One Size Doesn’t Fit All in Education
June 5, 2020
one size doesn't fit all

Our one-size-fits-all model of traditional education has been based on the false idea that every student in a given class is performing at the same level academically, behaviorally, and socially and that they all need the same things. As a result, many students are bored, frustrated, or not able to access the learning.

It’s time we do the work to ensure we reach all students–no matter where they are or where they want to go. We know that not every child learns the same, which is why we have advanced programs, 504 plans, and individual education plans. But it’s not enough.

Schools are creating tiers of support to identify which level of support each student needs. It becomes more complicated as we look at the academic, behavioral, and social needs of each student; a child cannot be summed up in his or her ability to learn. There are so many other facets to take into account. For example, that student who may have no academic challenges in the majority of their classes, but who needs support in one academic area.

Creating a personalized solution, using the agreed-upon supports from a tiered system, allows schools to provide consistent and specific support for all students.

Some school districts across the United States are implementing the multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) model, but it’s been few and far between. This cohesive model goes beyond subject matter and addresses what support (academically, behaviorally, and socially) needs to be available for each student in order to maximize their learning. It’s time for all schools to implement a similar model to meet the needs of every child.

positive behavioral interventions and supports


Let’s unpack what the three tiers look like.

  • Tier 1 is the for-everyone foundational tier. As you can see in the chart these are regular, proactive practices and systems of supports that every teacher should make available for every student. A few examples:
    • Academic work at the student level and pace
    • School culture of kindness
    • Graphic organizers (and practice using them) to organize thoughts and projects


  • Tier 2 of the MTSS provides additional supports for students identified as needing extra skills and resources to access their learning. This is often provided in supplemental or small group assistance. A few examples:
    • Extra help with academics (and executive function)
    • A clear referral system for additional student support or instruction
    • Social communication support


  • Tier 3 is for students who need more intensive and individualized support. These students have often completed formal assessments to determine the specific supports and programming needed.

This humane and effective approach to honoring each unique learning profile is creating wonderful results. Just one example of how schools can implement this approach is at LEADPrep Academy.

The challenge is for all educators to demand that there are common tools for support and ways to connect those supports with students needing them to have full access to learning and success.


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