What are School-Level Tier 3 Systems?

What are School-Level Tier 3 Systems?

A. Leadership Teaming Functions

While there is little empirical support for how Tier 3 PBIS teams should be organized at the school level, our experience indicates that teams that support students with the most intensive needs are likely to be more successful if they:

  • Make certain that they are integrated, aligned or collaborating with PBIS efforts at Tiers 1 and 2.
  • Have 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).
  • Include a number of individuals whose roles are not automatically predetermined based on their discipline (administrator, teacher, social worker, school psychologist, behavior analyst, etc.).  Critical skill sets for team functioning include 1) collaboration, 2) problem-solving, 3) data analysis, 4) coaching, 5) systems change, 6) professional development, and 7) behavioral content and application.  These skill sets are essential to an effective Tier 3 team but may be shared across team members from different disciplines.
  • Develop both a Systems-focused team, that is responsible for developing and assessing Tier 3 systems, and Individual Student Teams that develop, implement and assess individual plans for one student at a time.
  • Have access to and involvement of (as needed, based on individual need and predetermined decision rules) external expert-level supports to assist with behavioral problem-solving and planning.
  • Receive training in problem-solving and the coach/behavior representative receives ongoing training for improved behavioral expertise.
  • Support implementation of a multi-level tier 3 approach that is aligned with services and supports provided within tier 1 and tier 2.
  • Are provided with criteria of best practice in problem-solving and receive recognition for excellence in problem-solving.
  • Monitor implementation progress of tiers 1 and 2.
  • Evaluate 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).

Utilizing a building readiness checklist to determine if a school team is ready to implement Tier 3 can be helpful.  Considering systems features such as having a building leadership team that meets regularly, having adequate time allocated for coaching Tier 3 as well as trained staff to facilitate Tier 3, and having a data system to help track outcomes and progress are critical to successful implementation of Tier 3.  Buildings need to clear the "systems path" so facilitators can provide the intervention with fidelity.  

Although a wide array of school professionals (teacher, administrator, school psychologist, counselor, social worker, behavior analyst, special educator, etc.) may possess many if not all of the required skill sets for Tier 3 support, an effective Tier 3 team will most likely include different types of professionals with a range of relevant skill sets. Some students served by problem solving teams will present severe and complex behavioral and other support needs that will require the involvement of professionals with higher levels of competency. For the majority of students served by problem solving teams, two levels of competency are typically sufficient but are not uniquely tied to only one professional discipline:

  • Team member competency: Each school team may include multiple members with competency in gathering the basic information that is necessary for a FBA.
    • Related skills may include, but are not limited to, reviewing existing records, listing and prioritizing behaviors of concern, conducting structured open-ended FBA interviews, and recording basic antecedent-behavior-consequence sequences.
    • Team members who have the additional competencies as described below gather such information for interpretation.
    • Competency in these skills might be acquired and demonstrated through limited professional development activities presented by highly qualified professionals utilizing essential design features described earlier (clear objectives, active participation, learning checks/assessments, coaching, etc.).
  • Team facilitator/coaching competency: Each school team should also include at least one member with basic competency (as described above), plus have: (a) capacity to facilitate a team problem-solving process, (b) knowledge of behavioral principles (i.e., relationships between behaviors and environmental events), and (c) supervised practical experience in conducting FBAs and implementation of BIPs  and facilitating wraparound in schools. 
    • Related skills may include, but are not limited to, the basic competencies described above, plus defining behaviors, identifying basic patterns in antecedent-behavior-consequence sequences, preparing hypotheses based on direct observations and structured interviews, measurement (e.g., practical direct observation strategies and tools, reliable sampling methods, using external supports for data recording, using supplemental methods such as rating scales).
    • Competency in these skills might be acquired and demonstrated through comprehensive professional development activities presented by highly qualified professionals. Such training would likely include study assignments and explicit instruction (equivalent to graduate-level coursework), with supervised tasks with coaching.
    • In some situations, team facilitators may need to gain competencies in, or access skilled professionals who can address, areas such as trauma informed care, mental health concerns, substance abuse, and medical issues.
  • A Facilitator Roles checklist may help districts and buildings to identify staff with the skills and time to do Tier 3 work. 
    1. Position in school/district allows:
    • Time to facilitate individualized meetings and do all preparation
    • Flexibility to meet at unusual times (when needed) and to meet outside of school (when needed)
    • Collaboration and meetings with community agencies/resources
    1. Professional beliefs:
    • Families and youth need to be supported
    • Family and youth outcomes can improve with the right support
    • Families and youth need voice, choice and access to make improvements in quality of life
    • When families' lives improve, their children do better in school
    1. Professional is skilled at:
    • Interacting positively with school staff, community service providers, students and families
    • Effective team facilitation
    • Time management
    • Staying solution-focused
    • Supporting all members to give input
    • Maintaining a "safe" environment (no blaming, no shaming)
    • Self-initiating activities (and is highly motivated)
    • Knowing community agencies/resources
    1. Role description:
    • Assist Systems Planning Team in identifying youth in need of support
    • Begin conversations with families and youth
    • Assist in building individualized teams and have conversations with team members about the individualized process
    • Begin gathering baseline data
    • Schedule first team meetings
    • Keep all team meetings focused on strengths, needs and action planning
    • Input and track data regularly (before/after each individualized meeting)
    • Assure that team meetings continue to happen at least every 2 weeks in the beginning, phasing to monthly as improvements are noted
    • Use data to progress-monitor students weekly to assess response to intervention/support

Move to the Top
Move to the Advanced Organizer

B. Assessment and Evaluation

The Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) is the process that drives a function-based Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) and provides the foundation for a systematic, coordinated, data-driven problem-solving process, which in turn ensures that interventions lead to improved student outcomes. Wraparound is a person-centered process that identify a student and families strengths, identify and prioritize needs, build an individualized team to support the child and family and engage in an active ongoing action planning process measuring outcomes over time. As noted previously, Tier 3 supports are aimed at students in need of individualized, immediate or long-term supports due to the predominance of social-behavioral problems and/or mental health support needs. The array of supports at Tier 3 include increased, individualized assessment and intervention within a collaborative problem-solving framework and development of a support team with the requisite skills to assess, identify interventions, and plan for coordinated implementation and monitoring of supports. Regardless of the complexity of behaviors presented by students, this FBA process is crucial to: (a) understand the variables associated with or maintaining a student's behavior, (b) develop strategies to prevent challenging behavior, and (c) determine interventions that can teach and reinforce appropriate or prosocial behaviors.

The FBA, and wraparound processesguides assessment, intervention planning, implementation, and monitoring of interventions within a data-based problem-solving framework. Foundational to the individualized level of intervention at Tier 3 is the importance of understanding why behaviors are occurring. The FBA process provides the student's team with information needed to analyze the problem behavior in a manner that links assessment to intervention and, thereby, informs the team as they identify which interventions are most likely to be effective for the individual student. This process can be used to target a range of social-behavioral, academic, and mental health concerns (e.g., anxiety, substance abuse, and trauma). In addition, the FBA process aligns behavior supports with contextual factors, taking into account the goals and strengths of the student and the strengths and resources of the setting.

The FBA provides a framework in which to gather information about possible functions of behavior; information that drives the development of an individualized intervention plan (Steege & Watson, 2009). The FBA is comprised of a variety of direct and indirect assessment methods including, but not limited to, direct observation of behavior in the classroom and interviews with teachers, staff, and the student.  It focuses on current observations of behaviors and associated environmental variables (i.e., setting events, antecedents, and consequences) impacting a student's behavior, and thereby, guides individualized intervention planning. The FBA process should not preclude a team from considering other important information (e.g., medical or psychological issues, etc.) when developing a comprehensive BIP to meet the social-emotional and academic needs of the student.

Wraparound plan development is driven by multi-domain assessments, and developed by a team of natural and formal supports. Intervention plans are as multi-dimensional as indicated by assessments and may include strategies to support students at home, in school, and the community, including living environment; basic needs; safety; medical; legal; and social, emotional, educational, spiritual, and cultural needs (Eber, 2002). Students and their families have a leading role in the development of plans by identifying the outcomes that are meaningful and the supports that are a good "fit".

Move to the Top
Move to the Advanced Organizer

C. Practice Features

A Behavior Intervention Plan may include the following as necessary components:

  • 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

Wraparound include the following necessary components:

  1. Family Voice and Choice
  2. Team-Based
  3. Natural Supports
  4. Collaboration
  5. Community-Based
  6. Culturally-Competent
  7. Individualized
  8. Strengths-Based
  9. Unconditional Care
  10. Outcome-Based

The BIP and wraparound plan can include specific prevention and consequence-based strategies based on the FBA such as modifications to the classroom environment and/or instruction, teaching new behavioral and/or academic skills, and reinforcement of desired behaviors as well as a range of supports such as mental health services, trauma-informed care, person-centered planning, transition supports, suicidal risk assessments, cognitive-behavioral interventions, and medical treatment. In addition, given that there is a strong interaction between behavior and academic problems (McIntosh, Chard, Boland, Horner, 2006), Tier 3 behavioral supports often include interventions related to academic instruction. When applicable, Tier 3 supports involve coordination of individualized supports across systems (e.g., educational, medical, family, and community).

Move to the Top
Move to the Advanced Organizer

D. Implementation Guidelines

The FBA/BIP process guides the individualized intervention process within a Tier 3 system to meet the range of individualized social-behavioral and mental health needs. In addition, other critical components that support the FBA/BIP and wraparound processes include: (a) attention to screening, progress monitoring, and other student outcome data, (b) employing multi-source, multi-setting, and multi-method assessment procedures, (c) use of assessment to identify evidence-based interventions, (d) use of a systematic, coordinated, data-driven Tier 3 problem-solving process, (e) coordinating systems of care when applicable, and (f) allocation of the necessary resources for effective and sustained implementation.

Tier 3 supports are provided within a three-tiered systemic model whose roots were formed in the public health literature and applied to educational systems (Greenwood, Horner, & Kratochwill, 2008; Institute of Medicine, 1988; Sugai & Horner, 2005; Walker & Shinn, 2002). This systemic approach provides a continuum of strategies that enables schools to identify and support the academic and behavioral needs of all students. Tier 1 provides core universal behavioral and academic instruction and supports to address the needs of all students while Tier 2 provides supplemental instruction and strategies to address the needs of some students who are at greater risk of having problems or may not respond to Tier 1 supports.  Tier 3 represents individualized and intensive behavioral and/or academic support for students who have the most severe needs.  Tier 3 supports differ from Tier 2 supports within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) in their intensity, frequency, and use of individualized assessment (i.e., FBA), which informs intervention (i.e., BIP). As such, supports at this level require the most resources (i.e., time, expertise, professional development) to facilitate the best chance for improved student outcomes. For students with significant problem behaviors, the FBA that drives a function-based BIP is the core Tier 3 process used within a team-based multi-step problem-solving framework.  Similar to Tiers 1 and 2, a problem-solving team at Tier 3 uses consistent progress monitoring data to make decisions based on student outcome data, continuously cycling through the problem-solving process to determine the appropriate level of intensity warranted to facilitate success.  It is important to note that tiers within the continuum are not considered static places, but that the level of supports provided to a student should be adjusted based on need. They should intensify when data show no improvement and fade back in intensity when data show improvement. (reference: 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].

Conceptually, tier 3 supports are designated for the students, who need the most intensive level of support in order to succeed, which, by definition, requires more time and resources.  However, if a school implements a multi-tiered system of supports with fidelity, tiers 1 and 2 should reduce the number of students requiring more intensive services characteristic of tier 3.  When there are too many students that appear to require tier 3 supports, delivery of those supports will be diluted, resulting in an increased frequency of compliance-driven FBAs/BIPs, increased reliance on reactive strategies, and potentially, decreased access to less restrictive educational settings.

Yet even at Tier 3, schools must determine how to efficiently and effectively address the various levels of behavioral intensity and needs, from students with problem behaviors that are clearly the result of contextual issues (e.g., academic deficits, classroom learning environment) to students who have multiple and complex needs (e.g., physical, mental health, family/environmental, etc.).  The "one-size fits all" approach of using the same paper-driven, non-function-based FBA/BIP process to address these multiple levels of intensity will not effectively meet student needs.  A growing number of professionals support the notion of multiple levels of tier 3 supports matched to student needs (Scott, Alter, Rosenberg, & Borgmeier, 2010).  A tier 3 continuum consists of processes that become increasingly formal and complex as student needs intensify beginning with a "brief" consultation-based functional assessment process to a team-based functional assessment to a wraparound approach.  Each process uses the underlying behavioral principles of assessing the functional relationship between problem behavior and the environment. This approach may resolve the barriers of time and resources to feasibly and efficiently conduct technically adequate FBAs and develop effective function-based support plans.

At an entry level, the FBA is conducted in a brief, efficient method, often as a consultation approach with a facilitator and teacher(s) (and student, particularly at the middle and high-school level) working together to identify contextual events related to behavior occurrences through indirect methods and developing a behavior intervention plan that focuses on teaching appropriate replacement or alternative behaviors that get naturally reinforced (i.e. with the function) and addressing environmental features that will prevent behavior plan failure and increase success.  This efficient approach may be a functional way for schools to address less complex individual student needs in a timely fashion.

Another level of FBA would involve an increasingly comprehensive team approach that addresses students who have chronic and durable behavior issues.  Team-based FBAs would require more resources for activities as well as use both direct and indirect methods of gathering FBA data and would include strategies that address antecedent events, teach and reinforce new behaviors, and discontinue reinforcing problem behaviors.

An even more intensive level of support would be dedicated to a small subset of students within tier 3 whose behaviors are impacted by multi-faceted and complex physical, mental health, environmental, and behavioral issues.  These students' needs may best be met through a wraparound process in which a team of individuals collaborates on an individualized plan of care that is implemented and evaluated consistently across time.  It is important to note that collaboration with community, medical, or mental health agencies occurs at the first indication of need and may occur for some students who do not require tier 3 supports. Whereas level 3 within tier 3 refers to an ongoing wrap-around process of comprehensive planning and intervention for some students in need of individualized, intensive supports that involve systems (e.g., public health, mental health, medical, foster care, juvenile justice, etc.) beyond the school, family, and student.

Move to the Top
Move to the Advanced Organizer

E. Alignment and Integration

Tier 3 supports are provided within a three-tiered systemic model whose roots were formed in the public health literature and applied to educational systems (Greenwood, Horner, & Kratochwill, 2008; Institute of Medicine, 1988; Sugai & Horner, 2005; Walker & Shinn, 2002). This systemic approach provides a continuum of strategies that enables schools to identify and support the academic and behavioral needs of all students.  Tier 1 provides core universal behavioral and academic instruction and supports to address the needs of all students while tier 2 provides supplemental instruction and strategies to address the needs of some students who are at greater risk of having problems and/or may not respond to tier 1 supports.  Tier 3 represents individualized and intensive behavioral and/or academic support for students who have the most severe needs.  Tier 3 supports differ from tier 2 supports within a MTSS in their intensity, frequency, and use of individualized assessment (i.e., FBA), which informs intervention (i.e., BIP). As such, supports at this level require the most resources (i.e., time, expertise, professional development) to facilitate the best chance for improved student outcomes. For students with significant problem behaviors, the functional behavior assessment (FBA) that drives a function-based behavior intervention plan (BIP) is the core tier 3 process used within a team-based multi-step problem-solving framework.  Similar to tiers 1 and 2, a problem-solving team at tier 3 uses consistent progress monitoring data to make decisions based on student outcome data, continuously cycling through the problem-solving process to determine the appropriate level of intensity warranted to facilitate success.  It is important to note that tiers within the continuum are not considered static places, but that the level of supports provided to a student should be adjusted based on need. They should intensify when data show no improvement and fade back in intensity when data show improvement.

Intensive Tier 3 supports are not intended to be implemented in school separate from effectively implemented Tier 1 and 2 systems. Without a continuum of tier 1 and tier 2 supports and a problem-solving process for making data-based decisions, more students will appear to require tier 3 supports than available resources, and schools will respond reactively rather than preventively resulting in overuse of punitive strategies. While schools have a legal obligation to implement a tier 3 system, the effectiveness of that system will likely hinge on the integrity of the school's efforts to implement effective tier 1 and 2 systems for all students.  Therefore, each school is encouraged to evaluate and install, if necessary, effective tier 1 and 2 supports as the district begins to redesign its tier 3 supports.

Move to the Top
Move to the Advanced Organizer

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

Secondary and Tertiary Support Systems in Schools Implementing School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: A Preliminary Descriptive Analysis – Debnam, Pas, Bradshaw, 2012

Move to the Top
Move to the Advanced Organizer

 

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.

Resources

Secondary and Tertiary Support Systems in Schools Implementing School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: A Preliminary Descriptive Analysis

Debnam, K.J., Pas, E.T., & Bradshaw, C.P. (2012). Secondary and Tertiary Support Systems in Schools Implementing School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: A Preliminary Descriptive Analysis. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. 14(3), 142-152 More than 14,000 schools nationwide have been trained in School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS), which aims both to reduce behavior problems and to promote a positive school climate. However, there remains a need to understand the programs and services provided to children who are not responding adequately to the universal level of support. Data from 45 elementary schools implementing SWPBIS were collected using the School-wide Evaluation Tool and the Individual Student Systems Evaluation Tool (I-SSET) to assess the use of school-wide, Tier 2, and Tier 3 support systems. The I-SSET data indicated that nearly all schools implemented federally mandated Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports (e.g., functional behavioral assessment, student support teams), but few schools implemented other evidence-based programs for students with more intensive needs. School-level demographic characteristics were correlated with the implementation of some aspects of universal SWPBIS, but not with the Tier 2 or 3 supports. Implications of these findings for professional development are discussed.