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Blog Oct 7, 2021

Introducing Turnaround for Children’s Tiered System of Supports Referral Phase

“The research makes it clear that it is important for schools to utilize an integrated, comprehensive approach to address the complex needs of all students in order to facilitate positive academic outcomes. 

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages



  By Renee Prince, LCSW and Dawn Foreman, M. Ed. 

Previously, we shared our approach to Tiered Systems of Support, a structure for you to assess your current Tiered System of Supports, and how to engage in in self-reflection and interrogation of schoolwide systems and classroom practices that may be hindering students from thriving in school. Our intention in the Identification Phase was to empower educators to make some adjustments to their mindsets and practices while taking the time to get to know their students deeply. This is an important process that will support your school community in its responsiveness to students as individuals who are on unique developmental pathways. 

The next phase of implementation of your Tiered System of Supports is the Referral Phase. Both school staff and caregivers can make a referral when a student’s needs are not being met through your school’s universal strategies. For this phase of your Tiered System of Supports to operate effectively and efficiently, it is critical that processes are put in place that clearly describe how students who need additional support are identified and supported. These processes should be communicated to all stakeholders and monitored for implementation with fidelity and quality assurance.

The more seamless the process, the better the school will be at creating equitable conditions for all students to thrive and not leaving those with more significant needs without the attention they deserve. A delay due to lack of clearly defined processes creates an added barrier to supporting the success of all students. It also deepens and becomes an added layer of the inequities historically experienced by marginalized students, thereby reinforcing the very challenges Tiered Systems of Support are trying to mitigate against.  

In order to reduce the likelihood of the above mentioned challenges arising, here are some things to consider when setting up, refining or working within the Referral Phase of your Tiered System of Supports:  

  • What structure or process will be used to access additional support for a student? 
  • Who is responsible for managing or supporting the referral process? 
  • What type of data will need to be collected to best support the student being referred? 
  • What is the protocol for using the data in the referral process?  
  • How will information be communicated to the referring person about next steps for the student after the referral is submitted or brought to the attention of the relevant stakeholder(s)? 

The questions above are intended to serve as a starting place to develop your school’s process for providing additional support to students. Each school will have varying processes given their available time and staff resources.  

A successful Tiered System of Supports recognizes that student needs are best met with an integrated and holistic approach that streamlines processes that enhance collaboration between educators, caregivers, clinicians, and communities.  

Turnaround for Children offers several tools to support educators in the process of making a referral:  

Also included in the Referral Phase is the continuation of the two approaches to how an educator might proceed with making a referral for additional supports. 

Access the Referral Phase tools and resources on the Toolbox by creating a free account.