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Applying whole-child design to a school's tiered system of supports

Tiered System of Supports

Learning environments and experiences designed around the whole child are driven by a holistic picture of each individual learner with their unique set of skills, interests, identities, strengths, needs and goals. In addition to universal enriching experiences and relationships, a school also requires ways to provide more personalized supports to individual students to meet them along their unique developmental pathways. Implementation of these supports is rooted in equity, humanizing and collaborative experiences, and is designed to ensure each student gets what they need for wellness and a better learning experience.

The purpose of a Tiered System of Supports is to provide a framework for an adaptive, responsive continuum of integrated supports for all students, that vary in level of intensity. This system is designed to address a student’s academic, physical, social, emotional and identity needs by mitigating barriers to learning and development, both in and outside the classroom.

Tiered support systems leverage each individual student’s context and are developed and implemented in service of equitable outcomes—so that all students can thrive.

The following graphic provides a visual representation of the process through which students might receive access to supports within a tiered system. This visual includes a brief description of the proactive, universal (Tier 1) supports needed as a reflection of the foundational strategies included in a system designed for the whole child.

District leaders, school administrators (principals, assistant principals, deans), student support staff (social workers, psychologists, school counselors, mental health professionals), teachers, students and families all play important roles throughout this inclusive, integrated process.---Split---

In summary, Turnaround’s Tiered System of Supports is NOT an approach that:

  • Addresses academic and social-emotional/mental health supports separately
  • Problematizes students by evaluating them solely in terms of their deficits
  • Primarily considers students in danger of academic failure
  • Is used as a last step before a special education request
  • Overlooks student context beyond the school environment
  • Emphasizes changing student behavior without addressing teacher practice or systems within the school environment

Turnaround’s Tiered System of Supports IS:

  • Grounded in the science of learning and develops and acknowledges the impact of trauma
  • Implemented with an emphasis on teacher reflection of mindset, adjustment to individual practice, and examination of schoolwide systems and protocols that reflect and reinforce biased treatment of students
  • An integration of academic and social-emotional/mental health needs
  • Aligned to whole-child design (universal practices that reflect shared ownership, supportive environments, skills and mindsets, relationships)
  • Designed and applied with equity as a lens, and outcome
  • A way to prioritize student context to help deepen understanding
  • A process that leverages strengths and diversity of voices in the school community and home
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Tiered System of Supports in Action

Select an area below to explore integrated whole-child practices within a school system:

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