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The Imperative of Tier 1

As a response to the ever-growing needs of students, a multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) approach is increasingly being adopted by schools to promote wellbeing and support the development of the whole child – academic, behaviour and social-emotional skills. Tier 1 represents the experiences and support that each and every student receives in a school. Typically, around 80% of students will only require this level of support to achieve predetermined outcomes.

Tier 1 is the foundation of an MTSS and getting it right is pivotal for student success by ensuring positive school climate, wellbeing and equitable outcomes for all. Tier 2 and 3 interventions are only provided to those students (about 20%) who don’t respond as expected to the universal tier 1 supports.

Often times, schools will unintentionally focus primarily on tier 2 (targeted) and tier 3 (intensive) interventions to address student behavioural and social emotional needs. At first glance, this can appear to be an expedient approach as it is targeting only those students who seem to have deficits in particular developmental areas. However, in the absence of an appropriate tier 1 initiative implemented with fidelity, any possibility of accurately determining which students legitimately require support at the tier 2 and 3 levels comes under question.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of tier 2 and 3 responses relies heavily on the quality of tier 1 practices which actually enable the efficacy of more intensive interventions (tier 2 and 3). If we liken this to students learning to read, we would not consider providing reading intervention to students in the absence of high quality, evidence-based classroom reading instruction. How could we know who really needed tier 2 and 3 interventions in reading without every child being explicitly taught decoding and comprehension skills consistently in class? Imagine trying to provide reading intervention to students who were not also being taught to read through a universal, classroom program.

The Second Step program provides a comprehensive tier 1 evidence-based approach to SEL that is easy to implement, teaching students the fundamentals of respect, empathy, problem-solving and emotion management, as well as many other important concepts associated with the five social emotional competency areas of CASEL.

“We cannot look at mental wellbeing as something we do if there’s time. We need to make it the foundation on which we’re building academic support and recovery. We have to address where students are emotionally before we access bandwidth for (academic) learning.” – Secretary Michael Cardona (12th Secretary of Education, USA)

Let’s give all students the opportunity to learn all the important 21st century skills and set them up for success for life!


Join us for one of our upcoming workshops in Brisbane on Friday 28th October or Sydney on Friday 4th November to learn more.


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