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Exploring PBIS Tier 3 Interventions

5 Min Read
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Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is a multi-tiered framework that promotes positive behaviors both in and out of the classroom. Whereas traditional models used punitive measures of correction (i.e., punishing a student for disruptive behavior), PBIS focuses on preventative measures and positive reinforcement. Supports are divided into tiers, allowing schools and team members to apply targeted interventions to the unique needs of each tier. 

In this article, we’ll review PBIS Tier 3, the most intensive of the PBIS framework. Only a small number of students need this highly personalized support, but the interventions are crucial to the success of the students in this category.

Understanding the PBIS Tiers

The are three PBIS Tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 (sometimes called Tiers I, II, and III.) All students receive Tier 1 support and interventions because this is the foundational level of any PBIS framework. As students receive their functional behavior assessments, it may come to light that they also need to receive Tier 2 support if they don’t respond to Tier 1 interventions, and have additional needs that the universal tier cannot meet. For students whose needs exceed what Tier 2 provides, Tier 3 gives the highly individualized support they need.

What Are PBIS Tier 3 Interventions?

PBIS Tier 3 is designed to reduce disruptive behavior while also helping the student learn effective strategies to manage, redirect, and adapt their behavior in the future. Like the rest of the PBIS framework, prevention is coupled with critical self-management skills.

Who Receives Tier 3 Interventions?

Tier 3 behavior interventions are for students who need individualized, comprehensive, and ongoing support. Students in Tier 3 have not responded to interventions in either Tier 1 or Tier 2, typically because they have needs that exceed what either of those two support levels can provide. According to the Center on PBIS, students in PBIS Tier 3 have “…serious, chronic, challenging behaviors that significantly interfere with student success in and out of school.”

Types of Tier 3 Behaviors:

  • Chronic social or emotional issues
  • Significant learning challenges
  • Ongoing office referrals for discipline
  • Suspensions and other removals from the classroom
  • Dangerous or highly disruptive behaviors
  • Behaviors that result in social or physical isolation

Students are identified as needing PBIS Tier 3 interventions through a few different channels. First, they can be identified when they are already receiving Tier 2 resources but are not improving. A family member, teacher, or guidance counselor who has regular interactions with the student can also nominate them. Regular and universal screenings at a school can also help to identify which students would benefit from Tier 3 support.

PBIS Tier 3 Behavior Intervention Examples 

Tier 3 interventions for behavior build on the existing framework and behavior support offered in Tiers 1 and 2. As the student moves from one tier to the next, the support becomes more individualized and involved. For example, universal classroom instruction turns into small-group instruction in Tier 2. This small-group instruction can turn into one-on-one instruction in Tier 3.

Resources can include individual counseling, family counseling, or receiving instruction in a dedicated resource room. While the tools will vary based on school resources and the unique needs of each student, all are supported by the larger, guided PBIS Tier 3 intervention examples below. 

Functional behavior assessments (FBA)

Functional behavior assessments (FBA) are a vital tool for an effective Tier 3 PBIS framework. The FBA helps a PBIS support team identify possible triggers of a student’s most serious negative behavior. These findings are used to create a general idea surrounding the root causes of the behavior. This idea (commonly called a hypothesis in FBAs) helps the PBIS support team create a more targeted, individualized behavior intervention plan (BIP). 


Wraparound interventions are another core tool for PBIS Tier 3. Wraparound support is a more comprehensive support plan in its coverage, offering additional resources for students whose needs aren’t met by an FBA alone. It’s important to note that wraparound can work with or without an FBA. Some students will receive wraparound support without an FBA, others will have an FBA with no wraparound, and additional Tier 3 students might have both. 

Wraparound support in Tier 3 typically involves external support in addition to the in-school teams. This is because wraparound support is either delivered outside of the school (at home, for example) or directly impacts a student’s quality of life (QOL) and other aspects of their home. 

With so much emphasis placed on working outside of the school and supporting the student’s home and family systems, wraparound relies on extensive family involvement. 

Examples of wraparound support for PBIS Tier 3 are:

  • Medical, mental health, and community resources
  • Improving living conditions and basic needs
  • Cultural, social, and spiritual resources

Person-Centered Planning (PCP)

Person-centered planning (PCP) focuses heavily on the individual student, with direct input from the people closest to them. In PCP, the student, their family, friends, and other close individuals collaborate on identifying the student’s needs, strengths, and goals. 

With this information, the student’s PBIS team can create a plan that implements individualized interventions and personalized support to foster long-term, positive behavioral changes. PCP emphasizes self-direction and self-management, with the eventual goal of the student learning how to use available community resources to continue their growth.

Examples of person-centered planning (PCP) in PBIS Tier 3:

  • Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH)
  • Making Action Plans (MAPS)
  • Essential Lifestyle Planning (ELP)

Supporting Students with Targeted, Tier 3 Behavior Interventions

Intensive interventions such as Tier 3 for PBIS, from general education to special education settings, is a vital part of any school’s PBIS framework because it supports the most at-risk students. Effective PBIS Tier 3 interventions then help students to develop crucial life skills for effective self-management of their behaviors. By following best practices and dedicating the necessary time and resources, a school can use PBIS Tier 3 to foster student success and a more positive school environment.

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


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