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Key Ingredients for Effective Tier 1 Practices

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June 26th, 2020



In our schools, one of the biggest things that we talk about—because it really is one of the most important things—is improving the quality of Tier 1 instruction. It’s probably the one answer if you have schools really narrow down the question: “What’s the biggest thing they can do to improve their schools this next year?” That’s it, because it’s really the relationship between the teacher and student and what’s happening in the classroom that’s most important. 

So, what does it mean to have great high quality Tier 1 instruction? It starts with a valid and reliable curriculum that you can use for your students. It should be consistent and standards-based. It’s of the quality that we need it to be and it’s really addressing the needs of our students. 

It also means differentiation. We have to make sure that we’re differentiating instruction within Tier 1 (rather than push some students who aren’t learning into a Tier 2 or 3 intervention). One of the best things you can do to strengthen Tier 1 instruction is use the fact that some students are struggling, identify why they’re struggling, and really build that into the way in which we’re instructing for all students. 

Formative assessment practice is a huge part of improving Tier 1 instruction. In fact, if you had to define it very simply, formative assessment is a mechanism to inform teachers about what their students need, so that they can pivot their instruction to better meet their needs. 

PLCs are also a huge part of improving Tier 1 instruction. Teachers get to share about what’s working really well with students, and you can utilize the collective strategies from the group and implement them into your own classroom to make the entire Tier 1 instruction experience stronger for students. 

Lastly, when you have students who are in need of a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention, or students who are in a Special Ed situation, think about those as innovation labs for Tier 1 instructional improvements. They shouldn’t be the places you send students who need something different. It should be the places where you send students to learn about what helps students learn better, and the best of those practices can get infused back into Tier 1 instruction to keep strengthening and growing the quality.


Illuminate Education partners with K-12 educators to equip them with data to serve the whole child and reach new levels of student performance. Our solution brings together holistic data and collaborative tools and puts them in the hands of educators. Illuminate supports over 17 million students and 5200 districts/schools.

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