Struggling students often have a really hard time getting caught up, and that is because the teachers and parents do not know exactly what the student needs to get them up to the proper grade level. In math the latest trend has been the tier intervention system, a tool that helps the student’s teachers and parents understand the situation and know what level of assistance best suits the student’s needs. The tier system is very simple to understand and it can help prevent wasted time and energy.
Students at the Tier 1 level are almost up to par with the rest of the class, but there are still some concepts that elude them. While this is nothing to panic about right away, because everything in math is based off of what you learned before, ignoring the problem only magnifies it further down the line. Tier 1 assistance is driven largely by the teacher and it is done primarily in the regular classroom setting. Assessment will show whether or not the student is underperforming, and if a student needs some extra help, the teacher can take a little bit of time to give clarification to the topics the student does not understand. In more extreme cases the student may even be moved to another teacher with a different teaching method that matches better with the student’s learning style.
Students at the Tier 2 level struggle to keep even close to where their classmates are with their understanding of mathematical concepts. These students tend to be C students at best, and they are in danger of falling through the cracks if they are not given some kind of help. Parents and teachers need to meet to discuss the student’s progress at this point, and most of the time some small group study will be recommended to fill in some of the gaps. The small groups, usually a study group or after school tutoring session bridge the gap between what the students are able to understand in the classroom and what they need to learn to move on. Small groups keep these students from slowing down the pace of the rest of the class and allow the instructor to continue to present new material as needed.
Students at the Tier 3 level are in crisis mode. These are students who have not been able to keep up with the most basic concepts that they are learning about, and they are at the highest risk for failing not just their current course, but other math classes down the line. At this point parents have to take on third party programs like Masteryed to give the kind of personalized and intense level of support that the student needs. Many times parents will discover that their child does not have even the most rudimentary math skills and the instruction will have to cover things that the child should have learned years ago. The process may take months to get the student caught up, but when it happens, the student will have the foundational knowledge that they need to succeed in math classes in the future.
The new intervention rankings give teachers and parents a better tool to communicate about the level of assistance a student needs. By offering more options and concrete paths forward, the tier system should provide some positive results for all parties involved.
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I am Alex Evans and I have been teaching math for eight years. I am a big supporter of the tier system and I want others to know how it works.