The Principal's Primer
Research-Based Supports for Early Learning Classrooms
This bi-monthly newsletter is designed specifically for Principals and Assistant Principals with early learning classrooms on their campus. In an effort to strengthen your understanding of instructional strategies and developmentally appropriate perspectives, the Children’s Learning Institute is pleased to provide you with the latest research, best practices, resources for supporting early learning on your campus, and innovations in technology that support collaborative leadership. Past issues can be viewed in the archive on CLI Engage.
Teacher working with a small group of students
June 2021

In this issue:

Tiered Instruction & Intervention

  • Tiered Instruction
  • Benefits of Intervention
  • Using Data to Determine Intervention
  • Tools to Support Intervention
  • Next Steps for Implementation
Tiered Instruction & Intervention

Tiered Instruction
Response to Intervention, or RtI, is based on an understanding that the best way to keep students caught up is to never let them fall far behind. The guiding principle behind RtI is not that we should wait for students to fail and then intervene. Rather, it is that we notice when students start to struggle, and then we help them more. In this way we can keep them from falling far behind, creating a gap that can be incredibly difficult to close.
According to TEA, “Response to Intervention (RtI) is an approach that schools use to help all students, including struggling learners. The RtI approach gives Texas students opportunities to learn and work at their grade level. The idea is to help all students be successful.”
RtI uses increasingly intensive tiers of instruction from whole group to small group to individualized instruction, to match the needs of students. As Dr. Zucker, CLI’s Co-Director stated, RtI is a framework on how to make instructional decisions that will look different at every school. This systematic approach allows all students the opportunity to display improved learning outcomes with continued progress monitoring to determine how students are responding to targeted instruction. 

The tiers are used to:
  • Identify learning difficulties earlier
  • Provide students with increasingly intensive instruction depending on their response
  • Employ a data-based decision making framework for evaluating the effectiveness of instruction or for considering ways to improve and change instructional strategies
Tiered framework
In Tier 1, all students receive exemplary whole group and small group instruction using the core curriculum. Approximately 15 percent of students need more targeted Tier 2 instruction. These students continue participating in Tier 1 instruction, but also receive supplemental instruction that is more explicit and provides increased opportunities for practice and feedback. Tier 3, intensive instruction, is needed by approximately 5 percent of students. These students continue participating in Tier 1 and Tier 2, but also receive intensive instruction possibly from other support personnel or specialists. Additional diagnostic assessments may be used if families and specialists believe further information from standardized measures is needed.
It is important to keep in mind that significant loss of students’ learning during the pandemic means that typical Tier 2 and 3 percentages discussed above may not apply to classrooms today. Instead, many classrooms will have a higher number of struggling students than previously experienced in a typical year. This makes strong RtI assessment and intervention especially critical in the COVID and post-COVID era.
Benefits of Intervention
Interventions are essential to daily classroom instruction and include multiple benefits:
  • Ensures all students receive targeted, high-quality instruction in the classroom
  • Includes data-based decision making to inform instructional practices and teaching strategies
  • Provides immediate instruction to address weaknesses with continuous progress monitoring
  • Applies preventive instruction to reduce learning gaps and referrals for special education services. 
  • Provides a shared collaboration among school staff and families regarding students’ learning.
Differentiation is simply a teacher attending to the learning needs of a particular student or small groups of students, rather than teaching a class as though all individuals in it were basically alike.

Carol Ann Tomlinson   
Using Data to Determine Intervention
Early detection of at-risk students is critical. Data can help educators identify at-risk students, place them in the correct intervention tier, and determine which skills should be the focus of targeted interventions.
Data needs to be continuously collected through different types of assessments so teachers can monitor student progress and see if any intervention changes need to be made. Therefore, using different types of progress monitoring integrated into daily lessons and instruction during small group, whole group, or individual instruction is a crucial part of intervention. Progress monitoring can provide the knowledge and skills students have before, during, or after lessons. Teachers can easily gather reliable data to monitor students’ learning and adapt and accommodate instruction to ensure that every student has an opportunity to learn. By using frequent and ongoing progress monitoring assessment, students are often grouped and re-grouped by shared learning deficits.
TPRI is offered on CLI Engage for first and second grades to collect data at three time points throughout the year on students’ knowledge of reading concepts or skills, in order to determine each individual student’s level of understanding. This simplistic yet reliable data collection prompts teachers to focus on lessons that target their students’ least developed skill areas. CLI provides authentic and meaningful data through a variety of reports that can be easily generated and utilized to best support students. The data is then evaluated and used in planning intentional instruction.
Tools to Support Intervention
TPRI Intervention Criteria is a supporting document on CLI Engage that outlines suggested intervention criteria using data from TPRI. This criteria is available for first and second grade students who are administered TPRI. The chart is listed by grade level and time point in the year: wave 1 for beginning-of-year (BOY), wave 2 for middle-of-year (MOY), and wave 3 for end-of-year (EOY).
TPRI intervention criteria
Schools play a critical role in the decision making for placement into intervention. These decisions are based on the needs of a school’s students and the resources available to provide intervention. The TPRI Intervention Criteria chart guides schools in identifying at-risk students, but it will not perfectly match the needs of all schools. For example, in some schools, these criteria will identify more students than can be served by their existing intervention program. In other schools, the intervention program will be able to serve more students than are identified by the intervention criteria. There are also circumstances when students who are not identified by the intervention criteria may still need additional support. To help guide schools further in making instructional decisions for their students, an Additional Support Criteria section has been included. The additional support criteria can also be used to help teachers determine whether students are on track to meet end-of-year goals.
How Additional Support Criteria Can Be Used

XYZ Elementary’s Intervention Committee met to review TPRI grade one MOY data. The intervention criteria identified 20% of the students in the grade, but the school has the resources to serve 30% of the students. The team decided to use the additional support criteria to select additional students for intervention. They notice that a high percentage of students are struggling with Word Reading set 1, so they decide to also include these students to receive additional intensive instruction.  
Another tool that supports intervention is the Small Grouping Tool. The grouping tool efficiently and instantly groups students by domain areas where more targeted intervention is needed based on assessment results. Each generated group contains students who did not meet the benchmark for a given domain and would benefit from more intensive instruction. This tool is available for CIRCLE Progress Monitoring (pre-K), Texas Kindergarten Entry Assessment (TX-KEA), as well as TPRI and Tejas LEE (1st and 2nd grade). The grouping tool also provides links to small group activities from the CIRCLE Activity Collection. These activities provide scripted lessons, scaffolding, and alignment to state standards for teachers use to conduct successful small groups. Many of the activities even include video examples of the activity in action in real classrooms. There is also a custom grouping feature where teachers can select specific students and include intervention lessons for custom groupings from their personal list of saved lessons.

Targeted Intervention Lessons
Targeted intervention lessons
Next Steps for Implementation
The following are suggestions on how to get started in implementing tiered instruction or an RtI framework in your school.
  • Look at your Tier 1 instruction to determine if the curriculum you are currently using is a high-quality curriculum that is either research tested or based on research-supported practices.
  • Use a progress-monitoring tool, such as TPRI, to assess all students in the class.
  • Analyze the data, using the TPRI Intervention Criteria, Additional Support Criteria, or other metrics, to determine the students who will receive the more targeted instruction.
  • Create a daily schedule that includes Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction.
  • Find activities from the CIRCLE Activity Collection that meet student’s instructional needs.
  • Plan Tier 2 lessons that provide more targeted, explicit instruction in the skills where students did not meet benchmarks.
  • Find activities to get families involved in the CIRCLE Activity Collection: Family.
  • Schedule activities to involve families in each tier of instruction. Visit the Family Engagement Resources webpage for tools and support. 
CLI Engage Resources
Access the Dyslexia Referral Checklists (DRC) manuals to use with any progress monitoring tool or universal screening for teachers to document student data to determine if a student might be at risk. The DRC has English and Spanish versions designed for use in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.

The Family Engagement Resources on CLI Engage make the most of the procedures you have in place and strengthen bonds with families. Included are numerous free resources to share with families that encourage play-based learning and responsive interactions at home. 
We wish you a wonderful and enjoyable summer!
CLI Engage is part of the Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth