Four Keys to Supporting Intensive Intervention Implementation

Four Keys to Supporting Intensive Intervention Implementation

By Paul Elery, Principal Harvard Elementary School

Mr. Paul Elery is a principal at Harvard Elementary in Franklin Pierce School District in Washington State. His school is currently implementing intensive intervention through a multi-tiered system of support. In this article, he addresses the question: “If a new administrator is implementing intensive intervention in their school or district, what advice would you give them?”


If I had the opportunity to meet with a new school administrator regarding implementing intensive interventions within their school or district, I would advise them to focus on four main components of a multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS): (1) establishing a student-focused culture in your building, (2) establishing efficient procedures for data collection and analysis, (3) establishing a strong core instructional program and (4) focusing on continuous improvement.

Build and Maintain a Student-Focused Culture and MTSS Leadership Team

First, I would advise the new administrator to establish a culture that is focused on students. It is highly important to build and maintain a belief system where students’ needs are the top priority for all school and district staff members. As a school administrator works to create and develop this culture, an important first step is to identify staff members who already believe that students’ needs come first. After identifying these staff members, the next step would be to discuss the importance of an effective MTSS system with these staff members and to encourage them to be part of the MTSS leadership team. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a core team of teachers that understands and supports effective implementation of MTSS. This leadership team serves as the vehicle to analyze and improve various parts of MTSS on an ongoing basis. I’ve seen school administrators try to implement MTSS on their own without staff buy-in and it does not succeed. Our core leadership team consists of classroom teachers, Learning Assistance Program learning specialists, the dean of students, and our school counselor. Grounded in the mutual belief that all students come first, the leadership team members also provide a unique perspective to our consistent reflection on MTSS implementation. Finally, as an administrator, I would absolutely stress the importance of students’ needs coming first during the hiring process. Specific interview questions and thorough reference checks will support the selection of ideal staff members for effective MTSS implementation.

Develop Efficient Data Collection and Analysis

The second essential component of implementing effective MTSS systems and intensive intervention would be an efficient data collection and analysis tool. This tool would be used for benchmark testing and progress monitoring. Benchmark testing should occur three times a year and can be used to identify areas of strength and needed improvement within the overall MTSS system. When conducting benchmark testing for an entire school, I would also suggest taking the least amount of time possible while maintaining valid and reliable data. Taking less time for testing provides more time for instruction and student learning.

Progress monitoring, the second part of data collection and analysis, focuses on individual students. One thing I have learned about progress monitoring is the importance of providing training for those administering weekly tests to students receiving intensive intervention and biweekly tests for strategic students. Ongoing review of progress monitoring probes and how they’re administered will provide accurate data, leading to more sound decisions regarding appropriate interventions.

Focus on Implementing a Strong Core Instructional Program

For the third component of an effective MTSS system and implementation of intensive intervention, I would advise a school administrator to focus on implementing strong core instructional programs while at the same time utilizing evidence-based interventions that address specific students’ needs. If a school or district’s core instruction is not meeting the needs of most students, then too many will be identified as needing a strategic or intensive intervention. Again, core instruction will need to meet the needs of most students. However, through benchmark testing and progress monitoring, some students will show that they need additional support. Evidence-based interventions will support teachers in providing explicit instruction that allows them to help students reach a performance level consistent with their grade-level peers. As an administrator supports staff in utilizing intervention materials, I would suggest they focus on three pieces of explicit instruction. These would include providing high numbers of student response opportunities, immediate error correction, and specific praise for correct responses. Although there are other components of explicit instruction, in my experience, these three provide a solid base upon which teachers can build other components. When it comes to specific intervention tools, my team and I have found that direct instruction programs serve as the best tool for implementing the components of explicit instruction.

Focus on Continuous Improvement

The last piece of advice I would give to an administrator would be to never be satisfied with your school or district’s current level of performance. There is always room for improvement! An effective administrator continuously works with staff to reflect on the successful implementation of MTSS and how to make the system even more efficient and effective for students.

About the author

Paul Elery
Paul Elery, Principal Harvard Elementary School
/ Franklin Pierce School District

Mr. Paul Elery is the principal of Harvard Elementary in Tacoma, Washington. Mr. Elery has been a teacher and principal in the Franklin Pierce School District for more than 24 years. He received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Whitworth University and his master’s degree in special education from the University of Washington. He received his administration certificate from Pacific Lutheran University.