By Tom Many, EdD

There are two schools of thought on how best to deliver Tier 2 interventions during the regular school day—the Classroom approach and the Regrouping approach—and supporters of both claim their approach is the preferred method of organizing students for Tier 2 interventions.

“We recognize that every student does not learn in the same way or at the same time.”
– Buffum, Mattos, Weber (2009)

The Classroom Approach is implemented by a single teacher in a single classroom. The basic structure of this method requires individual classroom teachers work with students who need extra time and support during free time or while other students are working independently. While the majority of students engage in extension or enrichment activities, teachers pull together small groups and provide Tier 2 interventions to the students who have demonstrated specific skill deficits on recent common assessments.

Advocates of the Classroom approach believe it is more effective because students are more comfortable working with a familiar adult and since the students are already in their class, and these teachers know them best, they are better prepared to differentiate and deliver the kind of support each student needs. Some concede it is difficult to monitor the rest of class while working with small groups, but supporters believe this approach is more efficient because there is less time lost in transitions and working with students in your own classroom creates more flexibility. It’s far easier to manage the schedule and grouping of students if there is no need to coordinate with other members of the team.

According to Buffum, Mattos, and Malone, “Some educators claim their school doesn’t need to create Tier 2 time in their master schedule because each individual teacher provides supplemental interventions in his or her own room.” (2018, p. 186) However, the authors maintain, “That approach failed to achieve the goal of high levels of learning for all students because it is unrealistic to expect classroom teachers to simultaneously reteach essential grade-level curriculum to some students while introducing new essential standards to the entire class.”

“We have never visited a school that has an effective system of interventions that does not have supplemental intervention time embedded in its weekly schedule.” – Buffum, Mattos, and Malone, (2018, p 188).

On the other hand, the Regrouping approach is implemented by teams of teachers. The basic structure of this approach involves organizing students into tiered intervention groups based on the results of a common assessment. Teachers deliver the extra time and support to small groups of students who may be from different classrooms but share the same needs. Regrouping works best when grade level or departmental teams designate a common block of time and build the time for Tier 2 interventions into the master schedule of their school.

Advocates of this approach claim it is more effective because it places greater emphasis on direct instruction and is better suited to deliver more targeted interventions based on specific skills. Supporters also highlight the positive impact teacher collaboration has on developing a commitment to “our students in our school” as opposed to “my students in my room.” They reject the notion that regrouping students has to be a lengthy, time consuming or sophisticated process. As long as teachers have agreed on what is essential and identified the highest leverage learning targets, the logistics of regrouping students is not complicated.

Mattos, DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2016, p. 128) contend that, “there is no way an individual teacher has all the skills, knowledge, and professional time necessary to meet the diverse needs of all the students assigned to his or her classroom.” The authors maintain that, “Schools can only meet these diverse student needs when the staff leverages their collective knowledge and skills” and work together to deliver Tier 2 interventions.

Mike Mattos makes two other important points in support of the Regrouping approach. He observes correctly that students often benefit from a fresh perspective or different approach to reteaching a specific skill. Mattos poses a hypothetical question when he asks, “If you taught it as well as you could the first time, what makes you think that more of ‘you’ is the answer? Is it possible that a colleague has a better way?” Giving another teacher an opportunity to reteach the same skill will enhance the chances that students ultimately master the skill. At the very least, exposing students to different teachers makes it more likely the strategies used to reteach the skill in Tier 2 will be different than those used when the skill was initially taught during Tier 1 instruction.

Mattos also argues the Regrouping approach is more targeted than the Classroom approach and suggests that, “The more targeted the intervention, the more likely it will work.” (January 2020) Consider the situation where an individual teacher is working with five students from their own classroom, all of whom need additional time and support but each needing help with a different skill. Mattos points out that in this scenario each student theoretically receives 20% of the teacher’s time and attention. In another school, a teacher is also working with a group of five students, all of whom also need extra time and support. These students come from different classrooms but have been regrouped around the same skill. In this second scenario, each student theoretically receives 100% of the teacher’s time and attention.

Organizing for Tier 2 interventions isn’t an either/or proposition, but the consensus is that Regrouping is a more effective approach. In schools where Regrouping is the primary vehicle for organizing and delivering Tier 2 interventions, individual teachers can still pull together small groups and provide more instruction to students while the majority of the class works independently. In fact, a combination of both approaches is an excellent way to ensure high levels of learning for all.

The Classroom approach may seem logical—and is certainly better than the complete absence of Tier 2 interventions—but experts have identified a number of benefits to working as a team to regroup students. Regrouping is considered the most effective and efficient way to organize and deliver the extra time and support students need to succeed.

Dr. Tom Many is an author and consultant. His career in education spans more than 30 years.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., Many, T. & Mattos, M. (2016). Learning by doing: A handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work (3rd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Buffum, A., Mattos, M. & Malone, J. (2018). Taking Action: A Handbook for RTI at Work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

TEPSA News, May/June 2020, Vol 77, No 3

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