2 Ideas for Impactful Tier 1 Academic Interventions with High School Students

I am convinced a big part of my school’s student success is because of the effort put towards tier 1 academic interventions with our students. We have always had a notably high graduation rate, and I think it was became of these intentional tier 1 academic intervention efforts!

With a tier 1 intervention, we were aiming to reach ALL students, something universally implemented in the school.

tier 1 academic interventions

Tier 1 Academic Intervention #1:

One big way we reached all students each year is through academic planning lessons to all students in each grade level. These lessons come in a variety of forms depending on the grade level we were serving. Most of these academic planning lessons involved learning about transcripts (reading their own), understanding how scholarships work, and hearing about post-secondary options (whether that’s a college, career, or military pathway).

If you’re short on time (we all are, right?), you are probably planning to get to each student ONCE during their year for an academically driven classroom lesson. I find that with ninth graders, it’s helpful to also acknowledge the differences between middle school and high school. The transition to more rigorous academics and higher standards may add on a new level of stress that they haven’t figured out how to handle yet.

The Freshman Year Planning Bundle includes a “Transition to Ninth Grade” presentation along with a Freshman Year Planning Guide. If you’re looking for an activity to do with your freshman to emphasize the importance of academics along with goal setting and future oriented thinking… this digital and paper packet is perfect!

Sophomores are all-too-often forgotten about! Tenth grade feels like the “lost year” when it comes to school counselors providing services… let alone creative tier 1 academic interventions! Sophomores need encouragement to keep pushing through as their academics are getting a bit harder; they need the reminder that they’re really 2/3 of the way to college applications or decision-making about their future! Senior year sneaks up quickly!

We can stop our boring, same-old presentations and add in something uniquely catered to tenth graders with this Sophomore Planning Bundle. If your students have Chromebooks or laptops or devices, the digital version of the Sophomore Year Planning Guide will be easy to complete and talk about in class. I love printing it out and letting students color and doodle on it if at all possible! In this tier 1 academic intervention plan for sophomores, we cover academic goals, organizational plans, self-care and more!

For juniors, I have always found myself really getting real about life after high school. No matter how many times you share the same information over and over again, students will say that or act as if they’ve never heard it. We MUST be ready to be a broken record with the information we’re giving out because (especially if you’re in a large school or have a large caseload), the opportunities to get into classrooms can be few and far between. High school counselors have to make their time count for any and all tier 1 academic interventions in order to be effective!

Inside the Junior Planning Bundle, you’ll also find a presentation and a planning guide (that can be printed or used digitally). This presentation is perfect to do your regularly scheduled tier 1 academic intervention in the classroom with your students, but it can also be used with parents! (Raise your hand if you have a parent night that you need to create a presentation for!) It covers different post-secondary options and pathways as well as important terms to know as they’re nearing the end of high school (about financial aid, college applications, etc.). The Junior Year Planning Guide has places to manage to-do lists, brainstorm questions for the school counselor, set goals, identify their support team and more.

Lastly, our seniors seem to need the most help in the moment planning their lives after high school. Getting into their classrooms for a tier 1 academic intervention like a classroom lesson is extremely helpful in pushing out tons of important information out at once. Teach them the systems that they’ll need to know as they work their way through senior year: how do they set up a meeting with their counselor? How do they search for scholarships? How to do they even begin to apply for college? Do they have all of the credits they need to graduate? What if they have to retake a class second semester? (For more tips on working with seniors in individual meetings, check out this blog post here.)

This classroom space for seniors should be a safe place to ask questions and get answers. Their stress levels are high, and you actually have their attention for once! Use this Senior Planning Bundle to cover your bases with the information you’re giving them. Take what’s already in the senior presentation (like college and career information) and add in specifics for your school or your school counseling program. I like to have cheap folders with the Senior Year Planning Guide printed out when I meet with students individually and give to those who need just a bit more help in the post-secondary planning process.

There are so many different options and creative ways to meet your students’ academic needs through a tier 1 setting, but I love the efficiency of doing it through classrooms in the high school! As a counseling team, we can divide and conquer and reach so many students!

Tier 1 Academic Intervention #2: 

The second big way we aimed to reach all students academically is by intentional analysis and planning using data. That sounds really fancy, but let me break it down for you.

When counselors speak data, administrators readily invite them into the conversation. It’s important to be in these student-centered conversations if you want to make an impact on academics, behavior, attendance, and more.

School counselors have so much value to share and expertise to impart. Instead of waiting to be invited, find out when these meetings are happening. Get yourself a seat at that table!

So… who was involved in this tier 1 academic intervention? There were a handful of key people in the school who we got into the same room to make this happen. Every two weeks, we had a “Student Support Team” meeting with all school counselors (8!) and all administrators (5 assistant principals plus principal). We had tried a few different ways to make this efficient depending on how our caseloads were divided up, and our most recent system was a little like speed dating.

Since our caseloads were divided up by alphabet and administrators were divided by grade level (with an extra assistant principal for off-grade level students and extra support), we would meet in a big conference room and rotate around. Once I had met with each administrator, I was free to leave. This felt like the best use of everyone’s time.

When I talked to each administrator, I came prepared with a few reports and notes. I preferred to have a Google Sheet that I shared with the administrator ahead of time so nothing was a surprise to them, and I could add notes to it in live time if needed. Here are the things I would include on a Google Sheet shared with all counselors and administrators:

  • Student Name
  • Student Grade
  • Grade in class (failing grade)
  • Class
  • Teacher
  • Counselor Notes
  • Parent Outreach
  • Counselor Follow Up
  • Admin Notes
  • Admin Follow Up
In addition to the biweekly “Student Support Team” meetings, we would hold a quarterly “Data Action Team.” This idea came from a principal who was very data-driven and motivated to raise the graduation rate.
More people were involved in the Data Action Team meetings. We sat round-table in a conference room with all counselors and administrators (like the Student Support Team) plus: attendance clerk, school counseling clerk, school psychologist, mental health counselor, and instructional coach. The principal would run this meeting to keep us on track, and sometimes data, spreadsheets, or notes were projected where everyone could see.
Very similar things are shared at this meeting. Counselors and admin share a bit more concisely. It’s more about sharing what is working and what isn’t working. Attendance and school counseling clerks are accounting for students who are coming late to school, who are not coming to school at all, and who supposedly have transferred to other schools.
Having everyone in the same room helps fill in gaps in the stories, allow for referrals (to school counselors, mental health counselor, and school psychologist).
Ultimately, as a counselor, I care about that, too. I want students to graduate with a high school diploma, so they have more opportunities to move onto whatever their next chapter is: be it work, school, or military. We can all agree that a high school diploma will open many doors, and I want to help make that difference! Tier 1 academic interventions are a solid way to ensure ALL students are receiving academic support and no students are slipping through the cracks without being served.
Download these free College Application Timelines to have on hand to give to your students who may be pursuing two or four-year college after their time in high school. This PDF will come straight to your email inbox, and you’ll have checklists to increase each student’s confidence around their academic planning!
tier 1 academic interventions

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