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Virginia Tiered Systems and Supports

Virginia Tiered Systems and Supports (VTSS) and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

At Charlottesville City Schools, we’re committed to helping all our students succeed.  This happens in a positive school culture where students are supported according to their needs.

Pentagon puzzle graphic of the primary areas of supportPrimary Areas of Support

For students in need, we offer supports in five main areas:

  1. Attendance
  2. Behavior
  3. Mathematics
  4. Literacy
  5. Mental Wellness


3 Tiers of support graphic

Three Tiers of Support

In each of these areas, we assign students to a “tier level” to indicate the level of support that the student needs. These tier levels can be reevaluated at any time to respond to students’ needs.

  • Tier 1 supports are for all students (such as classroom instruction)
  • Tier 2 supports some students, typically in small-group settings that supply additional resources
  • Tier 3 supports a few students, often 1-on-1 to provide individualized resources

State and National Programs

Division-wide, our Charlottesville Tiered Systems of Supports draw upon two complementary programs:

These support systems work on several underlying principles, such as:

  • Academics, behavior, and mental wellness are often interrelated.
  • A positive culture of good relationships is foundational.
  • Communicating clear expectations is important.
  • Problem-solving is a teaching opportunity.

Learn More
Charlottesville City Schools has earned state and national attention for our roll-out of systems of supports, particularly for our focus on mental wellness. To learn more specifics about Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, see below.

Patrick Farrell, Intervention and Support Coordinator: 245–2666 or

“A framework and philosophy that helps every student be successful in academics and behavior.”

VTSS venn diagram of support tiersThe Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS) in Charlottesville City Schools is a framework and philosophy that helps every student be successful in academics and behavior. It begins with systemic change at the division, school and classroom level that utilizes evidence-based, system-wide practices to provide quick responses to academic and behavioral needs. These practices include frequent progress monitoring that enables educators to make instructional decisions for students.

VTSS logoThe VTSS is a framework for systemic, continuous improvement in which data-based problem-solving and decision making is practiced across all levels of the educational system for supporting students. The framework of VTSS is a “way of doing business” which utilizes high-quality evidence-based instruction, intervention, and assessment practices to ensure that every student receives the appropriate level of support to be successful. VTSS helps schools and districts to organize resources through alignment of academic standards and behavioral expectations, implemented with fidelity and sustained over time, to accelerate the performance of every student to achieve and/or exceed proficiency.

  • The essential components of VTSS are:

    • Shared Leadership
    • Data-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
    • Layered Continuum of Supports
    • Evidence-Based Instruction, Intervention, and Assessment Practices
    • Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring
    • Family, School, and Community Partnering

    When schools and districts fully embrace and embed these components into their organizational structure, the outcome is a whole-school, prevention-based framework for improving learning outcomes for every student through a layered continuum of evidence-based practices and systems.

    The success of the VTSS framework is dependent on the effective interaction of student outcomes:

    • the data used for decision making,
    • the use of evidence-based practices to get to student outcomes, and
    • the systems which adults need in order to support the implementation of the practices.
  • “For VTSS implementation to be successful, it is critical to establish leadership teams at each level of the system.”

    By systematically evaluating and analyzing student progress – through ongoing universal screening and progress monitoring – educators can use their available resources more efficiently to improve student performance.  Information yielded by these data sets allows educators to problem-solve less severe educational challenges in the general education environment, and preserve additional resources for students who require more targeted and intensive instruction and intervention in order to achieve educational benchmarks.

    Shared leadership within VTSS exists at both the district and school level. For VTSS implementation to be successful, it is critical to establish leadership teams at each level of the system. The function of these teams is to ensure effective implementation across all levels of the system, including district, school, classroom, and individual student.

    Initially, the team creates a shared vision and common language in order to clarify purpose and desired outcomes.  System support needs are determined through a data-based problem solving and decision-making process utilizing school-level progress data.

    Leadership teams engage in on-going review and evaluation of progress data to determine how to best allocate funding and available resources, including evidence-based professional development for educators.

  • The success of the VTSS framework is dependent upon the effective use of data and information to make decisions for student progress and success.

    For districts and schools to embrace and function as a problem-solving culture, a shift in thinking must take place. The shift is the recognition that student achievement comes from a collective responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure an appropriate fit of curriculum, instruction, and environment that enables student learning.

    Effective leadership facilitates the building of systems and atmosphere to support and encourage educators to problem solve at all levels and more efficiently meet student needs.

“Teaching behavioral expectations in the same manner as any core curriculum subject.”

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), when applied at the Schoolwide level, is frequently called: SWPBS or SW-PBIS.

  • SW-PBIS refers to a systems change process for an entire school or district. The underlying theme is teaching behavioral expectations in the same manner as any core curriculum subject. Typically, a team of approximately ten representative members of the school will attend a two or three-day training provided by skilled trainers. This team will be comprised of administrators, classified, and regular and special education teachers. The school will focus on three to five behavioral expectations that are positively stated and easy to remember. In other words, rather than telling students what not to do, the school will focus on the preferred behaviors.

  • Here are some examples from other schools:

    • Respect Yourself, Respect Others, and Respect Property
    • Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful
    • Respect Relationships and Respect Responsibilities

    After the SW-PBIS team determines the 3-5 behavioral expectations that suit the needs of their school, they will take this information back to the staff to ensure at least 80% of the staff buy into the chosen expectations. Consistency from class to class and adult to adult is necessary for successful implementation of SW-PBIS. The team will then create a matrix of what the behavioral expectations look like, sound like, and feel like in all the non-classroom areas. This matrix will have approximately three positively stated examples for each area.

    Here is an example column from one school:

    Respect Property


    • Keep feet and hands where they belong.
    • Throw unwanted items in wastebasket.
    • Keep food and drinks in backpack.


    • Place tray on kitchen window shelf after scraping leftovers into wastebasket.
    • Wipe table with sponge provided.
    • Clean food spills off floor.


    • Flush toilet after use.
    • Use two squirts of soap to wash hands.
    • Throw paper towels in wastebasket.


    • Report any graffiti or broken equipment to adult on duty.
    • Return playground equipment to proper area.
    • Use equipment as it was designed.


    • Put belongings away when you enter the room.
    • Keep your work space clean and organized.
    • Use materials for their intended purpose.

    This would be filled out for each non-classroom area and each behavioral expectation. The SW-PBIS team would take the matrix back to the whole staff to ensure 80% buy-in from the entire staff on what expectations are taught in each area.

    Then, the SW-PBIS team would work with teachers to create matrices for each classroom that include examples of what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to follow each expectation within each classroom routine (e.g., entering/exiting the classroom, teacher instruction, group work, independent work, transitions).

  • Another primary activity for the SW-PBIS team is determining how the behavioral expectations and routines will be taught in classroom and non-classroom settings. Many schools choose to use several days at the beginning of each year to take the students around the school to stations, where the skills are taught in setting specific locations. For example, a bus may be brought to the school and the children will practice lining up, entering the bus, sitting on the bus, and exiting the bus using hula hoops to denote proper body space distance in lining up to enter the bus. Similarly, teachers may choose to teach expectations within each classroom routine as they introduce each routine at the start of the school year. In addition, the SW-PBIS team may work with teachers and school staff to plan opportunities to review and re-teach expected behavior throughout the year.

  • The next activity the SW-PBIS team will begin is the fine tuning of the office discipline referral form. The team will decide “What behaviors are an instant trip to the office and what behaviors are taken care of in the classroom.” It is very important that every staff member is consistent. If it is not permissible to use a cell phone in band class then it has to not be permissible in art class.

  • Many schools choose to use School-Wide Information System (SWIS). This is a web-based program which graphs office discipline referral data. This program creates instant graphs for behavioral incidents per day- per month, time of day, specific behaviors, location and by specific student. Another web-based data system used in CCS is Alternate Behavior Educator (ABE).

  • Another activity for the SW-PBIS team is to determine a way to recognize student behavior. Although specific praise is likely the most critical component of the recognition system, many schools choose to develop a “gotcha” program. The gotchas are a system for labeling appropriate behavior, and they often serve as prompts for adults to remember to catch kids engaging in appropriate behavior (rather than catching them when they engage in inappropriate behavior). Some schools use NCR paper for gotchas with one copy going home to parents, one to the classroom teacher, and one to the principal for weekly drawings.

  • “may be effectively implemented with all students in a classroom and intensified to support small groups or a few individual students.”

    When PBIS is implemented in the classroom, it may be referred to as classroom PBIS, positive classroom behavior support (PCBS), positive and proactive classroom management, or a variety of other synonyms.

    Classroom PBIS includes preventative and responsive approaches that may be effectively implemented with all students in a classroom and intensified to support small groups or a few individual students. Classroom PBIS strategies are important tools to decrease disruptions, increase instructional time, and improve student social behavior and academic outcomes , which is critical as schools are held to greater accountability for student outcomes and teacher effectiveness.

    Although individual teachers may implement PBIS in their own classrooms regardless of the broader school context, the effects of classroom PBIS strategies are maximized by

    (a) implementing within a school-wide multi-tiered behavioral framework (MTBF), like school-wide PBIS;

    (b) directly linking classroom and school-wide expectations and systems;

    (c) merging classroom PBIS strategies with effective instructional design, curriculum, and delivery; and

    (d) using classroom-based data to guide decision making. The following school- and classroom-level supports should be in place to optimize the fidelity and benefits of implementation.

  • To promote teachers’ implementation of proactive classroom PBIS practices, school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SW-PBIS) teams should invest in systems to support teachers, including explicit professional development, supportive and data-driven coaching, and staff recognition.

    In addition, teachers should consider the following guiding questions to

    (a) ensure foundational practices are in place;
    (b) promote the consistent implementation of planned, preventative, and positive classroom PBIS practices; and
    (c) make decisions for responding to students’ problem behavior.