What are District/Region/State Level Tier 3 Systems?


What are District/Region/State Level Tier 3 Systems?

A.  Leadership Teaming Functions

Critical features of an effective district leadership team with a PBIS commitment include being multi-disciplinary, engaging in ongoing cross-departmental collaboration, and developing a strategic plan that: (a) integrates academic and behavior supports as part of the implementation of an MTSS, (b) monitors implementation progress across all schools, and (c) evaluates the relationship between implementation of MTSS and its impacts on student outcomes across all tiers. The function of this team is to preserve best practice by establishing/enforcing district policies and procedures that support the implementation of Tier 3 practices within an MTSS in schools through a multi-disciplinary approach. The results of the team directly impact implementation of Tier 3 supports within schools through coaching, professional development, resource allocation, etc. Districts can consider using a readiness tool/checklist that outlines the commitments needed for effective implementation including a district leadership team that has behavior supports at all three tiers as an ongoing agenda item, adequate FTE for district level coaching as well as Tier 3 facilitator, a data system to help track outcomes and progress of students accessing Tier 3 interventions.

Districts with effective leadership teams (as described above) have the ability to establish competent school teaming structures necessary to produce better outcomes for students.  Critical features of MTSS teams include:

  • Having multi-disciplinary/cross-department membership that includes an administrator, a coach/behavior representative, and members with basic/foundational knowledge of problem-solving. The team includes those implementing supports at tier 3, so that they have input in decisions about interventions on the particular student(s);
  • Accessing and involving (as needed, based on individual need and predetermined decision rules) external expert-level supports to assist with behavioral problem-solving and planning;
  • Receiving training in problem-solving and the coach/behavior representative receives ongoing training for improved behavioral expertise;
  • Supporting implementation of a multi-level tier 3 approach that is aligned with services and supports provided within tier 1 and tier 2;
  • Establishing a culture of excellence in problem-solving;
  • Monitoring implementation progress of tiers 1 and 2; and,
  • Evaluating effectiveness of tiers 2 and 3 in a context of tier 1 improvements (i.e., student progress to goals in tiers 2 and 3 results in those students improving to goals at tier 1).

District leadership teams should use, and promote the use in schools of, effective problem-solving and action planning processes.  One such evidence-based process is the Team-Initiated Problem Solving (TIPS), a conceptual model for problem solving that has been operationalized into a set of practical procedures to be used during meetings of school-based problem solving teams such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Use of TIPS procedures can help school team members identify, address, and resolve students' social and academic behavior problems and district team members effectively address barriers to PBIS implementation across schools.

A key feature of TIPS is its emphasis on team members' ongoing use of data to inform decision making about each of the problem-solving processes (e.g., using data to identify and define significant problems; establish baseline and goal rates/levels of the problem; select solutions likely to be effective, given the hypothesized function of the problem behavior; monitor and achieve implementation integrity of solution actions; monitor problem behavior and adjust solution actions as necessary to achieve the objectively-defined resolution goal).

State level support for Tier 3 will generally originate from the state department of education's special education or exceptional education division.  They may have a role of setting policy and practice guidelines for supporting students with the most intensive behavioral needs. The state may or may not have a "leadership" team that provides guidance on tier 3 needs for students.  Or a state may use established advisory boards or funded projects through universities or districts to implement policies and practices identified via legislation or through internal DOE processes.

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B. Assessment and Evaluation

At the school level, assessment procedures include the functional behavior assessment as a foundational for Tier 3.  But at the district level, a leadership team will be engaged in assessment of a wide range of variables that may include the following:

Essential Practice


Implementation of data systems

  • Data management systems
  • Procedures and policies for collecting, managing, and reporting data
  • Data are shared with tier 1 and 2 teams

Data-based evaluation and decision making

  • Data are used to guide intervention planning
    • Screening
    • Progress monitoring
    • Formative evaluation
    • Summative evaluation
    • Diagnostic evaluation
  • Protocols for data-based decision-making/decision rules 
  • Decision points communicated to schools to determine who receives access to tier 3
  • Data for decision making are collected
    • Student outcome data
    • Implementation data
    • Social validity data
  • Use of multiple assessment methods, sources, and settings
  • Gap between current and expected outcomes determines intensity of (level) of support

Technically adequate FBA/BIP processes

  • FBA includes:
    • Identifying and defining problem and replacement/alternative behavior
    • Multiple behavior measurement targets
    • Multiple measurement methods (on a continuum), sources, and settings
        • Setting Events, Antecedents, Consequences
    • Data are used to verify function of behavior
    • Hypothesis statement about consequences maintaining behavior
  • BIP includes:
    • Link to hypothesis from FBA
    • Instructional methods
    • Antecedent and consequence strategies
    • Feasible and acceptable interventions
    • Coaching/training, resources and other supports
    • Progress monitoring (outcomes and implementation) plan
    • Timeline and assigned responsibilities

Person-centered planning



  • Protocols and procedures
  • Appropriate representation of team members with necessary skills for problem-solving facilitation
  • Consistent, timely, and productive meetings
  • Process for determining need for and accessing additional expertise

Collaboration between all service providers and/or agencies

  • Procedures for documentation and monitoring collaboration, communication, and/or wrap-around
  • Additional resources allocated by administration as needed
  • Person centered planning

Multiple Tiers of Intensity

  • Tiers are clearly defined
  • Students receiving tier 3 supports have access to the general education setting (i.e., tiers 1 and 2)
  • Decision points and procedures for matching appropriate level of support to student needs are established
  • Procedures for accessing additional or fading supports are established

Professional development and coaching supports

  • Data-driven process to identify needs, set goals, and develop a professional development plan
  • Professional development planning process has been established
  • Feedback and outcome data are reviewed to further identify coaching professional development needs

Tier 3 support systems (i.e., student outcomes)

  • Behavioral student outcomes
  • Academic outcomes

Compliance with procedural safeguards and applicable regulations

  • Staff adhere to all regulations and policies
  • Changes and/or new regulations at policies are communicated in a timely manor
  • Tier 3 redesign incorporated into school improvement plan

Infrastructure for tier 3 redesign is established

  • District leadership and school-level team
  • Roles and responsibilities clearly defined
  • Policies and procedures
  • Consistent, timely, and productive meetings
  • Information & data are shared between staff &  teams is timely in order to facilitate data-based problem solving

Culturally responsive practices / Staff understanding that learning is mediated by culture


  • Tier 3 redesign plan emphasizes culturally responsive practices to meet the diverse needs of all learners
  • Curriculum, instruction, and supports reflect the school community's diversity (i.e., sociocultural, linguistic, racial/ethnic, and other relevant characteristics)
  • Resources (e.g., time, personnel, materials) are specifically allocated for the planning and delivery of evidence-based instruction and intervention that reflect student diversity and result in learning opportunities for all students
  • Ongoing professional development and coaching support is provided to build capacity of interventions across all tiers to accommodate student diversity
  • Data that are collecting and analyzed on how intervention efforts are impacting student performance across various cultural, racial, and ethnic groups
  • Data-based problem-solving informs how patterns of student performance vary across various cultural, racial, and ethnic groups are addressed                                      
  • Active recruitment and collaboration with family and community members that represent the diverse population of the school

Family collaboration

  • Clearly defined and monitored
  • Active participation of family members in problem solving process
  • Outreach is provided to unresponsive families
  • Behavior intervention plans increase skills of families to support

The state's capacity for coordinating and developing the practices and supports needed for tier 3 will require many of the same features as at the district level (e.g., DOE leadership, data-based decision making, etc.).  As systems for monitoring tier 3 supports are developed at the state level, the state will provide districts with specific guidelines and details of a monitoring and support process (e.g., what student outcome data will be monitored). State-level leadership  will play vital roles in ensuring that technical assistance is well coordinated and sufficient for supporting district leadership teams in building capacity for tier 3 systems of behavior supports. As our educational system moves from a compliance-driven to a results-driven tier 3 system, a multi-year change process will need to be piloted and moved to full implementation, then to sustainability, and finally ongoing improvement.

State-level tier 3 systems of support will involve not only providing guidance on the implementation of evidence-based tier 3 practices, but as importantly, monitoring the impact of tier 3 practices on student outcomes. Aligned with the shift towards developing a multi-tiered system of evidence-based practices that improve student outcomes, state monitoring of tier 3 behavior supports can follow a similar, three-tiered framework in which the level of state provided support to districts is determined by district need as measured by student outcomes. The logic and principles that guide this three-tiered framework for state supports are conceptually similar to the three-tiered continuum of student supports.

The table below provides a summary of a tiered framework for a state to support and monitor district tier 3 activities and outcomes. Within this framework, student outcome data guide the intensity and frequency of state provided support and monitoring, which increases for those districts demonstrating insufficient student outcomes. Tier 1 supports for all districts include professional development and coaching on tier 3 policies and practices and evaluation of student outcomes for the purpose of determining additional supports needed by districts (i.e., districts submit student outcome data to the state several times throughout the year). The frequency with which data are submitted varies depending on the type of data (e.g., graduation rates may be reported annually whereas data on restraint and seclusion may be reported continuously).  For those districts that demonstrate sufficient student outcomes for students receiving tier 3 supports, no additional state supports or monitoring activities would be required. Alternatively, those districts whose student data do not demonstrate sufficient student outcomes over time are provided with additional supports and monitoring matched to the needs of the district.

Table: Tiered Framework for Monitoring Tier 3 Behavior Support Systems by State DOEs

State Monitoring

Possible State Provided Supports and Technical Assistance

Intensive District Supports

Across multiple years, district tier 3 student outcomes indicate a need for intense training and technical assistance

Intensive evaluation and frequent progress monitoring by measuring student outcomes and implementation fidelity

Intensive state support provided through a comprehensive planning and problem solving service delivery approach to guide systemic changes needed to improve Tier 3 outcomes while also developing the district team's capacity to use a problem-solving framework to guide long-term change and improvement


Targeted District Supports

During initial year if implementation, district tier 3 student outcomes indicate need for technical assistance to improve student outcomes

Evaluate implementation fidelity of tier 3 practices in the district and increase frequency of monitoring student outcome progress

Analysis of student outcome data and information on fidelity of implementing tier 3 evidence-based practices

Action plan for improving tier 3 behavior supports may be required and likely linked with their district and school improvement plans.

Additional support and technical assistance is available by the state and discretionary projects (training and technical assistance providers funded by the state DOE)

Supports for All Districts

District demonstrates sufficient student outcomes for students receiving tier 3 behavior supports

Screening by measuring student outcomes

Professional development and coaching provided on tier 3 policy and practices.

District developed formative and summative evaluation plans are recommended.


This tiered framework for monitoring student outcome improvements will ensure that districts receive matched supports for improving/modifying their tier 3 systems and improving student outcomes while maximizing state resources. Monitoring student outcomes for all students receiving tier 3 supports (i.e., regardless of disability status, race/ethnicity, English language proficiency, etc.) will also ensure that outcomes are not only achieved, but also equitable.

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C. Practice Features

Practice features include what is actually provided across a district in support of all students receiving Tier 3 supports. The practices may be implemented by teams or individuals with shared responsibility for Tier 3 supports and with adequate training and experience to implement intensive behavior supports. The practices are likely to include FBA/BIP, and Wraparound:

  • Knowledge of components necessary for technically adequate FBA/BIP
  • Ability to identify environmental events, including motivating operations, and their relation to behavior occurrence and non-occurrence
  • Ability to use both direct and indirect methods to gather information from relevant team members
  • Fluency in use of multiple behavior (social, emotional, and academic) measurement methods and tools to evaluate response to intervention
  • Capacity to summarize/synthesize FBA information into a data-linked hypothesis that is based on observable, alterable, and testable conditions
  • Capacity to select/develop multi-component behavior interventions linked to the hypothesis (includes interventions to prevent problem behavior occurrence, teaching replacement behaviors, and reinforcing with function so that problem behavior is no longer reinforced)
  • Skills to develop task analyses or treatment/intervention protocol
  • Identify when more expertise is needed (e.g., functional analyses, medical, suicide risk assessment, mental-health, trauma informed care, substance abuse treatment, social services, family supports, etc.)
  • Capacity to identify when and how to supplement FBA/BIP with reinforcer assessment for additional motivators beyond function
  • Experience in developing implementation plan including coaching methods to train and mentor teachers/teams to implement interventions
  • Experience in developing fidelity measures
  • Capacity to identify when wrap-around approaches are needed and when to seek additional expertise to facilitate team in developing wrap around supports including
    • Facilitating person-centered plans
    • Communicating with multiple agencies to enlist enrollment for supports
    • Communicate with administrators to allocate/commit necessary resources
  • Blood & Neel,  2007
  • Flannery, Newton, Horner, Slovic,  Blumberg & Ard, 2000
  • Ingram, Lewis-Palmer, & Sugai, 2005
  • Kennedy, Long, Jolivette, Cox, Tang, & Thompson, 2001
  • Noell, et al., 2005

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D. Implementation Guidelines

Developing and sustaining an effective and efficient Tier 3 system for students with the most intensive needs will not be possible without supportive national, state and district policies.  District teams will be tasked with translating national and state policies into practices, as well as developing district level polices that positively impact Tier 3 practices. Given a growing focus on policies that facilitate large scale implementation of evidence-based practices, Horner and Sugai (2007) encourage consideration of variables related to defining (a) core features of scalable innovations, (b) foundation variables that affect large-scale implementation, (c) implementation for capacity building, and (d) phases of implementation.

Districts have an important responsibility to ensure their policies and procedures clearly articulate the professional practices required of all relevant employees to support schools in implementing and evaluating a tier 3 system of support for behavior.  Districts are encouraged to carefully plan and organize all activities that will support tier 3 practices and have a positive impact on student behavior.  Such activities may include but would not be limited to: (a) conveying the philosophy, rationale, and urgency for providing effective behavioral supports to all students across a multi-tiered system of support, (b) reviewing all current staff roles and responsibilities specific to their positions in relation to required redesign changes for tier 3, (c) ensuring all professionals who have responsibilities in the redesign and/or implementation of tier 3 changes have clearly communicated expectations and success criteria to guide their involvement in the redesign/implementation process, (d) developing district manuals that specifically describe teaming structures needed to support effective tier 3 activities and guide best practices in providing tier 3 supports, (e) reviewing current evaluation structures and resources in the district in comparison with necessary structure and resources for evaluating the ongoing success of a tier 3 behavior support system.

Districts will need to support their schools in not only establishing effective teaming structures for tier 3 supports but also improving accountability of implementing such practices by establishing implementation manuals and inclusive of evaluation protocols.  District manuals that specifically describe the policies and procedures as well as provide examples of effective teaming structures needed to support tier 3 activities are essential for consistency, maintaining alignment of expectations of district and schools, and for guiding best practice in providing tier 3 supports.  Districts may need to evaluate their current policies, manuals, and/or practices/procedures to determine if the following critical features are in place:

  • Clear communication of rationale and urgency for change
  • Proactive, preventative, strengths-based focus
  • Multi-disciplinary team
  • Data-based problem-solving as the way of work
  • Student-centered
  • Youth and family involvement
  • Community involvement
  • Comprehensive evaluation of effectiveness

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E. Alignment and Integration

1. Allocation of personnel and resources

As discussed earlier, the commitment to an effective and efficient Tier 3 system will require district leadership teams to make critical decisions about the allocation of personnel and resources. For instance, a reassessment of Tier 3 needs could result in the redistribution of positions to increase the behavioral capacities at all schools or targeted schools. The district team may also need to address critical professional development needs to increase the cadre of skilled support staff to implement Tier 3 practices. This may even include communicating and changing expectations and success criteria to guide staff implementation of Tier 3 supports.  Any initial resistance in response to district level decisions about the allocation/re-allocation of personnel and resources will likely be minimized if the ultimate goal of positive outcomes for all youth remains at the forefront of such decision making processes.

It is important to consider having conversations at the district and building level to consider how to shift the responsibilities of clinicians.  Using some of the below guiding questions can help teams plan for how to carve out the time to facilitate Tier 3 interventions.  The following graphics helps schools to think about how clinician roles can shift from doing it all to coaching at Tier 1, coordinating at Tier 2, and facilitating at Tier 3.


Guiding Questions for Clinician Roles


a. Describe what each of your clinicians do in your building(s)?

  • Would the clinicians, the staff, and the administration all describe the roles in the same way?  Would they all have different explanations?
  • Are parents and families aware of these descriptions as well?

b. What strengths do you view your Psychs, SSW, Counselors and Psychotherapists as possessing that each other role in your district do not possess? 

  • What makes them each unique with their skillset?
  • What do they bring to the table that the other roles may not?

c. Consider the role of Coordinator vs. Facilitator

  • Which interventions need the skillsets of a clinician for facilitation? 
  • Which interventions would benefit from having a clinician as a coordinator overseeing the intervention, but might not require the skillset of the clinician for actual implementation/facilitation?

d. When considering building the capacity of the staff/systems in your buildings, whom else do you currently have on staff that would be able to potentially facilitate/lead Social Academic Instructional Groups (SAIGs) and other Tier 2 interventions?

  • Because most SAIGs (for example) are about teaching skillsets and are not intended to be therapeutic in nature, who else might be interested or able to lead small groups in an effort to build capacity?
    • (i.e. Consider:  librarians, cafeteria staff, resource officers, hall supervisors, administrative assistants, bus drivers, special education teachers, general education teachers, etc.)
  • What might the benefits be of having a clinician lead the groups vs. having another staff member?  What might be the drawbacks?

e. What would it look like to have the Clinician Roles start to align with leadership roles within the individual Tiers (i.e. a coaching role?

  • Could the strengths of each individual role/position (i.e. Psych, SSW, etc) be connected to a specific Tier?  For example, what makes a Psych the best fit for facilitating an FBA/BIP process?  What makes a SSW the best fit for connecting to family and community resources? 
  • Are these tasks decided upon based on the strengths of the individual, the title of the position, or the need of the building and the access to these supports (ie. Time/resources/etc.)?

f. Consider all of the different ways to organize your Clinical Roles/Positions in the district (these are a few):

  • Same for all:  Each building can receive the same structure/model of supports/resources, and then decide who fills in those roles/needs that are established.
    • Example:  Each elementary gets the same # of clinicians who all do the same things, etc.
  • Individualized Needs (District):  The individual needs of the building (i.e. a Tier 2 coach, a Wrap facilitator, a CICO coordinator) can be assessed, and then a clinician role from the entire district can be assigned to that specific need.
    • Example:  HS Needs a Tier 2 coach, MS needs 2 Tier 3 coaches, etc.  Then assign to the buildings by best match/skillset/etc.
  • Individual Needs (Building):  The skills of the clinician(s) already assigned to buildings (currently) can be assessed, and then the strengths of the clinician can be aligned to the identified needs in specific building.
    • (i.e Maybe SW Ali has skillsets that align with FBA facilitation while SW Sheri has skillsets that would best align with WRAP facilitation, etc.) 
  • Which approach do you think will work best for you?  What will be the same throughout each building in your district?  What will be different?  How will that be determined?  How will that be evaluated? 

g. How will clinicians be involved in the Functional Behavior Assessment / Behavior Intervention Planning (FBA/BIP) development process?

  • What does it mean to facilitate the FBA process?  What does it mean to facilitate the BIP process?  What does it mean to implement the BIP?
  • Where in the process are the most critical places for a clinician to be involved?

h. Are your Clinicians connected to your discipline system?  How?

  • What are the strengths to this current connection you have between clinicians and discipline?  What are the drawbacks?
  • Are there other ways to structure the system of social/emotional support and discipline to better help support student needs?

i. What systems will you put into place to make sure that all Clinical Roles/Positions are "speaking to" one another regularly? 

  • Communication systems?
  • How will data be shared?  Data systems?

j. How will the Clinician (and the Administration) know if what he/she is doing is working?

  • How will effectiveness be assessed?
  • How will fidelity of implementation be assessed?
  • How will student outcomes be assessed?
  • How will the system be assessed?

2. Data systems/evaluation/progress monitoring

At tier 3, many schools will rely on state and district resources, capacity and approval to measure the elements listed above.  While the decision about what state, district and school data systems will be used is ultimately the responsibility of the SEA and LEA leadership, having access to a range of data to support tier 3 is not sufficient. The data will need to support schools in data-based problem solving at tier 3 by answering some critical questions, such as:

    • How many students (what percentage) are receiving tier 3 supports and at what level of tier 3 (brief, comprehensive, wraparound)?
    • How are all, or selected, students progressing as a result of their tier 3 supports?
    • Are there different outcomes based on type of student, classroom, school, etc.?
    • Are some interventions more effective or able to be implemented easier than others?
    • Are there critical factors or barriers that are impacting our capacity to implement evidence-based interventions with fidelity?

Districts will also need to develop, or assist, schools with accessing, user-friendly data systems that: (a) are easily learned, (b) require little time for data entry, (c) measure the range of data sources listed above, and (d) quickly produce a range of reports (e.g., graphs, tables, etc.) that support the schools' problem-solving processes. If districts are unable to develop tier 3 data systems that support the schools' problem-solving processes, there are a number of effective and efficient commercial systems that can support Tier 3.

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F. Resources: Tools, videos, presentations, publications, exemplars

Policy Brief: Scaling up Effective Educational Innovations, Robert H. Horner and George Sugai, OSEP TA-Center on Positive Behavior Support

Kincaid, D. & Iovannone, R., Gaunt, B. Murdock, K, Peshak-George, H., Vatland, C., and Romer, N. (2014). A blueprint for Tier 3 implementation: A results-driven system for students with serious problem behaviors. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida [Manuscript disseminated by the Florida Department of Education].

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As we continue to improve the Tier 3 resources on www.pbis.org, we want to ask each of you if you have case studies, examples, materials or tools that you would like to share on the website.  If you do have materials to share, you can access a form for the submission of your materials at 'Tier 3 Resource Submission.'  Please follow the directions on the submission form to assist us in evaluating whether we can post the material or not. Remember that the OSEP TAC will not post products, materials, etc. that are proprietary or for profit in nature.


A blueprint for Tier 3 implementation: A results-driven system for students with serious problem behaviors

Kincaid, D. & Iovannone, R., Gaunt, B. Murdock, K, Peshak-George, H., Vatland, C., and Romer, N. (2014). A blueprint for Tier 3 implementation: A results-driven system for students with serious problem behaviors. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida [Manuscript disseminated by the Florida Department of Education]. This reflects the vision for developing and implementing a results-driven accountability system. The contents are 1) Foundation for Tier 3 Redesign-Purpose and Rationale, 2) Barriers to Implementing and Sustaining an Effective Tier 3 System for Behavior Supports, 3) Recommendations for Improving a Tier 3 System for Behavior supports: Addressing The Barriers, 4) Options for monitoring System Improvements in the Redesign, Implementation and Evaluation of a Tier 3 System of Behavior Supports and 5) Considerations for Determining when Additional Expertise is Necessary.

Policy Brief: Scaling up Effective Educational Innovations (OSEP Project Directors Meeting)

This document is prepared at the request of the US Department of Education to outline considerations in the development of policy that will promote large scale implementation of evidence-based practices in education.