How can Tier 3 intervention be conceptualized in the RTI approach?

Page 3: Qualities of Tier 3 Intervention

Although most students respond to Tier 1 or Tier 2 instruction, a small percentage (i.e., 5%) will not and may require Tier 3 intervention (i.e., special education services). In a three-tiered model, a special education teacher provides the intervention, which is guided by data, individualized, and recursive.


Lynn Fuchs, PhD
Nicholas Hobbs Endowed Chair
in Special Education
and Human Development
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Listen as Lynn Fuchs elaborates on the need among some students for the more intensive, individualized intervention available in Tier 3 (time: 0:50).

View Transcript

tier 3 characteristics: Increased intensity: more instructional time, smaller group size.  Increased Explicitness: more focus on teaching specific skills.Tier 3 instruction differs from that provided in Tiers 1 or 2 in these ways:

  • Increased intensity –– more instructional time, smaller group size
  • Increased explicitness –– more focus on teaching specific skills

Another way to increase the intensity of Tier 3 intervention is to group students according to their instructional needs. For example, three students who have difficulty with reading comprehension could receive instruction together in a small group.

Additional characteristics of Tier 3 intervention, some of which are shared by Tiers 1 and 2, include:

High-quality instruction
  • Use research-validated practices
  • Cover the five core reading components
  • Continue to provide 90 minutes of Tier 1 instruction daily in addition to 40–60 minutes of Tier 3 intervention (up to five days per week)
Frequent progress monitoring
  • Collect progress monitoring data at least once per week
Data-based decision making
  • Use progress monitoring data to guide instruction
Low student-teacher ratio
  •  Teach in small groups containing no more than three students

For Your Information

Providing multiple rounds of intervention in Tier 2 is not the same as increasing the intensity of intervention. It is a way of providing the intervention for a longer period of time (i.e., increased duration). Students who respond well to intervention, but who need more time to meet grade-level expectations, may benefit from another round of intervention.

Outside of schoolIn their search for information, Katy Stromwell and others from her district’s team visit Rosa Parks Elementary, a school in a neighboring district that has enjoyed success with the RTI approach. Rosa Parks has adopted a three-tiered RTI model. The team observes Rosa Parks’s implementation of Tier 3, which is special education. At Rosa Parks Elementary, a student who does not respond adequately to Tier 2 intervention is referred for a special education evaluation. If the IEP team determines, based on the evaluation results, that the student meets the criteria for a learning disability, he or she will receive special education services as the Tier 3 intervention. These intervention services are delivered by the special education teacher. Now that Katy Stromwell and the team have learned the basic procedures related to Tier 3, they find that they want even more specific information about:

  • How students are identified for Tier 3 intervention
  • How Tier 3 reading interventions are provided
  • How students discontinue Tier 3 intervention
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