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Solving Academic and Behavior Problems
RtI Tiers
Tiers of Instruction

The Problem Solving Model at Southwest HIgh School

In its broadest sense, the Problem Solving Model (PSM) is the Minneapolis Public Schools system for determining the intensity of the school support systems provided to each student. The PSM provides a framework which is used to allocate school resources to students, based on each student’s individual needs. Most students can receive an appropriate education within the general education classroom when provided with quality instruction that is aligned with district and state standards. Some students flounder when receiving the same quality instruction, but when provided with evidence-based supports or interventions such as a peer mentor, guided notes, or partnered reading, are successful. A smaller group of students need still more intensive and individualized supports that sometimes require instruction outside of the general education classroom. These three groups of students are often pictured as a pyramid, with the base (Tier 1) representing the approximately 80% of students who learn adequately without individualized interventions. The middle portion of the pyramid, (Tier 2) about 15% of students, learn adequately with classroom interventions, and the smallest group (Tier 3), ideally about 5%, require at least some instruction outside the general education classroom.

The PSM is a way of sorting students by need for instructional support. Decisions regarding increasing or decreasing support for individual students are made during meetings of the Comprehensive Team for At-Risk Students (CTARS). Decisions are based on data, including information available in district databases and data collected by teachers.


Tier 1 includes students who are able to learn adequately when provided with quality instruction that is aligned with district and state standards. However, some Tier 1 students will need additional help and require implementation of evidence-based interventions to be successful. It is at this point that the teacher implements classroom interventions and documents those interventions using Worksheet 1 (WS1), which is found at the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) website ( If you don't know your OCR user name or password, email Kathleen Peterson at or call 8-0460.

Some excellent online resources for finding effective, evidence-based interventions (both academic and behavioral) are:

Often a teacher will have already implemented evidence-based interventions when he or she decides to complete Worksheet 1.  It is permissable to complete WS1 using interventions already completed as long as data was collected which is adequate to measure the success of the intervention. Often teacher records such as attendance, grades or behavior records can serve as acceptable data.

If the student's response to Tier 1 interventions is adequate, the student continues in Tier 1. If, however, the teacher determines that the student’s response to the evidence-based interventions documented in WS1 is inadequate, the teacher refers the student to the Comprehensive Team for At-Risk Students (CTARS). The CTARS is composed of school counsellors, school social workers, administration, the school psychologist, and the special education TOSA. When possible referring teachers also participate. Teachers should refer to CTARS using this form.

Documenting results of behavioral interventions should be simple and quick. Direct Behavior Ratings (DBRs) provide a way for teachers to simply circle a number on a line that expresses the percentage of the class time that the student exhibited the desired behavior. When this is repeated over a period of weeks a technically adequate record of changes in the rate of the student's exhibition of the target behavior is created. Click on this link for more information about DBRs: Click here for DBR forms for increasing academic engaged time, respectful behavior, and decreasing disruptive behavior, as well as a form that allows you to choose your own target behavior.

If you would like individual assistance in choosing, implementing or documenting the results of evidence-based interventions, please contact Southwest school psychologist Kent W. Elliott Allen (extension 51087,, or school psychologist intern Angie Pohl (


Tier 2 is composed of students who did not respond adequately to the Tier 1 interventions described in WS1 and thus need more intensive services. When a student is referred, the student's name is put on a list of students to be discussed. The CTARS group can discuss about five students weekly. Data reviewed includes that in the worksheet provided by the teacher(s), as well as information from district databases. Based on this information, the CTARS will either appoint one of its members to work with the teacher to complete Worksheet 2 or refer the matter back to the referring teacher for additional classroom intervention or documentation of interventions.

In the event that Worksheet 2 interventions are not successful, the CTARS may either devise additional evidence-based interventions in collaboration with the classroom teacher or refer the case to the Student Support Team (SST).


Tier 3 is composed of students who have not responded adequately to Tier 2 interventions. It includes many special education students, but may also include non-special education students who regularly receive specialized instruction in small groups. When Worksheet 2 interventions are unsuccessful, the student is referred to the SST. The SST is composed primarily of special and general education staff, administration, and the school nurse. The Alcohol Drug Technician also participates when appropriate. The team will review the referred students’ data and decide whether it warrants special education evaluation or if additional interventions should be implemented.