Tier 1

What is Tier 1 Support?

The PBIS Triangle—The green area represents Tier 1 that supports all students.

Tier 1 systems, data, and practices support everyone across all settings. They establish the foundation for delivering regular, proactive support and preventing unwanted behaviors. Tier 1 emphasizes modeling, teaching, and acknowledging positive social, emotional, and behavioral (SEB) skills. Teams, data, consistent policies, professional development, and evaluation are essential components for these practices to work effectively.

The core principles guiding Tier 1 PBIS include the understanding that we can and should:

  • Effectively teach appropriate SEB skills to all students
  • Intervene early before unwanted behaviors escalate
  • Use research-based, scientifically validated interventions whenever possible
  • Monitor student progress
  • Use data to make decisions

Foundational Systems

Tier 1 systems serve as the foundation upon which all other tiers are built. With school-wide systems in place, schools can ensure students and staff are thriving and quickly identify which students need additional support. These Tier 1 foundational systems are:

Leadership Team

The Tier 1 team represents multiple and diverse perspectives to co-create the systems and practices for Tier 1 support. This team is responsible for uncovering strengths and needs by monitoring school and community data, ensuring students receive equitable access to these supports, and evaluating overall effectiveness.

Regular Meeting Routine, Schedule, and Structure

The Tier 1 team meets at least monthly. Team members should have availability to attend at least 80% of all scheduled meetings to provide consistency around action planning and tracking progress. Meetings should include an agenda, minutes, team agreements, defined roles, and a current action plan linked to the school improvement plan.

Commitment Statement for Establishing Positive School Climate

The Tier 1 team's role is to establish the priority for improving the conditions for learning through the adoption of evidence-based practices. If it is not identified as one of the school's top three needs, it is unlikely anyone will allocate the time and effort needed to accomplish implementation. Although not a requirement, It is beneficial when a majority of school community members also agree PBIS implementation is critical to addressing issues related to SEB growth of all students.

School systems can either reflect a biased society or provide a protective buffer against it. To make it a protective place, teams should adopt a behavior framework that is preventive, instructional, and flexible enough to be tailored to the strengths, needs, and values of its students, families, and community. Tier 1 can be implemented with fidelity only when it is equitable and adapted to fit the local context, which means attending directly to aspects of culture.

On-Going Data-Based Monitoring, Evaluation, and Dissemination

Tier 1 teams review and use multiple data sources regularly to guide decisions. Reviewing fidelity data measures how closely the school implements the critical components of PBIS at Tier 1. Annually, teams evaluate the overall effectiveness of Tier 1 supports and share their findings with interested parties. School community members should see school and community data regularly and have opportunity to provide input on Tier 1 foundations.

Procedures for Selecting, Training, and Coaching New Personnel

The key to PBIS implementation is staff consistency. All staff members are involved in the development of goals, process, and measures. Tier 1 implementation may require professional development to orient all school personnel – particularly around five core practices:

  • Defining school expectations with input from students and families
  • Teaching school expectations and SEB skills
  • Acknowledging appropriate behavior
  • Responding instructionally to unwanted behaviors
  • Using data for decision making

Core Practices

Before schools start implementing Tier 2 and Tier 3 practices, Tier 1 practices must be in place. These include:

Schoolwide Positive Expectations and SEB Skills are Defined and Taught

Rather than establishing specifically what not to do, schools define and teach expectations and SEB skills they want to see. Schools should identify 3-5 positively stated, easy to remember expectations. These should create the conditions for a positive school climate to support teaching and learning. Anyone should be able to walk into the school at any time and ask 10 random students to name the school-wide expectations. At least 80% of the time those students should be able to say what they are and give examples of what they look like in action.

For students to know the expectations, they must be taught. The Tier 1 team should decide how students will learn expected academic and social behaviors across various school settings.

Procedures for Establishing Classroom Expectations and Routines Consistent
with Schoolwide Expectations

Students spend the majority of their day within classroom settings. It’s critical the expectations in the classroom align with the broader school-wide systems. This consistency supports better behavioral outcomes for all students. Teachers and students co-design agreements and routines that align with school expectations.

Continuum of Procedures for Encouraging Expected Social, Emotional Behavior

A school’s Tier 1 team determines how to acknowledge students positively for prosocial behaviors. Schools might use an acknowledgment system to support offering specific praise when students do what’s expected. No matter the system, it should be:

  • Linked to school expectations
  • Used across settings and within classrooms
  • Used by 90% or more of all school personnel
  • Available to all students within the school
  • Created with ongoing input from students and families

Continuum of Procedures for Discouraging Unwanted Behavior

All discipline policies should include definitions for behaviors interfering with academic and social success. They offer clear policies and procedures for addressing office-managed versus classroom-managed problems. Defining both the behaviors and the procedures promote consistent application of Tier 1 across all students and school personnel.

Procedures for Ensuring School-Family Partnerships

Teams should solicit stakeholders, including families, for input on Tier 1 foundations. Opportunities to provide ongoing feedback and direction should happen at least once a year, if not more regularly. This input ensures Tier 1 is culturally responsive and reflects the values of the local community.

The Tier 1 Team

In addition to monitoring Tier 1 systems, the Tier 1 team meets regularly to refine school-wide practices and evaluate their effectiveness. The team reviews discipline data, curriculum-based measures, state tests, and other data sources related to improving school-wide outcomes.  Individuals with the following positions are often included on Tier 1 teams:

  • Someone to coordinate the team
  • School administrator
  • Family representation
  • Classroom teachers
  • Student representation (espoecially at the high school level) 

In addition to these suggested roles, the team should have the following skillsets represented:

  • SEB expertise
  • Applied behavior support
  • Mental health and trauma
  • Academic instruction
  • Coaching expertise
  • Equity
  • Physical health and wellness (e.g., nurse)
  • Knowledge of student academic and behavior patterns
  • Knowledge about how the school operates across grade levels and programs


The Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI) assesses how closely school personnel apply the core features of PBIS. The TFI includes three separate surveys – one for assessing each tier – schools can use separately or in combination with one another. Schools at every stage of implementation may use the TFI to assess any tier.

Explore the Evidence Base for Tier 1

At its foundation, PBIS is a framework supported by research spanning decades. Study after study confirms the positive impact Tier 1 systems and practices have on improving student outcomes. The evaluation brief, "Is School-wide Positive Behavior Support an Evidence-based Practice?" and "References for the Evidence Base of PBIS" each lay out some of the research and provide additional resources to explore the topic further.