways that complement your core lessons meaningfully.

For example, science, social science, and elective teachers can highlight the  reading and writing skills pertinent to the content they teach. As a science, technology, engineering, and math teacher, I’ve found that having my students outline the design process steps while paying attention to grammar, sentence structure, and citations significantly improves their literacy skills over time. Having kids create and rehearse using presentation scripts is also a powerful literacy builder that reinforces their speaking and listening skills.

Non-math teachers can help learners improve their basic knowledge of numbers by embedding numeracy skills into daily lessons. Skills may include building understanding in the following areas:

  • Calculations
  • Representing and interpreting data
  • Measurement and data analysis
  • Relationships between numbers

3. High-yielding strategies to facilitate lessons. When used appropriately, high-yielding strategies have been shown to produce positive results in students’ academic achievement. Having a set of go-to strategies for boosting critical thinking , cooperative learning , and providing feedback (among other items) can strengthen core instruction and Tier 2 and 3 interventions.

Researcher Robert Marzano’s work simplifies selection because he outlines nine strategies to improve student achievement in any grade level or content area. Visible Learning research by John Hattie is also a good source for helping educators understand and adapt research to strategy selection in their particular context.

When trying strategies, use them to gain insight into how they help learners succeed. Learn the appropriate times to use them because every strategy isn’t used daily or in every lesson.

4. Student engagement and academic achievement monitoring. Academic research supports a strong correlation between student engagement and student achievement, which teachers across grade levels and disciplines need to consider as a part of their core instruction.

Monitoring student engagement isn’t difficult, but it must be intentional. Poll Everywhere recommends doing so in the following ways:

  • Asking questions and leading discussions.
  • Observing participation in collaborative work by seeing how students respond in smaller settings.
  • Polling students using engagement surveys. Here are some good questions by SurveyMonkey for getting started. 

Academic achievement should be monitored daily using formative assessments . Good ones for strengthening core instruction may include thumbs-up responses , exit tickets , and quizzes. Biweekly, end-of-unit, and benchmark assessments are metrics your district may have in place for you to use.

5. An understanding of your own impact. Hattie explains the importance of listening to our students to inform us of our impact on their engagement and learning; we can also seek feedback from trusted colleagues. When teachers consider themselves learners, it’s easier to have conversations with students and colleagues about the areas of our core instruction that we can improve.

Excellent practice that requires vulnerability is focusing on what’s not working with our core teaching and particular students. Seeking the right strategies for improving our impact becomes intentional (see #4) instead of jumping on the latest teaching trend(s) (see #3).

Surveying, polling, and student conferences can help improve teaching impact. You might ask questions such as the following:

  • Which classroom activities help you learn most?
  • What changes do you recommend I make to help you learn better?
  • What motivates you to learn most?
  • What can I do better?

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Differentiated Instruction Strategies: Tiered Assignments

Janelle cox.

  • September 23, 2014

Male teacher standing in front of a chalkboard behind a group of students

Many teachers use differentiated instruction strategies  as a way to reach all learners and accommodate each student’s learning style. One very helpful tactic to employ differentiated instruction is called tiered assignments—a technique often used within flexible groups.

Much like flexible grouping—or differentiated instruction as a whole, really—tiered assignments do not lock students into ability boxes. Instead, particular student clusters are assigned specific tasks within each group according to their readiness and comprehension without making them feel completely compartmentalized away from peers at different achievement levels.

There are six main ways to structure tiered assignments: challenge level, complexity, outcome, process, product, or resources. It is your job, based upon the specific learning tasks you’re focused on, to determine the best approach. Here we will take a brief look at these techniques.

Ways to Structure Tiered Assignments

Challenge level.

Tiering can be based on challenge level where student groups will tackle different assignments. Teachers can use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a guide to help them develop tasks of structure or questions at various levels. For example:

  • Group 1:  Students who need content reinforcement or practice will complete one activity that helps  build  understanding.
  • Group 2:  Students who have a firm understanding will complete another activity that  extends  what they already know.

When you tier assignments by complexity, you are addressing the needs of students who are at different levels using the same assignment. The trick here is to vary the focus of the assignment based upon whether each group is ready for more advanced work or simply trying to wrap their head around the concept for the first time. You can direct your students to create a poster on a specific issue—recycling and environmental care, for instance—but one group will focus on a singular perspective, while the other will consider several points of view and present an argument for or against each angle.

Tiering assignments by differentiated outcome is vaguely similar to complexity—all of your students will use the same materials, but depending on their readiness levels will actually have a different outcome. It may sound strange at first, but this strategy is quite beneficial to help advanced students work on more progressive applications of their student learning.

This differentiated instruction strategy is exactly what it sounds like—student groups will use different processes to achieve similar outcomes based upon readiness.

Tiered assignments can also be differentiated based on product. Teachers can use the Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences to form groups that will hone particular skills for particular learning styles . For example, one group would be bodily/kinesthetic, and their task is to create and act out a skit. Another group would be visual/spatial, and their task would be to illustrate.

Tiering resources means that you are matching project materials to student groups based on readiness or instructional need. One flexible group may use a magazine while another may use a traditional textbook. As a tip, you should assign resources based on knowledge and readiness, but also consider the group’s reading level and comprehension.

How to Make Tiering Invisible to Students

From time to time, students may question why they are working on different assignments, using varied materials, or coming to dissimilar outcomes altogether. This could be a blow to your classroom morale if you’re not tactful in making your tiers invisible.

Make it a point to tell students that each group is using different materials or completing different activities so they can share what they learned with the class. Be neutral when grouping students, use numbers or colors for group names, and be equally enthusiastic while explaining assignments to each cluster.

Also, it’s important to make each tiered assignment equally interesting, engaging, and fair in terms of student expectations. The more flexible groups and materials you use, the more students will accept that this is the norm.

Tiering assignments is a fair way to differentiate learning. It allows teachers to meet the needs of all students while using varying levels of tasks. It’s a concept that can be infused into homework assignments, small groups, or even learning centers. If done properly, it can be a very effective method to differentiate learning because it challenges all students.

  • #DifferentiatedInstruction , #TieredAssignments

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Effects of Tier 3 Intervention for Students With Persistent Reading Difficulties and Characteristics of Inadequate Responders

Carolyn a. denton.

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Tammy D. Tolar

University of Houston

Jack M. Fletcher

Amy e. barth, sharon vaughn.

University of Texas at Austin

David J. Francis

This article describes a randomized controlled trial conducted to evaluate the effects of an intensive, individualized, Tier 3 reading intervention for second grade students who had previously experienced inadequate response to quality first grade classroom reading instruction (Tier 1) and supplemental small-group intervention (Tier 2). Also evaluated were cognitive characteristics of students with inadequate response to intensive Tier 3 intervention. Students were randomized to receive the research intervention ( N = 47) or the instruction and intervention typically provided in their schools ( N = 25). Results indicated that students who received the research intervention made significantly better growth than those who received typical school instruction on measures of word identification, phonemic decoding, and word reading fluency and on a measure of sentence- and paragraph-level reading comprehension. Treatment effects were smaller and not statistically significant on phonemic decoding efficiency, text reading fluency, and reading comprehension in extended text. Effect sizes for all outcomes except oral reading fluency met criteria for substantive importance; however, many of the students in the intervention continued to struggle. An evaluation of cognitive profiles of adequate and inadequate responders was consistent with a continuum of severity (as opposed to qualitative differences), showing greater language and reading impairment prior to the intervention in students who were inadequate responders.

Schools across the United States are increasingly providing multitiered reading interventions in the primary grades as a component of Response to Intervention (RTI) initiatives ( Berkeley, Bender, Peaster, & Saunders, 2009 ). RTI models are schoolwide general education initiatives that include the provision of tiers of increasingly intensive intervention ( Kovaleski & Black, 2010 ) if response is inadequate in less intensive tiers ( Gersten et al., 2008 ). In typical RTI models that address reading difficulties in the primary grades, Tier 1 intervention is quality classroom reading instruction provided to all students using a research-validated core reading program, along with universal screening to identify students in need of supplemental intervention, progress monitoring assessments, and teacher professional development. Students identified as at risk for reading difficulties are provided with supplemental, short-term instructional interventions (Tier 2), and students with persistently inadequate response in Tier 2 are given more intensive Tier 3 intervention ( Gersten et al., 2008 ). In the United States, data documenting a student’s response to evidence-based intervention can be used as part of the process of identification of a learning disability ( Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 2004 ).

The intensity of interventions can be increased at Tier 3 by decreasing group size and increasing time in intervention ( Vaughn, Denton, & Fletcher, 2010 ), by extending the duration of each lesson (e.g., from 45 min. to 2 hr), providing daily lessons, and providing intervention for several months or for more than 1 school year. Certain instructional characteristics have also been associated with increased intensity, including the frequency of teacher–student interactions ( Warren, Fey, & Yoder, 2007 ) and the pacing of instruction both within and across lessons ( Vaughn et al., 2010 ). Planning instruction to target specific student needs may also increase instructional intensity by increasing its efficiency.

Effects of Reading Intervention in the Primary Grades

There is a well-developed research base establishing the characteristics of effective early reading instruction (e.g., National Reading Panel, 2000 ; RAND Reading Study Group, 2002 ) and showing that most children can learn to read adequately, given quality classroom reading instruction ( Torgesen, 2000 ). There is also converging research evidence supporting the effectiveness of supplemental small-group or individual reading intervention for primary-grade students for whom classroom reading instruction is insufficient (Al Otaiba & Torgesen, 2009; Torgesen, 2004 ; Wanzek & Vaughn, 2007 ). Research supports the effectiveness of instructional practices to support development in word reading, fluency, and comprehension for students at-risk for reading difficulties in the primary grades. There is considerable evidence that providing explicit, teacher-directed instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics, with the opportunity to apply skills in connected text with teacher feedback, is effective for improving word reading and word reading fluency (e.g., Blachman et al., 2004 ; Case et al., 2010 ; Denton et al., 2010 ; Gunn, Smolkowski, Biglan, Black, & Blair, 2005 ; Jenkins, Peyton, Sanders, & Vadasy, 2004 ; Mathes et al., 2005 ; Rashotte, MacPhee, & Torgesen, 2001 ; Scanlon, Vellutino, Small, Fanuele, & Sweeney, 2005 ; Torgesen et al., 2001 ; Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Rose, et al., 1999 ; Vadasy, Sanders, & Tudor, 2007 ). Research suggests that text reading fluency is best supported through repeated or wide text reading practice with modeling and feedback ( Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002 ; O’Connor, White, & Swanson, 2007 ; Vadasy & Sanders, 2008 ). Finally, explicit instruction in comprehension strategies has been shown to result in improved reading comprehension ( Berkeley, Scruggs, & Mastropieri, 2010 ; Gajria, Jitendra, Sood, & Sacks, 2007 ; National Reading Panel, 2000 ).

Positive results have been reported by a number of experimental and quasi-experimental studies evaluating outcomes across two or more increasingly intensive tiers of reading intervention ( Coyne, Kame’enui, Simmons, & Harn, 2004 ; Kamps et al., 2008 ; Mathes et al., 2005 ; O’Connor, Fulmer, Harty, & Bell, 2005 ; Simmons et al., 2008 ; Vadasy, Sanders, Peyton, & Jenkins, 2002 ; Vaughn et al., 2009 ). There have been fewer studies evaluating outcomes for primary-grade students who receive intensive intervention (usually Tier 3 in an RTI context) after demonstrating inadequate response in Tiers 1 and 2. These studies have had mixed results and have typically shown that outcomes within the Tier 3 group vary, with some students demonstrating significant gains while others make little or no progress, even in highly intensive intervention. For example, Vaughn et al. (2009) reported no significant main effects for Tier 3 intervention provided to students in Grade 2 who had demonstrated weak response to Tier 1 plus Tier 2 in first grade; however, they found that Tier 3 students who had started the intervention with the highest scores in oral reading fluency (ORF) improved significantly in both word reading and reading comprehension. In a study that examined four layers of intervention provided across kindergarten and first grade, O’Connor (2000) reported that some students moved in and out of the at-risk category but that overall the proportion of students who remained at-risk decreased as each layer of intervention was added. In a quasi-experimental study, Denton, Fletcher, Anthony, and Francis (2006) provided intervention to students with inadequate response to previous Tier 1 or Tier 1 plus Tier 2 intervention, along with a group of similarly impaired readers. Tier 3 intervention was provided in daily sessions that were 1– 2 hr long, resulting in strong mean growth in domains aligned with instruction; nevertheless, there were some students with weak response to this highly intensive intervention.

Cognitive Characteristics of Inadequate Responders

There is an emerging research base examining cognitive characteristics of students who do not respond adequately to Tier 2 intervention. To our knowledge, there are no studies of characteristics of inadequate responders to Tier 3 instruction, representing a potentially highly intractable group. After Tier 2 intervention, studies have generally identified inadequate responders as simply more impaired in both reading and cognitive skills, especially in the language domain ( Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002 ; Fletcher et al., 2011 ; Nelson, Benner, & Gonzalez, 2003 ; Vellutino, Scanlon, Small, & Fanuele, 2006 ). A literature synthesis by Al Otaiba and Fuchs (2002) and a meta-analysis by Nelson et al. (2003) both showed that measures closely related to reading development (i.e., phonological awareness, rapid naming), along with general verbal skills (e.g., vocabulary), were most closely related to inadequate response. Fletcher et al. (2011) also found that phonological awareness and rapid naming were most related to inadequate response to Grade 1 Tier 2 intervention, with verbal knowledge and listening comprehension having smaller, but meaningful relations. Vellutino et al. (2006) classified students at the end of Grade 3 as poor readers who had been difficult and less difficult to remediate in Grade 1. The degree of impairment in rapid naming, phonological processing, vocabulary, and verbal knowledge in Grade 1 was linearly related to each group’s level of word reading skills in Grade 3. Vellutino et al. interpreted these results as indicative of a continuum of severity in which the same sets of variables are related to the ease and difficulty with which children learn to read. Like Fletcher et al. (2011) , they found no evidence of qualitative differences in the cognitive attributes of adequate and inadequate responders, only evidence of levels of impairment of the same cognitive characteristics directly related to level of reading ability. What is unknown is whether this pattern is also evident in children with poor response to even intensive Tier 3 intervention, or whether these children have qualitatively different cognitive profiles from children who respond adequately to intensive intervention. Given the use of data documenting response to intervention in the identification of learning disabilities, this information has implications for classification and instruction.

Individualized Interventions

Early reading interventions vary in the degree to which instructional content and activities are standardized or individualized. Researchers conducting reading intervention studies have generally used highly standardized intervention programs to assure the provision of empirically validated instruction to all students ( Al Otaiba & Torgesen, 2007 ). Individualized approaches take a more clinical approach, allowing a teacher to more precisely target the needs of specific learners based on diagnostic assessments. In individualized interventions, the amount of time dedicated to instruction in various reading domains, as well as the instructional content (e.g., specific sound-spelling patterns, fluency-building activities, comprehension strategies), instructional materials (supplying letter tiles for word building vs. writing words on paper), and instructional activities (e.g., activities designed to provide extra practice to bring skills to automaticity) may be differentiated according to student needs and strengths ( Bryant, Smith, & Bryant, 2008 ). The flexibility afforded by individualized approaches may be important for students in Tier 3 interventions who have previously demonstrated poor response to evidence-based reading instruction; however, the effects of individualized reading interventions for primary-grade students have seldom been studied ( Wanzek & Vaughn, 2007 ).

There is evidence that, when teachers individualize the amounts of code-focused (e.g., decoding, letter-sound correspondences, word recognition) and meaning-focused (e.g., comprehension, vocabulary, writing, text-based discussion) instruction provided to students in classroom reading programs, reading outcomes are improved for students in kindergarten ( Al Otaiba et al., 2011 ), Grade 1 ( Connor, Morrison, Fishman, Schatschneider, & Underwood, 2007 , 2009 ), and Grade 3 ( Connor et al., 2011 ). Other dimensions of instruction that were individualized in these studies were (a) the size of the instructional group and (b) whether activities were teacher directed or child directed (e.g., independent and small-group activities, peer tutoring). This line of research has shown that there are child-by-instruction interactions, such that students benefit from different instructional content and delivery depending on their word recognition skills and vocabulary knowledge and that optimal instructional approaches for individual students change across the school year.

Interventions designed for primary-grade students with persistent reading difficulties may need to take a more fine-grained approach to individualization. It is likely that the majority of poor readers in the early grades need some kind of code-focused instruction. Instruction for these students may be differentiated by determining more exactly what phonics and word recognition skills they know and what they need to learn based on diagnostic assessment. For example, a second grade student may know some letter-sound correspondences and recognize some high-frequency words, but struggle with others.

In this study, we evaluated the effects of an intervention that takes such a fine-grained approach. In this intervention, all teachers addressed word reading, fluency, text reading with comprehension, and writing daily; however, they determined the duration of each of these components, planned the instructional objectives for each, and selected from a list of instructional activities to implement during each component based on student data. We theorized that a program with this design would provide a supportive structure to aid lesson planning and provide sufficient specificity to ensure high-fidelity implementation but would also allow teachers the flexibility to individualize instruction, resulting in accelerated progress of students with persistent reading difficulties that are difficult to remediate.

Study Purpose and Research Questions

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of an individualized, intensive reading intervention for students in Grade 2 (or repeating Grade 1) who had demonstrated insufficient response to a highly standardized intervention provided the previous year in first grade. Although several researchers have reported improved outcomes for students who receive reading interventions, there is a need for experimental research examining outcomes specifically for students provided with Tier 3 intervention after demonstrating inadequate response in lower tiers ( Denton, 2012 ). There is also a need for empirical evaluations of supplemental early reading interventions that allow for individualization to meet the needs of students with reading difficulties ( Wanzek & Vaughn, 2007 ). Because of the current use of data documenting intervention response in the identification of learning disabilities, our second purpose was to identify what proportion of children respond adequately to Tier 3 intervention and to evaluate cognitive characteristics of children who demonstrated inadequate response.

We addressed three research questions: (a) Do students with persistent reading difficulties, who demonstrated inadequate response to quality classroom instruction and supplemental reading intervention provided in Grade 1, demonstrate significantly better outcomes in word reading accuracy, word reading efficiency, text reading fluency, comprehension of sentences and brief passages, and comprehension of extended text when provided with an intensive, individualized reading intervention compared with similar students who receive the reading instruction and intervention typically provided to at-risk readers in their schools? (b) Do a larger proportion of students who receive the research intervention meet benchmarks denoting adequate response to intervention, relative to students who receive typical school instruction? and (c) What baseline cognitive attributes distinguish children who respond adequately and inadequately to Tier 3 intervention? We hypothesized that students who received the research intervention would have better reading outcomes and a higher rate of positive response to intervention than those who received typical school instruction. We also hypothesized that students who responded inadequately to Tier 3 intervention would have cognitive characteristics consistent with those identified in poor responders to Tier 2 intervention and would thus be primarily impaired in language domains, specifically vocabulary and general concept knowledge, phonological awareness, rapid retrieval of verbal information, and listening comprehension. Finally, we hypothesized that nonverbal reasoning would not distinguish the Tier 3 adequate and inadequate responders, as this would indicate more global impairment rather than language-based impairment.


Schools and context.

This study was conducted in 10 elementary schools located in the southwestern United States. Four were part of a school district located near a small city. During the year of the study, the populations of participating schools in this district were primarily Hispanic (81%), with 12% African American, 6% White, and 1% Asian and other ethnicities; about 89% of the students attending these schools qualified for free or reduced-price lunch (an indication of low socioeconomic status). The other six schools were located in a large urban school district about 150 miles from the smaller district. The populations of the participating schools in this district were predominantly African American (55%) and Hispanic (31%), with 10% White and 5% Asian and other ethnicities; about 77% of students in these schools qualified for free or reduced-priced lunch.

Student participants

The participants in this study were 72 students who had received Tier 1 first grade classroom instruction along with Tier 2 supplemental reading intervention during the previous year but had not met year-end criteria for adequate intervention response ( Denton et al., 2011 ). First we describe the process of identification of the full cohort who received Tiers 1 and 2 in first grade and then those participating in the current study. For clarity, we refer to the current study as the Grade 2 study , although some participants were retained in and repeating first grade when they received the Tier 3 intervention.

Grade 1 intervention

In fall of first grade, 680 students were screened to identify those at-risk for reading difficulties. Of these, 461 failed to meet criteria on the screen and were considered potentially at-risk; their progress was monitored in Tier 1 using ORF measures for 8 weeks. At that time, the data indicated that 273 students had made insufficient progress in Tier 1 and were thus determined to be in need of Tier 2 intervention. The number of children identified exceeded available resources, so a subset was randomly selected to receive Tier 2 intervention. This process resulted in a group of 218 students considered at risk for reading difficulties and assigned to receive Tier 2 supplemental intervention; 193 of these completed the intervention. Students were excluded from the study if they received their primary reading instruction outside the regular general education classroom or in a language other than English or had school-identified severe intellectual disabilities or severe emotional disturbance. The Tier 2 intervention was highly standardized, consisting of a manualized adaptation of a well-specified early reading program with a strong emphasis on decoding, word recognition, and fluent reading, and secondary emphasis on vocabulary and comprehension ( Sprick, Howard, & Fidanque, 1998 ). The Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions, and their effects, are described in detail in Denton et al. (2011) .

Grade 2 study sample

In May of Grade 1, we applied fluency and decoding criteria to identify students from this group of 193 who demonstrated inadequate response to the Tier 1 plus Tier 2 interventions. Students were considered inadequate responders to intervention if they met any one of the following criteria (or their combinations) at the end of first grade: (a) standard score equal to or below 93 on the Woodcock–Johnson III (WJ III; Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001 ) Basic Reading Skills composite, (b) standard score equal to or below 90 on the Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE; Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1999 ) composite, or (c) ORF equal to or below 20 words correct per minute (wcpm). Of the 193 students who completed Tier 2 intervention, 105 were classified as inadequate responders to Tiers 1 and 2. Of these, 103 participated in the current study and were randomly assigned at the end of Grade 1 to receive the research Tier 3 intervention the following school year (Tier 3 group) or to a Typical School Instruction (TSI) comparison group. In order to maximize the number of students who received intervention and ensure that the intervention group was large enough to evaluate response, we randomized students in a 2:1 ratio. To control for school-level effects, we randomized students within their schools.

Effects of attrition

Twenty-eight students (of the 103 students randomized to treatment) were lost to attrition either before (i.e., during the summer break) or during the school year in which Tier 3 intervention was provided. To examine the effects of attrition, we compared these students to the 75 who remained in the study. The attritted and nonattritted students differed in racial distribution, χ 2 (3) = 8.37, p < .05. Among the attritted students, 64% were African American, 21% Hispanic, and 14% White. Among the nonattritted students, 35% were African American, 49% Hispanic, and 15% White. The two groups did not differ in (a) treatment assignment (Tier 3 vs. TSI), χ 2 (1) = 0.06, p > .05; (b) gender, χ 2 (1) = 0.83, p > .05; (c) site, χ 2 (1) = 0.55, p > .05; (d) free lunch status, χ 2 (1) = 2.74, p > .05; or (e) age, t (101) = 1.12, p > .05; nor did they differ on scores on Kaufmann Brief Intelligence Test 2 (KBIT 2; Kaufmann & Kaufmann, 2004 ) Verbal Knowledge, t (101) = −1.03, p > .05; TOWRE, t (101) = 0.50, p > .05; WJ III Basic Reading Skills, t (101) = 1.07, p > .05; or WJ III Passage Comprehension, t (101) = 0.24, p > .05.

Intent-to-treat sample

Three of the 75 students did not receive their assigned treatments. One student was assigned to the TSI condition but inadvertently was provided with the experimental Tier 3 intervention. Two students were assigned to Tier 3 intervention but did not receive intervention because of scheduling conflicts. Two sets of analyses were conducted: one set on the intent-to-treat sample ( N = 75), in which students were analyzed according to their original treatment assignments regardless of the actual treatment received, and the second set on the final analyses sample ( N = 72), which included only the students who completed treatment as originally assigned. Both sets of analyses included t tests on pretest measures to determine if the two treatment groups differed on beginning of year performance and repeated-measures analyses of variance (ANOVAs) to determine if treatment influenced gains in achievement. There were no differences between the intent-to-treat sample and the final analysis sample in the treatment effects. Therefore, the reported results of all subsequent analyses are based on the final analysis sample ( N = 72), with 47 students in the Tier 3 group and 25 in the TSI group.

Table 1 illustrates the demographic characteristics of students assigned to each research condition. There were no significant demographic differences between TSI and Tier 3 students on age: t (70) = −0.95, p > .05; gender: χ 2 (1) = 0.33, p > .05; race/ ethnicity: χ 2 (3) = 4.10, p > .05; free or reduced-price lunch eligibility: χ 2 (1) = 0.29, p > .05; site: χ 2 (1) = 0.20, p > .05; limited English proficiency status: χ 2 (1) = 0.03, p > .05; or special education status: χ 2 (1) = 0.09, p > .05. The difference in the number of students repeating Grade 1 across groups was marginally significant, χ2 (1) = 3.76, p < .06.

Demographic Characteristics by Treatment Condition

Note. There were no significant differences between groups as evaluated by chi-square analyses and t test ( p > .05). TSI = typical school instruction.


Tier 3 intervention was provided by six interventionists who were certified teachers or experienced clinical reading tutors. All were selected, trained, and supervised by the researchers. Three held master’s degrees, and three held bachelor’s degrees. All were White women who had prior experience teaching students with reading difficulties ( M = 9.83 years, SD = 11.05). Interventionists received approximately 18 hr of training in the intervention procedures at the beginning of the school year and an additional 6 hr of training at midyear. Ongoing professional development was provided through weekly meetings, which became biweekly as the interventionists became more proficient, totaling about 22 hr. Interventionists also received frequent informal observations and coaching sessions.

Description of Intervention

Participants who were randomly assigned to the Tier 3 group were provided with daily intervention in 45-min sessions over 24–26 weeks from October through May. Intervention was provided in groups of two or three students during the school day in a location in children’s home schools but outside the regular classroom. Students received intervention on an average of 102.1 days ( SD 9.2; range 68.5–116; approximately 76.5 hr). The primary intervention program was an adaptation of Responsive Reading Instruction (RRI; Denton & Hocker, 2006 ). An adaptation of a separate fluency-oriented program, Read Naturally (RN; Ihnot, Matsoff, Gavin, & Hendrickson, 2001 ), was incorporated for students who needed increased emphasis on fluency.

RRI provides a flexible framework for providing supplemental reading intervention in the early grades. Each RRI lesson addresses word study, ORF, reading comprehension, the application of skills and strategies while reading connected text, and written response to text. Within this framework, teachers determine individualized instructional objectives based on diagnostic assessments of their students’ strengths and needs. RRI provides a menu of instructional and practice activities from which teachers select as they plan daily lessons designed to target their students’ needs (see the Appendix ). Procedures for each of these activities are described in detail in the RRI handbook. Instructional activities include explicit modeling of skills and strategies with guided practice and independent practice; other activities provide opportunities for extended practice and for application of skills and strategies in reading and writing. A key component of the intervention is the provision of instructional scaffolding, and the description of each activity includes suggestions for scaffolding student responses. Teachers in this study were provided with DVDs containing video clips illustrating the implementation of most of the RRI activities. RRI also includes a guide to assist teachers in selecting appropriate activities to address specific student needs (e.g., activities for a student who fails to self-correct their errors or a student who can produce the sounds of letters but has problems blending the sounds to read unknown words). The published RRI program was adapted for this study by adding activities addressing reading and spelling multisyllable words with common syllable patterns; additional fluency and comprehension activities were also added. The Appendix lists all activities available to teachers in this study. Descriptions of lesson components follow.

Teachers used a variety of instructional activities to provide explicit instruction and practice in phonological awareness, letter-sound correspondences, high-frequency word recognition, phonemic decoding, structural analysis, and spelling, depending on student needs (see the Appendix ). Teachers followed a prespecified order for introducing letter-sound correspondences, orthographic patterns, and irregular words but taught only those items needed by their students based on frequent assessment of knowledge and skills in each area. Word study included a variety of practice activities designed to foster active student involvement. Instruction was fast-paced, with between three and five different activities included in a typical 10-min segment. During the first half of the intervention, all students received word study instruction, as all needed improvement in accurate and fluent word identification. During the second half of the intervention, some had decreased emphasis on decoding, with significantly more lesson time devoted to instruction in fluency and comprehension.

Teachers provided instruction designed to support the development of fluent reading in increasingly challenging text, including modeling of phrased, expressive reading and repeated oral text reading with and without teacher feedback. Students practiced oral reading individually with the teacher, independently, and in pairs. Some students also practiced reading lists of words with common sound–spelling patterns until they met goals for fluency and accuracy.

Each day, teachers individually assessed one student in the group while the other students engaged in partner reading or individual reading practice for fluency (3–5 min). Teachers selected one assessment per week for each student from a variety of brief assessments available to them, depending on the information they needed to plan instruction (see the Appendix ). All assessments were closely aligned with program objectives.

Supported oral reading and reading comprehension

Each day, teachers provided interactive modeling, scaffolding, and feedback as students read increasingly difficult text. To identify unknown words, students were taught to look for recognizable orthographic and morphemic patterns (e.g., letter combinations, affixes) and then to use phoneme–grapheme associations to “sound out” words. Students were discouraged from using pictures or context to identify words, but they were taught to use context to self-monitor and self-correct errors. Text was matched to students’ reading levels and was not decodable using instructed letters and words; teachers primarily used books that were leveled according to the Fountas and Pinnell (1999) system.

Daily text reading included integrated comprehension instruction. Before reading, teachers provided a brief text introduction focused on a particular comprehension skill and set a purpose for reading with a guiding question related to this skill; teachers and students discussed the question briefly during and after reading. In the supported writing component of the lesson, students wrote a response to the guiding question. Teachers could also plan brief instructional activities to support text reading; for example, students could play a game in which they determined whether orally presented sentences “make sense” or “do not make sense” to support comprehension self-monitoring.

Supported writing

Each day, students wrote one or more complete sentences in response to the book’s guiding question. With teacher scaffolding, students applied skills in phonemic analysis and knowledge of orthographic patterns to spell words and write them accurately. The resulting sentence was correctly written, with appropriate punctuation and capitalization. In later lessons, students were taught how to edit their writing.

Additional fluency instruction

In the second half of the intervention period, teachers could reduce the time devoted to word study instruction and incorporate a second published program, an adaptation of RN ( Ihnot et al., 2001 ), for students whose decoding was adequate but who needed more intensive support in fluency. The primary components of RN are (a) reading along with a model of fluent reading (provided by an audio or computerized recording or the teacher; b) repeated reading of instructional-level expository passages, and (c) goal setting and progress monitoring (i.e., repeatedly measuring and graphing ORF rates and comparing rates to preset goals). For each RN passage, students followed a sequence of procedures until established criteria were met, including achievement of a fluency goal, acceptable accuracy, and appropriate pausing at the ends of sentences. Depending on students’ needs, some also responded to written or oral comprehension questions about each passage.

Student motivation was addressed primarily by planning instruction and selecting text that was at an appropriate level of difficulty and by providing instructional scaffolding so that students had to put forth effort to complete tasks but were usually successful. Teachers gave specific praise that highlighted successful responses. Motivation and engagement were also fostered by planning hands-on activities and keeping lesson pacing brisk. When needed, teachers implemented a behavior game in which students were awarded points when they followed rules and participated actively, and the teacher received points when they did not. Students could earn stickers or other small prizes on days when their group “beat the teacher.” To support motivation in RN sessions, teachers affixed a sticker on a reward chart each time students met criteria on a passage; when a specified number of stickers had been earned, students were allowed to select a small prize from the teacher’s “treasure chest.”

Individualizing instruction

Interventionists were provided with graphs of students’ progress in ORF, and coaches on the research staff assisted them in adjusting instruction when students made insufficient progress. Although students’ ORF was monitored less frequently in this study (i.e., every 4 weeks) than often recommended for Tier 3 students, they received frequent diagnostic assessment, as described earlier. Teachers were trained and received ongoing coaching support in making data-based decisions and had many options for instructional and practice activities that they could incorporate into their lessons to address individual students’ objectives in various ways (see the Appendix ).

Individualization of instruction was accomplished through both planning and implementation. Planning instruction entailed (a) determination of the instructional content (e.g., specific sound-spelling correspondences to be taught and practiced; the comprehension skill to be emphasized in text reading; emphasis on comprehension monitoring, word identification strategies, or self-correction of errors during text reading), (b) selection of the instructional activities to be used to teach or practice this content (from the list in the Appendix ), (c) selection of appropriate new instructional-level text, and (d) development of an introduction to the text and a guiding question for comprehension instruction. During the lesson, individualization included (a) the provision of deliberate instructional scaffolding and positive and corrective feedback and (b) the regulation of pacing throughout the lesson, including repeated modeling and provision of extra practice opportunities when needed.

Individualization of instruction for students served in small groups rather than in one-to-one formats entails a degree of compromise. This issue was addressed in two ways in this study. First, students were grouped as homogeneously as possible and were regrouped when possible if the rates of progress of students within a group diverged. Second, teachers planned lessons specifically designed for one student in the group each day (the “Star Reader”), rotating systematically among the students in the group. Each day, one student in the group was designated the Star Reader; this student sat in a specific chair next to the teacher and received individualized attention in several ways. The teacher planned each daily lesson specifically with the Star Reader in mind, selecting lesson objectives and instructional activities within each lesson component (e.g., word study, fluency) to address the needs of this student and selecting text at this student’s level. Each student had the opportunity to be the Star Reader at least 1 day per week. Table 2 describes in greater detail the individualized instruction provided to this daily focus student during each lesson component and the instruction provided to other students in the group when they were not the Star Reader.

Instruction and Practice Activities Provided to a Daily Focus Student and Other Students During Each Component of the Intervention

Fidelity of implementation

Project coordinators conducted direct observations of the intervention lessons to verify fidelity of implementation on five occasions across the school year using a protocol designed to reflect key features of the intervention. At each time point, each interventionist was observed during an entire small-group session using a form developed to capture ratings of adherence to prescribed program procedures and quality of implementation. Cross-site observations were held on two occasions in order to establish interobserver reliability and promote consistent implementation across sites. Observers co-observed live lessons and discussed differences in coding and then repeated the process until they reached at least 85% absolute agreement (i.e., number of agreements divided by total ratings).

Adherence to the program procedures was coded by rating each of the individual instructional activities (e.g., letter-sound instruction, high-frequency word instruction; repeated reading for fluency) on a 3-point Likert-type rating scale (with 3 being the highest); then each teacher’s score was calculated as a percentage of a “perfect” score. Program adherence was defined as implementing the activity according to the described procedures in the RRI handbook, appropriate provision of scaffolding, appropriate lesson pacing, and student on-task participation. Adherence also included providing each lesson component (e.g., word study, fluency) for the appropriate number of minutes during the lesson. The mean program adherence score across intervention components and across tutors was 93% ( SD = 0.07).

Quality of implementation was rated globally for overall lessons on a 2-point scale (yes–no), and percentages of a perfect score were similarly calculated. Items included (a) organization of materials to maximize instructional time, (b) appropriate student seating arrangement, (c) warmth and enthusiasm displayed toward students, (d) monitoring student responses and providing positive and corrective feedback, (e) clear communication of expectations for each activity, and (f) recording student responses on anecdotal records throughout the lesson. The mean quality score across components and across teachers was 99% ( SD = 0.02).

School-provided reading instruction

All study participants received regular daily classroom reading instruction. Classroom reading teachers received graphs of scores on researcher-collected repeated measures of oral reading fluency for all student participants in their classrooms (i.e., both treatment and comparison group students) along with instructions for interpreting these graphs to determine whether students were on-track to meet year-end benchmarks.

As a component of typical school practice, some participants received supplemental reading intervention provided by their schools in addition to classroom reading instruction, outside of the researcher-provided intervention. To document the nature and amount of this additional reading instruction, we conducted structured interviews of the classroom teachers of all participating students. During the intervention period, 16 students in the TSI group (64%) received school-provided reading intervention, including occasional tutoring and regularly scheduled small-group lessons. These 16 students received an average of 70.3 hr of intervention ( SD = 66.8; range 10.4–236.3 hr). Six received intervention from a dyslexia specialist or designated reading interventionist, and 11 received intervention from their regular classroom teachers (one received intervention from both a reading interventionist and the classroom teacher). Teachers reported using a variety of materials to provide the tutoring, and several students received tutoring provided with more than one type of materials or approach (so the following numbers total more than 16). Three students received tutoring using an explicit multisensory dyslexia program, and five received other phonics instruction. One student received one-to-one intervention using the Reading Recovery program ( Clay, 2005 ), and another student received a comprehensive explicit reading intervention program. Six received tutoring using their regular core classroom reading programs, and six received guided reading lessons. Six students received fluency-oriented intervention, including three whose teacher reported using the RN program (a component of the research Tier 3 intervention), but the extent to which this program was used with these comparison group students is not known.

During the same period, concurrent with the researcher-provided intervention, eight Tier 3 students (17%) received an average of 15.2 hr of school-provided reading intervention ( SD = 10.5; range 2.1–27.1 hr) consisting primarily of intermittent small-group tutoring. None of this intervention was provided by a designated reading specialist; five students were tutored by their classroom teachers and three by paraprofessionals. Five students were tutored using their classroom core reading programs, and one received guided reading lessons. Teachers provided intervention to two students using fluency-oriented programs and to one student using a phonics program. Two teachers used English language arts workbooks. None of the Tier 3 students received school-provided intervention using comprehensive supplemental intervention programs.

We measured student outcomes in word reading, word reading efficiency, text reading fluency, comprehension of sentences and brief passages, and comprehension of extended text. In addition, we measured cognitive variables hypothesized to be related to responsiveness to Tier 3 intervention.

Outcome measures

Word reading accuracy for real words and pseudowords was measured with the Letter–Word Identification and Word Attack subtests of the WJ III. Test–retest reliabilities are .85 and .81 for the two subtests, respectively, at the age of interest ( McGrew & Woodcock, 2001 ). Standard scores were evaluated in the analyses.

The Sight Word Efficiency and Phonemic Decoding Efficiency subtests of the TOWRE were used to assess word reading efficiency. Students read lists of real words and pseudowords, and the raw score is the number of words or nonwords read correctly in 45 s. Alternate forms reliability exceeds .90, and test–retest reliabilities range from .83 to .96 ( Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1999 ). Standard scores were evaluated in the analyses.

The Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) subtest from the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Good & Kaminski, 2002 ) assessed reading fluency in connected text. Test–retest reliabilities range from .92 to .97. Raw scores (words read correctly per minute) were evaluated in the analyses.

Reading comprehension was measured using the WJ III Passage Comprehension subtest and the Gates–MacGinitie Reading Comprehension subtest (GM Comprehension; Gates; MacGinitie, MacGinitie, Maria, Dryer, & Hughes, 2000 ). WJ III Passage Comprehension is a close-based assessment in which students read brief sentences or paragraphs and supply missing words. Test–retest reliability is .86 ( McGrew & Woodcock, 2001 ). The standard score was the primary dependent measure. GM Reading Comprehension involves reading a passage and responding to multiple-choice questions. The coefficient alpha in second grade is .92 in the fall and .93 in the spring (MacGinitie et al.). The percentile score was the primary dependent measure.

Cognitive measures

Based on prior assessments of the cognitive attributes of Tier 2 inadequate responders (e.g., Fletcher et al., 2011 ; Vellutino et al., 2006 ), we evaluated adequate versus inadequate responder profiles using measures of (a) receptive vocabulary and general knowledge, (b) phonological awareness, (c) rapid retrieval of letter names in a repeated array, (d) listening comprehension in elaborated text, and (e) listening comprehension with heavy demands on working memory, operationalized as the ability to understand and follow increasing complex oral directions. We also measured nonverbal reasoning to rule out general low ability as contrasted with difficulties in language domains.

We administered the KBIT–2 Verbal Knowledge subtest as an assessment of receptive vocabulary and general knowledge and KBIT–2 Matrices as a measure of nonverbal reasoning. The KBIT–2 is an individually administered intellectual screening measure. In the Verbal Knowledge subtest, the participant is required to choose one of six illustrations that best responds to an examiner question. Internal consistency ranges from .86 to .89. The KBIT–2 Matrices subtest requires students to choose a diagram that either “goes with” a series of other diagrams, completes a series, or completes a 2 × 2 analogy. Internal consistency ranges from .87 to .89 for students’ between the ages of 6 and 8 years. Standard scores ( M = 100, SD = 15) for both Verbal Knowledge and Matrices were used in the analyses.

Phonological awareness was represented by two subtests of the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP; Wagner, Torgesen, & Rashotte, 1999 ): Blending Words and Elision. The Blending Words subtest measures students’ ability to orally combine separately pronounced phonemes to form whole words. The coefficient alphas range from .79 to .89. The Elision subtest measures the extent to which an individual can first say a word and then say what remains after deleting specific sounds from the word. The coefficient alphas range from .89 to .92. For the analyses, the scaled scores ( M = 10, SD = 3) for Blending Words and Elision were averaged to form a Phonological Awareness Composite (PA) and then converted to standard scores. We also administered the Rapid Naming of Letters (RAN) subtest of the CTOPP. The CTOPP RAN Letters measures the speed of naming repeated letters. To reduce assessment time, we administered Form A, so a norm-referenced score could not be computed. The score used for analysis was time per letter, computed as the number of letters identified divided by the total time to identify all items. Alternate form and test–retest reliability coefficients are at or above .90 for students in the age range of this study.

We measured listening comprehension with two subtests of the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–4 (CELF–4; Semel, Wiig, & Secord, 2003 ), a norm-referenced assessment of language abilities. The CELF–4 Concepts and Directions subtest (CFD) measures listening comprehension and puts high demands on verbal working memory; it assesses the ability to understand, recall, and execute oral commands containing syntactic structures that increase in length and complexity. The coefficient alphas range from .91 to .92. The Understanding Spoken Paragraphs (USP) subtest is a three-paragraph, 15-item assessment that evaluates the ability to understand oral narrative texts. Questions probe for understanding of the main idea, understanding and memory of important details, the sequence of events, and the ability to make predications and inferences. The coefficient alphas range from .64 to .74. Scaled scores for these measures were converted to standard scores for the analyses.

Test Administration Procedures

We assessed reading performance prior to the onset of Tier 3 intervention in September of Grade 2 and at posttest in May of second grade. We administered the DIBELS ORF measure approximately every 4 weeks throughout the intervention to monitor progress. The cognitive tasks were administered in December of Grade 1, except for KBIT–2 Matrices, which was administered in May of Grade 1. All assessments were administered by examiners who completed an extensive assessment training program. A manual for training and test administration was developed and used to train the examiners in a 3-day workshop that included observation of test administration and practice. Prior to assessing a child, each examiner administered the test to the coordinator, who used a checklist to ensure that the examiners followed appropriate procedures. The assessment coordinators were present in all schools during the assessment periods and observed examiners at work. All assessments were completed in the students’ elementary schools in quiet locations.

To address Research Question 1, we conducted analyses using a repeated-measures ANOVA to evaluate reading gains and factors that influenced gains. First, we evaluated treatment effects and calculated effect sizes by dividing the difference in gain scores by the pooled standard deviation corrected for the correlation between the pre- and posttest (the SD of the gain scores / [ 2 ∗ ( 1 - r ) ] ; McGaw & Glass, 1980 ). For DIBELS ORF, we first included all data points in the analysis, finding that the results were the same when we analyzed only pretest and posttest data. Since there were missing data for some participants on the progress monitoring assessments, we report results on pre–post differences. Next, we evaluated instructional variables to determine if these factors influenced reading gains.

Because our sample was composed of students with inadequate response to previous intervention, the sample size was small. Given this small sample size, we had competing concerns regarding the multiple outcomes that we were evaluating causing inflated Type 1 error and the inflation of Type 2 error that results from the application of corrections in alpha for multiple comparisons. To illustrate, Schochet (2008) reported on a simulation that demonstrated that if an experiment has the statistical power to detect real differences at .80 for an individual measure, that power is reduced to .59 if Bonferroni corrections are applied to account for the analyses of five outcome measures. To balance these concerns, we grouped our outcomes into domains consistent with the hypothesized effects of the intervention: word reading, word reading efficiency, text reading fluency, comprehension of sentences and brief passages, and comprehension of extended text, and evaluated measures of each domain with an alpha of .05. For word reading and word reading efficiency, if there were statistically significant group differences, we then examined subcomponents (WJ III Letter–Word Identification and Word Attack; TOWRE Phonemic Decoding Efficiency and Sight Word Efficiency) to determine if the intervention influenced specific aspects of each domain). Finally, we adopted the practices of the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC; U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, 2011 ) and examined effect sizes for all measures (regardless of statistical significance) to determine whether the group differences were substantively important; we applied the WWC criteria of considering effect sizes greater than or equal to the absolute value of .25 as indicators of substantive importance.

A second concern was the potential for dependency due to the nesting of students within classroom and intervention groups. At this level of nesting, there were 52 classroom (TSI) and classroom/ intervention (Tier 3) clusters with between one and four students per cluster. The small sample made estimating multilevel models problematic. However, we examined intraclass correlations (ICCs) of the posttest performance controlling for pretest performance to determine if there were clustering effects at this level. For all outcomes except WJ III Letter–Word Identification and GM Passage Comprehension, the ICCs were 0. For WJ III Letter–Word Identification, the ICC was .50, and for GM Passage Comprehension, it was .11. In the case of the GM, the between cluster variance was not statistically significant ( p > .05). The between cluster variance in these cases did not meaningfully change the effects reported (i.e., the intervention had a statistically significant effect on WJ III Letter–Word Identification but not GM Passage Comprehension; discussed later).

To address Research Question 2, we conducted chi-square analyses to determine if there were group differences in responder status. To address the third research question, we compared cognitive profiles of adequate versus inadequate responders among the Tier 3 students who received intervention. We used the multivariate methods described by Fletcher et al. (2011) , which were derived from Huberty and Olejnik (2006) , to conduct a descriptive discriminant analysis. Thus, we conducted a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to determine if Tier 3 adequate responders differed from inadequate responders on measures of vocabulary and verbal knowledge, nonverbal reasoning, phonological awareness, listening comprehension/working memory, and listening comprehension. We then interpreted the discriminant function maximally separating groups on these variables.

We compared pretest means using t tests to determine if Tier 3 and TSI students differed on beginning of year performance. As expected, given the randomized assignment of students to treatment conditions, there were no significant differences in pretreatment performance on any of the achievement measures (see Table 3 ).

Pre- and Posttest Means by Treatment Group and Effect Sizes

Note . Typical school instruction (TSI) n = 25 for all measures; Tier 3 n = 47 for all measures except Gates and DIBELS posttest; for these measures, n = 46. WJ III = Woodcock–Johnson Tests of Achievement; TOWRE = Test of Word Reading Efficiency; DIBELS = Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills; Gates = Gates–MacGinitie Reading Comprehension.

Research Question 1: Effects of the Intervention

Tier 3 students demonstrated greater gains than TSI students on every reading measure, but this difference was not always statistically significant. Analyses indicated significant time-by-treatment interactions for the WJ III Basic Reading Skills cluster (and for both WJ III Letter–Word Identification and Word Attack individually), the TOWRE composite (and for TOWRE Sight Word Efficiency but not Phonemic Decoding Efficiency), and WJ III Passage Comprehension (see Table 3 ). There were no significant time-by-treatment interactions on DIBELS ORF or GM Passage Comprehension. Effect sizes for all measures except DIBELS ORF met the benchmark for substantive importance (i.e., exceeded .25; U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, 2011 ). Although group differences were not statistically significant, the effect size for TOWRE Phonemic Decoding Efficiency was comparable to that for Sight Word Efficiency (.40 and .39, respectively), and the effect size for the GM comprehension measure was comparable to that for the WJ III comprehension measure (.35 and .34, respectively).

Effects of instructional variables

We evaluated certain instructional variables to determine if they moderated the effects of treatment. Moderators affect the strength of the relation between treatment and outcomes ( Baron & Kenny, 1986 ). Statistically, a significant time by treatment by moderator interaction implies that treatment effects differ at different levels of the moderating variable. As for instructional variables, neither tutor assignment nor attendance at intervention sessions had significant effects on reading gains among Tier 3 students for any of the outcome measures ( p > .05). Considering both the Tier 3 and TSI groups, additional intervention status (i.e., whether a student received school-provided intervention outside the research intervention) did not interact with treatment (Tier 3 vs. TSI), nor did it have a main effect on reading gains when treatment was controlled for (based on repeated-measures ANOVA, p > .05). Finally, we evaluated the effects of site on outcomes, finding no interaction with treatment group. When the effects of treatment group were controlled, there was a main effect for site on WJ III Passage Comprehension. Students in the larger site demonstrated greater gains on this measure than students in the smaller site: large site pre/post = 82.6/88.8, small site pre/post = 83.2/86.1, F (1, 68) = 4.16, p < .05.

Research Question 2: Proportions of Students With Adequate Response

To increase sample size for the two-group multivariate analysis of cognitive profiles, we categorized the students as adequate responders if their scores were greater than a standard score of 90 on all three of the following measures: WJ III Basic Reading Skills, WJ III Passage Comprehension, and the TOWRE composite. The cut point of 90 for the WJ III Basic Reading Skills is slightly lower than the threshold used to select the sample, but this threshold equates cut points for all three measures. There were no students who would have qualified for the study at baseline based only on WJ Basic Reading scores of 90–92. In addition, we visually plotted scores of different subgroups on the outcome variables, and they were not obviously different.

Based on the stringent criterion of achieving the benchmark on all three measures, 25.5% of Tier 3 students and 20% of TSI students were adequate responders. The groups did not statistically differ in the proportions of adequate responders, χ 2 (1) = 0.28, p > .05. We also evaluated the proportions of adequate responders in the two groups based on each measure individually, finding that (a) 72.3% of Tier 3 and 56% of TSI students met the criterion of a standard score of more than 90 for WJ III Basic Reading, not a statistically significant difference, χ 2 (1) = 1.96, p > .05; (b) 42.6% of Tier 3 and 32% of TSI students met the criterion for the TOWRE composite, also not statistically different, χ 2 (1) = 0.76, p > .05; and (c) 36.2% of Tier 3 and 36% of TSI students met the criterion for WJ III Passage Comprehension, proportions that did not differ between groups, χ 2 (1) = 0.00, p > .05.

Research Question 3: Cognitive Attributes of Adequate and Inadequate Responders

We analyzed the scores on KBIT–2 Verbal Knowledge and Matrices; a composite of CTOPP Blending Words and Elision; CTOPP RAN; and CELF–4 CFD and LSP for adequate ( n = 17 in Tier 3 and TSI combined) and inadequate ( n = 55) responders to Tier 3 intervention based on the combined criterion of a standard score greater than 90 on all three measures (i.e., WJ III Basic Reading Skills, WJ III Passage Comprehension, and the TOWRE composite). Two of the inadequate responders were missing scores for CTOPP RAN. We replaced the missing values with the mean of the inadequate responders group to avoid losing cases with the multivariate approach.

Based on MANOVA, there was a statistically significant effect of responder status on the cognitive variables, F (6, 40) = 3.77, p < .01, η 2 = .36. Table 4 shows the means by responder status as well as canonical coefficients.

Group Means and Canonical Coefficients on Cognitive Variables for Adequate and Inadequate Responders to Tier 3 Intervention

Note. r = canonical structure correlation; KBIT–2 = Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test–2; CTOPP = Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing; CELF–4 = Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–4.

Table 4 shows that CTOPP phonological awareness and CELF CFD were the most highly correlated with a linear composite maximally separating the groups. Canonical correlations were smaller for CELF USP and CTOPP RAN, and even smaller for the KBIT Verbal Knowledge and Matrices scores. Because the canonical correlations do not yield statistical significance tests ( Huberty & Olejnik, 2006 ), we conducted follow- up univariate analyses using p < .008 (.05/6) as the critical level of alpha. These analyses yielded statistically significant group differences only for CTOPP phonological awareness and CELF CFD (see Table 4 ).

Figure 1 shows the cognitive profiles of Tier 3 adequate and inadequate responders, based on the data analyzed for this study. For descriptive purposes, we standardized the CTOPP RAN against a sample of typically developing children and a weighted sample of poor readers to have M = 100 and SD = 15. We also included the 85 adequate responders to the previous Tier 2 intervention from the Grade 1 study ( Denton et al., 2011 ) and 69 typically developing readers (i.e., not at-risk) who were evaluated following Tier 2. The profiles across the four groups are largely parallel; the differences in levels of performance among the six measures (e.g., the tendency for scores on verbal knowledge to be lower than PA) are apparent for all four groups and reflect differences in the normative samples for the KBIT–2, CTOPP, and CELF-4. Note that except for a tendency for lower scores on KBIT–2 Verbal Knowledge, the profiles for Tier 2 adequate responders and Tier 3 adequate responders are very similar. In addition, the group that showed inadequate response is generally impaired on language skills, especially PA and listening comprehension. Although the inadequate responders have low average scores on KBIT Matrices, they are much lower on KBIT Verbal Knowledge, which along with the results of the descriptive discriminant analysis supports our hypothesis of greater impairment on reading-related and language skills.

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Cognitive profiles of adequate and inadequate responders to Tier 3 intervention in relation to typically developing readers and Tier 2 adequate responders from Denton et al. (2011) . KBIT Verbal = Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test–2 Verbal Knowledge; KBIT Matricies = Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test–2 Matricies; PA = a composite of the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP) Blending Words and Elision; CELF USP = Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–4 Understanding Spoken Paragraphs; CELF CD = Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–4 Concepts and Following Directions; RAN = Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing Rapid Naming of Letters. The CTOPP Rapid Naming of Letters scores were standardized ( M = 100, SD = 15) in a sample of 416 students weighted to reflect population proportions of typical and struggling readers.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of an intensive, individualized Tier 3 reading intervention for children who had experienced inadequate response to a highly standardized Tier 2 intervention provided in first grade. A second goal was to compare the percentages of students who met post-intervention benchmarks for adequate intervention response. The third purpose was to compare the cognitive profiles of adequate and inadequate responders to Tier 3 intervention on key cognitive variables associated with inadequate response to less intensive intervention.

Our hypothesis that students who received the individualized Tier 3 intervention would significantly outperform comparison students who received typical school instruction was partially supported; the intervention was associated with significantly greater gains than typical instruction in word reading, phonemic decoding, word reading fluency, and sentence and paragraph-level reading comprehension. Although the Tier 3 group outperformed the comparison group in phonemic decoding fluency and on a measure of reading comprehension in extended text, these differences were not statistically significant. Effect sizes in all domains except for oral reading fluency were substantively important according to the standards of the What Works Clearinghouse ( U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Science, 2011 ).

The results of this study indicated that an intensive, individualized supplemental reading intervention can be efficacious for students requiring Tier 3 intervention, particularly in remediating word reading and phonemic decoding difficulties and in supporting comprehension of sentences and brief passages. Although many students in the comparison group received alternate school-provided interventions of various types, this intervention was generally not sustained and comprehensive, and students in the Tier 3 research intervention had better outcomes.

Although outcomes were significantly better for the Tier 3 group on several measures, on average, students who received the Tier 3 intervention remained seriously impaired in text reading fluency and passage comprehension at the end of the study, with mean scores below the 20th percentile on DIBELS ORF and WJ III Passage Comprehension and just at the 20th percentile for Gates–MacGinitie Passage Comprehension. According to DIBELS norms, the 20th percentile in the spring of Grade 2 is 68 wcpm ( Good, Wallin, Simmons, Kame’enui, & Kaminski, 2002 ). The Tier III treatment group gained an average of about 33 wcpm from pretest to posttest, but their pretest mean ORF level, about 18 wcpm, was far below expected levels for the beginning of second grade. Their mean second grade posttest score (about 51 wcpm) was similar to the DIBELS ORF 50th percentile for the spring of Grade 1. Given the often-reported high correlations between ORF and reading comprehension in the primary grades ( Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001 ), the Tier 3 students’ impaired comprehension may be due in part to their limited automaticity of basic skills.

The disappointing outcomes of the treatment group in text reading fluency are consistent with results reported in other studies of remedial interventions with students who have moderate to severe reading difficulties. In a review of research on remedial interventions for students with impaired word reading, Torgesen (2004) reported that even interventions that result in significant improvements in word reading and comprehension for such students commonly have weaker effects on text reading fluency. To explain this consistent finding, Torgesen suggested that students beyond Grade 1 who have reading difficulties have a large practice deficit relative to typically developing readers their age; struggling readers read less and thus have little opportunity to develop automaticity in word recognition, a component of fluent reading. This theory suggests that students in second grade and higher who respond adequately to interventions in terms of improved word reading may need extended text reading practice to reach appropriate levels of automaticity.

Research Question 2: Proportions of Students with Adequate Response

We applied the benchmark of performance above a standard score of 90 (i.e., the 20th percentile) in word reading, word reading efficiency, and passage comprehension to evaluate the proportions of students who demonstrated adequate response to intervention in the Tier 3 and TSI groups. Although a larger percentage of Tier 3 than TSI students attained the benchmarks for word reading and word reading fluency, the proportions did not differ significantly between the groups.

As has been reported in previous studies of Tier 3 interventions (e.g., Denton et al., 2006 ), the responsiveness of individual students was highly variable. At posttest, the majority of Tier 3 students (72%) performed within the average range in word reading and phonemic decoding (i.e., basic reading skills); however, fewer than half met the posttest benchmarks for word reading fluency (43%) and passage comprehension (36%) at the end of the study. Students with reading difficulties that are resistant to remediation may require a longer term intervention than we provided in this study to achieve performance in the average range. Alternately, students may have responded more positively to intervention that devoted more time to explicit instruction in comprehension strategies. Future research should investigate more directly the optimal balance between instruction in word-level and text-level skills for students with severe and intractable difficulties in multiple reading domains.

The descriptive discriminant analysis showed that measures of phonological awareness and listening comprehension were most closely associated with responder status. However, as Figure 1 shows, students who responded inadequately to Tier 3 intervention were generally more impaired on all language measures. Moreover, in comparison with adequate responders to Tier 2 intervention, the profiles of the Tier 3 responders were similar, differing slightly in elevation. In contrast, inadequate responders to both Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention showed more severe and pervasive language impairments. Because these language impairments were apparent before even Tier 2 intervention, these results imply that persistent language impairment, especially after Tier 2 intervention, may indicate elevated risk for a persistently inadequate intervention response. Although our sample size is not adequate to attempt individual predictions of response, the results are consistent with prior studies of the cognitive attributes of Tier 2 adequate and inadequate responders, suggesting a continuum of severity corresponding with the level of reading ability at baseline. These results show little evidence of qualitative differences that might suggest differences in the type of intervention or alternative approaches to intervention other than a more intense focus on oral language development.

Limitations and Implications of the Study

This study was primarily limited by the relatively small number of participants. Conducting research examining Tier 3 intervention is challenging, in that ensuring an adequate sample size at Tier 3 necessitates beginning with a very large sample in the lower tiers. Because of our relatively small sample, the findings of this study should be interpreted with caution.

Despite this limitation, this study has implications for theory and practice. The pattern of results, indicating stronger outcomes for word-level reading skills than for oral passage reading fluency and reading comprehension, are consistent with developmental models of reading acquisition ( Chall, 1983 ; Ehri, 2005 ). In such models, reading acquisition is described as essentially a “bottom-up” process in which children master word identification at increasingly complex levels, and then, through practice, begin to execute these skills with increasing efficiency. Under this theoretical framework, it would be expected that students with impaired word reading would need to attain a level of proficiency in foundational sub-skills before they are able to orchestrate these skills to support fluent reading.

From such a developmental perspective, it might be expected that reading comprehension would develop in tandem with, or after, fluency. The fact that outcomes in this study were stronger for comprehension than for fluency is not totally aligned with this expectation. Perfetti, Landi, and Oakhill (2005) described a more interactive model of reading comprehension, suggesting a reciprocal relationship between the development of reading comprehension and word reading. In this model, “Children must come to readily identify words and encode their relevant meaning into the mental representation that they are constructing” (p. 229), but the development of word identification—conceptualized as the acquisition of high-quality representations of the’ phonology, orthography, and meanings of words—is supported when children read with comprehension. Thus, children may progress in word reading and comprehension while lagging behind in fluency. Moreover, although there is a strong positive correlation between fluency and comprehension in the primary grades ( Fuchs et al., 2001 ), research has not informed the field of the threshold of fluency required for adequate comprehension of text at different stages of reading acquisition, especially for children with reading difficulties. In such students, the finding that fluency outcomes are weaker than word reading and comprehension outcomes is common ( Torgesen, 2004 ).

This study also has several implications for educational practice. First, it appears that students who have demonstrated low response to previous Tier 1 and Tier 2 intervention require systematic, intensive Tier 3 interventions in order to make meaningful gains. The interventions provided by the schools in this study as part of their typical practice included only a few examples of systematic, intensive intervention, and as a group, students who received typical instruction had weaker outcomes than those who received intensive Tier 3 intervention in the treatment group. Second, individualized intervention appears to be efficacious for Tier 3 students in the primary grades. In this study, individualization of instruction occurred within a framework of lesson components, and teachers were provided with a set of evidence-based instructional activities for each component from which they selected activities that were appropriate for their students. This design provided the flexibility needed to plan instruction to target students’ needs and also resulted in high rates of adherence to prescribed procedures. Implementing such an individualized approach within a supportive instructional framework in which teachers are not asked to invent their daily instruction “from scratch” may allow for the consistent implementation of individualized interventions. Third, it is apparent that fluency and comprehension difficulties are particularly resistant to remediation in many Tier 3 students, particularly those who are also impaired in word reading. Successful remediation may require longer term intervention or a different approach than was implemented in this study. Fourth, this study replicated findings in previous studies of Tier 3 intervention in that results were variable; some students had adequate response, but many did not. Those with continued inadequate response to intervention may have reading disabilities that require long-term intensive remediation. Finally, inadequate responders show persistent language difficulties that are apparent before they began Tier 2 intervention. Future intervention studies may be able to identify predictors of inadequate response, and interventions may need a more intense oral language focus even at Tier 2, suggesting potential avenues for differentiation.

Given the widespread implementation of RTI models, future research should continue to examine the effects of intensive interventions for students who demonstrate inadequate progress in less intensive treatments. If data from RTI implementations are used to help identify students who have reading disabilities, special educators will be asked to provide reading instruction to a group of students who have ostensibly been inadequately responsive to high-quality, research-based instruction. The current emphasis on evidence-based instructional practices and materials is dependent on the development of a research base that goes beyond what works with most struggling readers to address instruction for students with persistent reading difficulties and disabilities who have not responded well to currently identified evidence-based approaches. Doing “more of the same” in smaller groups or for a longer period of time will likely work for some students, but others will need a different approach to reading instruction, perhaps going beyond currently understood “best practices.”


This research was supported in part by Grants P50 HD052117-03, K99HD061689, and 1K08HD068545-01A1, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NICHD or the National Institutes of Health.

Appendix. Instructional Activities From Which Teachers Selected for Individualized Daily Lessons

Carolyn A. Denton is the primary developer of Responsive Reading Instruction and a co-author of the book Responsive Reading Instruction; she receives royalties from its publisher. To guard against potential bias, the investigators (at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston) who collected, handled, and analyzed data do not have a relationship with the intervention or book.

Contributor Information

Carolyn A. Denton, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Tammy D. Tolar, University of Houston.

Jack M. Fletcher, University of Houston.

Amy E. Barth, University of Houston.

Sharon Vaughn, University of Texas at Austin.

David J. Francis, University of Houston.

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Tim Scott rips 'two-tiered standard' between treatment of Trump, Biden on border executive action: video

Trump faced criticism for action similar to what biden is considering on the border crisis.

Brandon Gillespie

Tim Scott rips 'two-tiered standard' between treatment of Trump, Biden on border executive action and addresses Mayorkas impeachment

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., slammed what he called a "two-tiered standard" concerning President Biden mulling executive action to handle the border crisis, and how former President Trump was treated during his presidency when he tried the same thing.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – FIRST ON FOX — Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott slammed what he called a "two-tiered standard" concerning President Biden mulling executive action to handle the border crisis, and how former President Trump was treated during his presidency when he attempted to do the same thing.

"Well, there's no question that there's a two-tiered standard in our national media. The way they cover President Trump versus the way that they use kid gloves to cover Joe Biden. There's no question about that," Scott said during a Thursday interview with Fox News Digital when asked about reports that Biden is weighing executive action to crack down on asylum-seeking.

"More important, however, is that when we had President Trump in office, we actually had a basically sealed southern border. Crossings were around a thousand a day. Under President Biden in December, we had 10,000 crossings on average per day," he added. "That contrast should be what the media is covering."


Joe Biden, Tim Scott, Donald Trump

President Joe Biden, Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former President Donald Trump. (Getty Images)

An administration source told Fox earlier this week that Biden is considering executive action to restrict the ability of migrants to claim asylum amid historic numbers of border crossings facing the country, but that it’s one of "several" plans being looked at.

An administration official also stressed that there have been no final decisions on what actions, if any, could be taken and that exploring policy options does not mean they will come to pass.

One of the options reportedly on the table is use of 212(f) of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the president to restrict certain categories of foreigners who are deemed "detrimental to the interests of the United States." Trump attempted to use it but was blocked by a federal court, a ruling later upheld by the Supreme Court .


Tim Scott talking with reporters

Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott speaks with reporters after casting his ballot in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in Hanahan, South Carolina on February 22, 2024. (Brandon Gillespie/Fox News)

The former president also faced sharp criticism from Democrats and members of the liberal media for attempting to use executive action on immigration, including being called "xenophobic" and "racist."

Biden has yet to face the same widespread level of criticism, although some of the more progressive Democrats have lashed out at the idea of Biden reverting to the previous administration's approach.

"Democrats CANNOT solve immigration problems by adopting Trump-like policies," Rep. Pramila Jayapal , D-Wash., wrote in a post on X, while Rep. Jesús García, D-Ill., claimed, "President Biden would be making a grave mistake if he moves forward with this policy."


Mayorkas testifies

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The possible executive action by Biden comes just under two weeks after the House of Representatives narrowly voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border crisis.

During a gaggle with reporters after casting his vote in the South Carolina primary earlier in the day, Scott told Fox that he "certainly" supported Mayorkas' impeachment, and he praised the House for having the "courage" to take such action. However, he admitted the task likely wouldn't go anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate.


"The best way to eliminate Mayorkas being the secretary is to actually fire Joe Biden," he said. "If we really want to change the trajectory of the country as it relates to immigration — illegal immigration — we have to do so by having someone, a commander-in-chief, who respects our borders, who wants to close our borders."

Fox News' Adam Shaw and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Brandon Gillespie is an associate editor at Fox News. Follow him on X at @BGillespieAL.

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Poll Ranks Biden as 14th-Best President, With Trump Last

President Biden may owe his place in the top third to his predecessor: Mr. Biden’s signature accomplishment, according to the historians, was evicting Donald J. Trump from the Oval Office.

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President Biden standing at the top of the steps leading to Air Force One.

By Peter Baker

Peter Baker has covered the past five presidents, ranked seventh, 12th, 14th, 32nd and 45th in the survey.

President Biden has not had a lot of fun perusing polls lately. He has a lower approval rating than every president going back to Dwight D. Eisenhower at this stage of their tenures, and he trails former President Donald J. Trump in a fall rematch. But Mr. Biden can take solace from one survey in which he is way out in front of Mr. Trump.

A new poll of historians coming out on Presidents’ Day weekend ranks Mr. Biden as the 14th-best president in American history, just ahead of Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan and Ulysses S. Grant. While that may not get Mr. Biden a spot on Mount Rushmore, it certainly puts him well ahead of Mr. Trump, who places dead last as the worst president ever.

Indeed, Mr. Biden may owe his place in the top third in part to Mr. Trump. Although he has claims to a historical legacy by managing the end of the Covid pandemic; rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and leading an international coalition against Russian aggression, Mr. Biden’s signature accomplishment, according to the historians, was evicting Mr. Trump from the Oval Office.

“Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of presidential leadership and is gearing up to keep the office out of his predecessor’s hands this fall,” wrote Justin Vaughn and Brandon Rottinghaus, the college professors who conducted the survey and announced the results in The Los Angeles Times .

Mr. Trump might not care much what a bunch of academics think, but for what it’s worth he fares badly even among the self-identified Republican historians. Finishing 45th overall, Mr. Trump trails even the mid-19th-century failures who blundered the country into a civil war or botched its aftermath like James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and Andrew Johnson.

Judging modern-day presidents, of course, is a hazardous exercise, one shaped by the politics of the moment and not necessarily reflective of how history will look a century from now. Even long-ago presidents can move up or down such polls depending on the changing cultural mores of the times the surveys are conducted.

For instance, Barack Obama, finishing at No. 7 this year, is up nine places since 2015, as is Grant, now ranked 17th. On the other hand, Andrew Jackson has fallen 12 places to 21st while Wilson (15th) and Reagan (16th) have each fallen five places.

At least some of that may owe to the increasing contemporary focus on racial justice. Mr. Obama, of course, was the nation’s first Black president, and Grant’s war against the Ku Klux Klan has come to balance out the corruption of his administration. But more attention today has focused on Jackson’s brutal campaigns against Native Americans and his “Trail of Tears” forced removal of Indigenous communities, and Wilson’s racist views and resegregation of parts of the federal government.

As usual, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson top the list, and historians generally share similar views of many presidents regardless of their own personal ideology or partisan affiliation. But some modern presidents generate more splits among the historians along party lines.

Among Republican scholars, for instance, Reagan finishes fifth, George H.W. Bush 11th, Mr. Obama 15th and Mr. Biden 30th, while among Democratic historians, Reagan is 18th, Mr. Bush 19th, Mr. Obama sixth and Mr. Biden 13th. Other than Grant and Mr. Biden, the biggest disparity is over George W. Bush, who is ranked 19th among Republicans and 33rd among Democrats.

Intriguingly, one modern president who generates little partisan difference is Bill Clinton. In fact, Republicans rank him slightly higher, at 10th, than Democrats do, at 12th, perhaps reflecting some #MeToo era rethinking and liberal unease over his centrist politics.

The survey, conducted by Mr. Vaughn, an associate professor of political science at Coastal Carolina University, and Mr. Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, was based on 154 responses from scholars across the country.

Peter Baker is the chief White House correspondent for The Times. He has covered the last five presidents and sometimes writes analytical pieces that place presidents and their administrations in a larger context and historical framework. More about Peter Baker

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A new super PAC supporting former President Donald Trump has emerged with plans to air ads during the presidential general election . The group, Right for America, is backed by a member of his private club, Mar-a-Lago.

Anger within the Democratic Party over Biden’s support for Israel in the war in Gaza has been building for months . Michigan’s upcoming primary will measure that discontent for the first time .

Immigration Politics:  President   Biden’s aides are looking at the Republicans’ decision to kill a bipartisan border measure as an opportunity to bolster his re-election campaign. But there are risks to such a strategy .

An Invisible Constituency: Asian Americans are largely underrepresented in public opinion polls. Efforts are underway to change that .

 On Wall Street:  Investors are already thinking about how financial markets might respond to the outcome of a Biden-Trump rematch , and how they should trade to prepare for it.

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Computer Science > Computation and Language

Title: instruction-tuned language models are better knowledge learners.

Abstract: In order for large language model (LLM)-based assistants to effectively adapt to evolving information needs, it must be possible to update their factual knowledge through continued training on new data. The standard recipe for doing so involves continued pre-training on new documents followed by instruction-tuning on question-answer (QA) pairs. However, we find that LLMs trained with this recipe struggle to answer questions, even though the perplexity of documents is minimized. We found that QA pairs are generally straightforward, while documents are more complex, weaving many factual statements together in an intricate manner. Therefore, we hypothesize that it is beneficial to expose LLMs to QA pairs before continued pre-training on documents so that the process of encoding knowledge from complex documents takes into account how this knowledge is accessed through questions. Based on this, we propose pre-instruction-tuning (PIT), a method that instruction-tunes on questions prior to training on documents. This contrasts with standard instruction-tuning, which learns how to extract knowledge after training on documents. Extensive experiments and ablation studies demonstrate that PIT significantly enhances the ability of LLMs to absorb knowledge from new documents, outperforming standard instruction-tuning by 17.8%.

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How to Watch the SAG Awards on Netflix Without Commercials Even if You Have the Ad Tier, and How Long Before It’s Pulled Off the Streamer

By Michael Schneider

Michael Schneider

Variety Editor at Large

  • How to Watch the SAG Awards on Netflix Without Commercials Even if You Have the Ad Tier, and How Long Before It’s Pulled Off the Streamer 20 hours ago
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: Michelle Yeoh accepts the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for "Everything Everywhere All at Once" onstage during the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on February 26, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Pro tip for Screen Actors Guild Awards viewers: Watch it live. That’s because even those Netflix subscribers on the cheaper advertising tier will still get a commercial-free experience when the telecast runs live on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. After that initial livestream, however, commercial breaks will be inserted into replays for users on the ad tier looking to timeshift and watch the SAG Awards later.

Also, it’s the first SAG Awards following last year’s SAG-AFTRA strike and eventual new agreement with the AMPTP. And there’s a new production team behind this year’s SAG Awards: Baz Halpin, Mark Bracco and Linda Gierahn of Silent House Prods. are joining SAG-AFTRA’s Jon Brockett as exec producers.

But perhaps most strikingly, this reps the first official year for the SAG Awards to stream on Netflix. (Last year, due to the last-minute licensing deal between SAG-AFTRA and Netflix, it only ran on Netflix’s YouTube page.) Under the multi-year pact with Netflix, which the L.A. Times reports was worth just $7 million, the SAG Awards becomes the latest major event to move from linear to streaming.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNets — the arm formerly known as Turner — parted ways with the SAG Awards in 2022, after 25 years. TNT had run the SAG Awards since 1998, and then TBS made it a simulcast in 2007. (NBC aired the first three years of the SAG Awards, which launched in 1995.)

The final SAG Awards on the TNets averaged 1.8 million total viewers in 2022. It’s difficult to say how many people watched the show last year: Although the number reported was 1.5 million views, that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to the usual Nielsen average number.

This year’s SAG Awards will once again run for two hours, and the commercial-free format follows last year’s run on Netflix’s YouTube page, which was also without ads.

“We’ve been brainstorming a lot of really great ideas for some creative elements and interstitials that sort of take us away from the main stage at different times,” Bracco recently told Variety . Brockett added that because there’s no hard and fast time limit on the streamer, acceptance speeches can go long: “We kind of give them a general time [limit] ahead of time, but if we really feel like a speech is engaging and compelling, then we’ll let it go on as long as it needs to.”

The SAG Awards will continue to be available on Netflix for replays up until 28 days after the event, when contractually it must be removed from the streamer. Meanwhile, after the live “Love is Blind” debacle, Netflix insiders believe they’ve ironed out their livestream issues. Since then, Netflix has pulled off “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” (March 4, 2023), “Love Is Blind: Brazil Season 3 The Live Reunion” (July 2, 2023) and “The Netflix Cup” (November 14, 2023) without an issue. Next up, the streamer has “The Netflix Slam” live event on March 3.

Idris Elba is set to open this year’s kudocast, which will include Jennifer Aniston presenting Barbra Streisand with the 59th SAG Life Achievement Award. Presenters include Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt coming together on stage for a “The Devil Wears Prada” reunion.

Other presenters include Erika Alexander (“American Fiction”), Danielle Brooks (“The Color Purple”), Sterling K. Brown (“American Fiction”), Michael Cera (“Barbie”), Jessica Chastain (“Mothers’ Instinct”), Colman Domingo (“Rustin,” “The Color Purple”), Robert Downey Jr. (“Oppenheimer”), SAG-AFTRA prexy Fran Drescher, Phil Dunster (“Ted Lasso”), Billie Eilish (“Swarm”), America Ferrera (“Barbie”), Brendan Fraser (“Killers of the Flower Moon”), Taraji P. Henson (“The Color Purple”), Troy Kotsur (“CODA”), Greta Lee (“Past Lives,” “The Morning Show”), Melissa McCarthy (“Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story”), Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”), Glen Powell (“Hit Man”), Issa Rae (“American Fiction,” “Barbie”), Storm Reid (“Euphoria”), Margot Robbie (“Barbie”), Tracee Ellis Ross (“American Fiction”), Alexander Skarsgård (“Succession”), Omar Sy (“Lupin”), Hannah Waddingham (“Ted Lasso”), Naomi Watts (“Feud: Capote vs. The Swans”), and Jeffrey Wright (“American Fiction”).

Meanwhile, the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Official Pre-Show, hosted by Tan France and Elaine Welteroth, will stream on Netflix and Netflix’s TikTok and YouTube channels at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT on Saturday.

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  1. Tiered Instruction Basics, Sections & Examples

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  1. PDF Effects of Tiered Instruction on Academic Performance in a Secondary

    Tiered instruction is grouping students for instruction based on their prior background knowledge in a given subject area. In this study, students were either in a control secondary science classroom or a classroom in which instruction was tiered. The tiered instruction was designed to matched to high, middle, or low levels of background knowledge

  2. Using Tiered Instruction To Maximize Student Outcomes

    Tiered instruction involves designing multiple levels of instruction for the same lesson or activity, with each level addressing the learning needs of different students. This approach allows you to provide support to struggling students, challenge advanced learners, and meet the learning needs of students in the middle.

  3. Developing a Multi-Tiered System of Supports

    Every student receives core instruction, known as Tier One. Some students need supplemental instruction, which is referred to as Tier Two, and a small cohort of students receive the most intensive intervention and supports, known as Tier Three. Academic supports are integrated with behavioral supports in the MTSS framework.

  4. Uncharted Territory: Using Tiered Intervention to Improve High ...

    Tier 1 is instruction in the core curriculum/program based on a state's content standards. Students who receive Tier 1 instruction but do not meet set learning objectives or standards receive targeted, small-group supplemental interventions (Tier 2) in addition to core instruction. In Tier 3, intensive, one-on-one interventions are ...

  5. Effects of Tiered Instruction on Academic Performance in a Secondary

    The tiered instruction was designed to matched to high, middle, or low levels of background knowledge on astronomy and Newtonian physics. The seven control classrooms received middle-level nontiered instruction, whereas the seven treatment classrooms delivered three levels of tiered instruction.

  6. A Research Study on the Effects of Differentiated Instruction, Tiered

    Spring 4-8-2022 A Research Study on the Effects of Differentiated Instruction, Tiered Instruction, and Tracking on First Grade and Second Grade Students Who Perform Lower in Academic Subjects Compared to Their Classmates Britni Sanchez Follow this and additional works at:

  7. [2402.14492] INSTRAUG: Automatic Instruction Augmentation for

    Fine-tuning large language models (LLMs) on multi-task instruction-following data has been proven to be a powerful learning paradigm for improving their zero-shot capabilities on new tasks. Recent works about high-quality instruction-following data generation and selection require amounts of human labor to conceive model-understandable instructions for the given tasks and carefully filter the ...

  8. [2402.09906] Generative Representational Instruction Tuning

    All text-based language problems can be reduced to either generation or embedding. Current models only perform well at one or the other. We introduce generative representational instruction tuning (GRIT) whereby a large language model is trained to handle both generative and embedding tasks by distinguishing between them through instructions. Compared to other open models, our resulting GritLM ...

  9. The Impact of Differentiated Instruction on Students' Reading

    The teacher of the treatment group provided differentiated teaching using homogeneous grouping, tiered instruction; and tiered assignments in the areas of content, methodology; and product. However, the comparison group was taught traditionally using the one-size-fits-all method and the instructional material in Action Pack 10 only.

  10. VL-Trojan: Multimodal Instruction Backdoor Attacks against

    Autoregressive Visual Language Models (VLMs) showcase impressive few-shot learning capabilities in a multimodal context. Recently, multimodal instruction tuning has been proposed to further enhance instruction-following abilities. However, we uncover the potential threat posed by backdoor attacks on autoregressive VLMs during instruction tuning. Adversaries can implant a backdoor by injecting ...

  11. (PDF) A Tiered Intervention Model for Early Vocabulary Instruction: The

    This article provides a review of a particularly effective model of vocabulary intervention based on shared storybook reading and situates this model in a context of tiered intervention, an...

  12. Effective Teaching Strategies for Supporting Tiered Students in the

    Tiered instruction helps bridge the gap between students' diverse learning needs and ensures that every student is working with the right material. It's not always easy to provide each student with content that's tailored to their specific learning needs. Thankfully, our K-12 solution makes it easy.

  13. (PDF) Tiered Approaches to the Education of Students ...

    Tiered instruction represents a model in which the instruction delivered to students varies on several dimensions that are related to the nature and severity of the student's difficulties.

  14. PDF Action Research: Tiered Instruction in a High School Physics Course

    (Purpose) This article describes the use of tiered instruction, a specific form of differentiation, within the author's high school Physics classroom. A background and discussion on the nature of tiered instruction is also included. (Findings) Topics addressed in this paper

  15. A Tiered Intervention Model for Early Vocabulary Instruction: The

    This article provides a review of a particularly effective model of vocabulary intervention based on shared storybook reading and situates this model in a context of tiered intervention, an emerging model of instructional design in the field of special education.

  16. Tiered Approaches to the Education of Students with Learning

    Tiered instruction and assessment can also prove useful in science, where Adams and Pierce (2003) suggest a process of tiered instruction and assessment that could differentiate learning in one of three ways: "content (what you want the students to learn); process (the way students make sense out of the content); or product (the outcome at ...

  17. Differentiated Instructions: Implementing Tiered Listening Tasks in

    Language teachers are usually faced with the challenging classrooms wherein the students with mixed language abilities sit together. One solution to deal with this situation is to apply differentiated instructions in terms of tiered task strategy. By definition, tiered tasks are extracted from the same material or skills, and personalized according to students' readiness, interest and ...

  18. (PDF) Effects of Tiered Instruction on Academic Performance in a

    Tiered instruction is grouping students for instruction based on their prior background knowledge in a given subject area. In this study, students were either in a control secondary science...

  19. Tiered Lessons: One Way to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction

    Tiered Lessons: One Way to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction - Davidson Institute Jan 19, 2004 Tiered Lessons: One Way to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction Gifted Research This article is about differentiation. Due to the broad range of academic needs among students, teachers find themselves in a dilemma.

  20. Tiered instruction and intervention: how does it work?

    Tier 1 is the broadest RTI tier and consists of regular classroom instruction that all students receive. Regardless of their tier level, each member of the class should be taught general education subjects using a traditional curriculum in a classroom.

  21. 5 Key Building Blocks of Effective Core or Tier 1 Instruction

    1. Relevant evidence-based curriculum. Curriculum refers to an evidence-based, standards and competency-aligned sequence of planned experiences that help learners capture content concepts and applied skills that follow local standards, graduate profiles, career skills, social and emotional learning, and learners' interests.

  22. Differentiated Instruction Strategies: Tiered Assignments

    There are six main ways to structure tiered assignments: challenge level, complexity, outcome, process, product, or resources. It is your job, based upon the specific learning tasks you're focused on, to determine the best approach. Here we will take a brief look at these techniques. Ways to Structure Tiered Assignments Challenge Level

  23. Effects of Tier 3 Intervention for Students With Persistent Reading

    This article describes a randomized controlled trial conducted to evaluate the effects of an intensive, individualized, Tier 3 reading intervention for second grade students who had previously experienced inadequate response to quality first grade classroom reading instruction (Tier 1) and supplemental small-group intervention (Tier 2).

  24. Tim Scott rips 'two-tiered standard' between treatment of Trump, Biden

    Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., ripped the "two-tiered standard" concerning reaction to President Biden's possible executive action on the border crisis, compared to former President Trump's.

  25. Poll Ranks Biden as 14th-Best President, With Trump Last

    President Biden may owe his place in the top third to his predecessor: Mr. Biden's signature accomplishment, according to the historians, was evicting Donald J. Trump from the Oval Office.

  26. PDF Integrating a Multi-Tiered System of Supports With Comprehensive School

    The purpose of this article is to discuss both a multi-tiered system of supports and comprehensive school counseling programs, demonstrating the overlap between the two frameworks. ... instructional practice can take place on the first tier with whole class instruction, on the second tier with a small reading group, or on the third tier with ...

  27. Instruction-tuned Language Models are Better Knowledge Learners

    In order for large language model (LLM)-based assistants to effectively adapt to evolving information needs, it must be possible to update their factual knowledge through continued training on new data. The standard recipe for doing so involves continued pre-training on new documents followed by instruction-tuning on question-answer (QA) pairs. However, we find that LLMs trained with this ...

  28. How to Watch SAG Awards on Netflix Without Ads; When Will It ...

    That's because even those Netflix subscribers on the cheaper advertising tier will still get a commercial-free experience when the telecast runs live on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.