What is Tier 3 PBIS


What is Tier 3 PBIS

A. Three-tiered logic

Positive behavior interventions and support is an application of a behaviorally-based systems approach to enhance the capacity of schools, families, and communities to design effective environments that improve the fit or link between research-validated practices and the environments in which teaching and learning occurs. Attention is focused on creating and sustaining primary (tier 1: school-wide), secondary (tier 2: small group), and tertiary (tier 3: individual) systems of support that improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation) for all children and youth by making problem behavior less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional.  Providing different types of support matched to each student's needs is referred to as a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS). General descriptions for each tier as described in the Implementation Blueprint Part 1 are provided below:


Prevention Description

(Tier 1, Universal)

Preventing the development of new incidents/ occurrences of problem behaviors by implementing high quality learning environments for all students and staff and across all settings (i.e., school-wide, classroom, and non-classroom).

(Tier 2, Targeted)

Reducing the frequency and intensity of incidents of problem behaviors for students who are not responsive to primary intervention practices by providing more focused, intensive, and frequent small group-oriented responses in situations where problem behavior is likely.

(Tier 3, Intensive)

Reducing the intensity, frequency, and/or complexity of existing problem behaviors that are resistant to and/or unlikely to be addressed by primary and secondary prevention efforts by providing most individualized responses to situations where problem behavior is likely.

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B.Prevention across the Three-tiered logic

Detailed in the Implementation Blueprint Part 1, each tier in the PBIS framework is comprised of core practices and systems that characterize the specific interventions, strategies, and/or curricula selected and/or developed by the implementation leadership team. Across tiers, practices, and systems, increases in engagement, intensity, feedback, teaming, and monitoring are indicated. Similarly, supports for implementers also intensify. The following table summarizes these core practices and systems by tier, focusing on prevention across the three tiers.

Tier 1. Universal or Primary
All students, all staff, all settings



  • Leadership team with active administrator participation
  • Efficient routine, schedule, and structure for conducting efficient team meetings
  • Commitment statement for establishing a positive school-wide social culture
  • Procedures for on-going data-based monitoring, evaluation, and dissemination
  • Procedures for selection, training and coaching of new personnel
  • Procedures for evaluation of personnel related to PBIS implementation
  • Set of school-wide positive expectations and behaviors are defined and taught
  • Procedures for establishing classroom expectations and routines that are consistent with school-wide expectations
  • Continuum of procedures for encouraging expected behavior
  • Continuum of procedures for discouraging problem behavior
  • Procedures for encouraging school-family partnerships

Tier 2. Targeted or Secondary
 Supplemental small group



  • All Tier 1 systems above
  • Intervention team with coordinator
  • Behavioral expertise
  • Increased precision in data collection related to implementation fidelity and progress monitoring
  • Formal process for screening and identifying students in need of more than Tier 1 support.
  • Access to training and technical assistance on Tier 2 practices and supports
  • All Tier 1 practices above
  • Increased instruction and practice with self-regulation and social skills
  • Increased adult supervision
  • Increased opportunity for positive reinforcement
  • Increased antecedent manipulations (e.g., precorrection)
  • Increased precision to minimize rewards for problem behavior
  • Increased access to academic supports

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C. Tier 3 level prevention

At the tertiary or tier 3 level, support is provided to the 1-5% of students who may have very serious problem behaviors and may require more intensive and individualized supports. The supports are organized to reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors and improve life outcomes.



Tertiary (tier 3) prevention was originally designed to focus on the needs of individuals who exhibited patterns of intense problem behavior that may disrupt quality of life across multiple domains (school, home, community). Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of PBIS in addressing the challenges of behaviors that are dangerous, highly disruptive, and/or impede learning and result in social or educational exclusion. PBIS has been used to support the behavioral adaptation of students (and other individuals) with a wide range of characteristics, including developmental disabilities, autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, and even students with no diagnostic label.


Tertiary (tier 3) prevention involves a process of identifying and providing highly individualized supports for youth with high level needs.  Tertiary (tier 3) interventions include intensive evidence-based interventions such as function-based behavioral interventions (FBA-BIPs) and person-centered plans such as wraparound.  FBA- BIPs are comprised of individualized, assessment-based intervention strategies, including a wide range of options such as: (1) guidance or instruction for the student to use new skills as a replacement for problem behaviors, (2) some rearrangement of the antecedent environment so that problems can be prevented and desirable behaviors can be encouraged, and (3) procedures for monitoring, evaluating, and reassessing of the plan as necessary. In some situations, the plan may also include emergency procedures to ensure safety and rapid de-escalation of severe episodes (this is required when the target behavior is dangerous to the student or others), or major ecological changes, such as changes in school placements, in situations where more substantive environmental changes are needed. 
Wraparound, a form of person-centered planning, involve the youth and family identifying a team of natural supports that is built around the student, identifying the youth and families strengths and needs, and developing an action plan to support the youth and family in improved outcomes.  Wraparound is commonly described as taking place across four phases of effort: Engagement and team preparation, Initial plan development, Implementation, and Transition. During the Wraparound process, a team of people who are relevant to the life of the child or youth (e.g., family members, members of the family's social support network, service providers, and agency representatives) collaboratively develop an individualized plan of care, implement this plan, monitor the efficacy of the plan, and work towards success over time. A hallmark of the Wraparound process is that it is driven by the perspectives of the family and the child or youth. The plan should reflect their goals and their ideas about services, supports and strategies most likely to be helpful to them in reaching goals identified by the student/family and team. The Wraparound plan typically includes formal services, research-based interventions, including school-based and community services and more informal supports provided by friends, kin, and other people drawn from the family's social networks. After the initial plan is developed, the team continues to meet to monitor progress by measuring the plan's components against the indicators of success selected by the team. Plan components, interventions and strategies are revised when the team determines that they are not working, i.e., when the relevant indicators of success are not being achieved (see http://nwi.pdx.edu/wraparound-basics)

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D. Multi-tiered Systems of Support and Prevention

Tertiary (tier 3) prevention is most effective when there are positive primary (school-wide) and secondary (group-based) systems in place. As emphasized in the Implementation Blueprint Part 1, implementing PBIS across the whole school helps to ensure an effective Tier 3 implementation. As a whole school approach, the PBIS framework is implemented by and within individuals within classroom and across non-classroom settings (e.g., hallways, lunchrooms, assemblies, sporting events, field trips). All members of an learning environment (e.g., public school, alternative program, classroom, preschool) should experience an effective and relevant foundation of academic, social, and behavioral support (Tier 1) that emphasizes arrangement of high quality teaching and learning environments: (a) direct and explicit teaching of social skills, (b) continuous progress monitoring, (c) multiple opportunities to practice in applied settings, (d) specific and contingent encouragement and recognition when social skills are used, and (e) constructive re-teaching when behavior errors occur.
In addition, the design and implementation of individualized supports are best executed when they are conducted in a comprehensive and collaborative manner. The process should include the individual with behavioral challenges and people who know him/her best all working together to promote positive change all working as a behavioral support team or person-centered wraparound team. Support should (a) be tailored to the student's specific needs and circumstances, (b) involve a comprehensive approach to understanding and intervening with the behavior, and (c) include multi-element interventions to address needs in different area of the student's life. The goal of Tertiary (tier 3) prevention is to diminish the frequency and intensity of problem behavior and, also, to increase the student's adaptive skills and opportunities for an enhanced quality of life.

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E. Data Based Decision Making & Evidence Based Practices

In a well-integrated Tier 3 system, student outcome data guide important educational decisions. The importance of monitoring student outcomes is twofold. First and foremost, documentation of student outcomes is necessary for verifying that the resources allocated and practices adopted as part of the Tier 3 systems change process have, or have not, generated the intended effect of improving outcomes for students with behavioral issues. Second, monitoring student outcomes is an essential component of a Tier 3 system of supports because data-based decision-making guides implementation of evidence-based practices. As such, evaluation of the effectiveness of Tier 3 systems of supports within districts will focus primarily on student outcomes that demonstrate a reduction of negative educational outcomes (e.g., office discipline referrals, suspensions, restraint or seclusion, targeted behavior problems, etc.) and an increase in desired educational outcomes (e.g., attendance, academic performance, social skills, etc.). In short, student outcome data are essential to:

  • Support data-based decision making and problem solving;
  • Determine sufficiency of implementation integrity;
  • Facilitate identification of and the process of implementing any adjustments that need to be made to Tier 3 practices;
  • Maximize resources and ensuring efficient supports are provided to all students;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions;
  • Evaluate the equity of services and supports provided to students;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of Tier 3 practices; and,
  • Determine eligibility for additional resources and evaluation of individual education programs.

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F. Implementation Considerations

The implementation of effective, evidence-based practices and procedures at Tier 3 is impacted by a variety of factors including federal legislation, state and district policies and practices, and school team implementation at the classroom and individual student levels.  The following sections and resources provide an overview of effective Tier 3 practices at the student, school and district levels.  The sections also address the systems variables and the professional development resources that are necessary to implement and sustain an effective tertiary (tier 3) support system within a school and across an entire district. For more information about developing an effective and efficient Tier 3 system at a state, district and school level, refer to A Blueprint for Tier 3 Implementation: A Results Driven System for Supporting Students with Serious Problem Behaviors from Florida's Department of Education (Tier 3 Blueprint Download) which has been informed by ongoing state and national PBIS systems change work.

      • Cultural and contextual fit and relevance

In addition, a student's/school's "culture" or context should be under consideration upon implementation and for desired outcomes because of the influence and added value of the local environments (e.g., neighborhood, city), personal characteristics (e.g., race, nationality), learning histories (e.g., family and social routines, customs, experiences), and language (e.g., dialect, vocabulary).  The Implementation Blueprint Part 1 details the four essential interactive elements which serve as the core of the implementation process, provided in the figure below:


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G. Terminology

The following table summarizes the terminology and abbreviations used within this section.

Term (Abbreviation)

Other Terminology

Brief Description or Definition




Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

Response to Intervention (RtI)

Used in general and special education to refer to a framework using data for delivering practices and systems for enhancing academic and behavior outcomes for all students.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

School-wide Positive Behavior Supports (SWPBS)
Effective Behavior Supports (EBS)

Referenced in IDEA to refer to a framework for delivering practices and systems to enhance academic and behavior outcomes for all  students including students with disabilities and their families.

Tier 1

Universal Supports, Primary Prevention

Preventing the development of new (incidence) problem behaviors by implementing high quality learning environments for all students and staff and across all settings (i.e., school-wide, classroom, and non-classroom).

Tier 2

Targeted Supports, Secondary Prevention

Reducing the number of existing (prevalence) problem behaviors that are presenting high risk behaviors and/or not responsive to primary intervention practices by providing more focused, intensive, and frequent small group-oriented responses in situations where problem behavior is likely.

Tier 3

Intensive Supports, Tertiary Prevention

Reducing the intensity and/or complexity of existing (prevalence) problem behavior that are resistant to and/or unlikely to be addressed by primary and secondary prevention efforts by providing most individualized responses to situations where problem behavior is likely.

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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.