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10 Best Practices for Improving and Expanding Social, Emotional,…


STUDENT SERVICES

By Nathan Levenson, District Management Group on 6/8/2018  

While there is much debate about why an increasing number of children come to school with significant social, emotional and behavioral (S, E & B) needs, nearly all districts report the number of children with these challenges is on the rise.

In order for students to meet developmental milestones, learn, grow and lead productive lives, it is critical that their social, emotional and behavioral issues be addressed. Research indicates that children and youth with mental health problems have lower educational achievement and greater involvement with the criminal justice system [1]. Improving and expanding S, E & B supports not only helps the students who have these challenges but can benefit nearly every student and adult in a school.

75% to 80% of children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive them.Click To Tweet

All schools — urban, suburban and rural; large and small; and regardless of socioeconomics — have students with social, emotional and behavioral challenges. However, in some of these communities, students receive the counseling they need, classroom routines promote positive behavior, and most strikingly, students with problematic behavior are able to stay in class and seldom disrupt their peers. What is the difference between these schools and typical schools? The distinctions can be hard to notice because the difference isn’t in the amount they spend, the programs they bought, or the dedication of their staff. The people, tools and talents themselves aren’t all that different but the way in which staff work and deliver intervention is different — the more effective districts have created a coherent, collaborative plan grounded in a systems-thinking approach and incorporating best practices.

Here, we focus on 10 key, interconnected best practices to help you and your team effectively and comprehensively create a system to meet the social, emotional and behavioral needs of students. These practices fall into three major categories: Leveraging the talents of current stafffocusing on prevention and supporting local partnerships.

Leverage the Talents of Current Staff

1. Streamline meetings and paperwork to increase the time staff can spend with students.

Process mapping, reviewing who attends which meetings and setting guidelines for desired time with students can often significantly increase the services provided to students by current staff.

2. Allow staff to play to their strengths; assign roles based on strengths, not titles.

Identify staff’s unique skills and match job responsibilities to these areas of expertise. For example, some psychologists may have expertise in behavior management while others may have expertise in assessment and case management.

3. Facilitate teamwork with common planning time.

A wide array of people in a variety of roles are often involved in supporting the social, emotional and behavioral needs of students. Allow them to come together weekly to review student progress and adjust support strategies.

4. Support classroom teachers with in-the-classroom support from staff skilled in behavior management.

In-the-moment coaching, in-the-classroom observations and specific recommendations from behavior specialists can help classroom teachers meet the needs of their students.

Focus on Prevention

5. Focus on prevention by identifying and managing behavioral triggers.

Identify why a student acts out and develop specific strategies for averting these triggers to prevent outbursts before they happen.

6. Increase access to staff with expertise in behavior management.

To effectively focus on prevention, schools need access to experts trained in identifying and reducing behavioral triggers. Given tight budgets, seek to hire staff with expertise in behavior management when doing replacement hiring and/or seek to build a centralized behavior team that can provide support across many schools.

7. Align discipline policies to support a commitment to prevention.

It is important that the discipline code has the flexibility to support a focus on prevention, that loss of learning time is minimized, that suspensions are avoided for nonviolent infractions and that unconscious bias is mitigated.

8. Stay focused on academic achievement.

Many “behavior programs” seem to undervalue the importance of academic learning and student achievement. Core content is often taught by special education teachers instead of subject expert teachers, and curriculum is sometimes watered down; lowered expectations can exacerbate troubling behaviors.

Support Local Partnerships

9. Seek local partnerships.

Often, local mental health agencies, nearby nonprofit counseling services, universities and sometimes even for-profit practitioners can provide social and emotional services at little or no out-of-pocket costs to students or the district.

10. Actively support local partnerships.

Local partners can provide much-needed services, so it is worth making an investment in managing and facilitating these relationships to ensure their success.

Working Together to Improve Your School’s Behavioral Climate

With social, emotional and behavioral issues posing a growing challenge for schools, and with budgets tight for the foreseeable future, schools will need a new and comprehensive approach to meet the needs of students. While neither easy nor quick, these best practices can help to better serve students. This work, however, will need leadership from the top, systems thinking, support for teachers and principals and perseverance. If parents, staff, school leadership and district leaders work and plan together, much progress can be made in addressing this difficult challenge.

Read the full District Management Journalarticle “10 Best Practices for Improving and Expanding Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Supports.” 


1 “Children’s Mental Health: Facts for Policymakers,” National Center for Children in Poverty, November 2006, http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_687.html

When re-validating your school’s approach to meeting the social, emotional and behavioral needs of students, consider how having a common digital system for managing RTI/MTSS and special education programs can provide greater visibility into the whole child while reducing the paperwork burden for staff.

Nathan Levenson

Nathan Levenson is a noted subject matter expert in the areas of special education and of resource use in public school districts. Nate’s experience as a superintendent, school board member, and private sector CEO allows him to bring a unique perspective to his work in education leadership. As Managing Director at District Management Group, Nate works closely with superintendents and their leadership teams to create practical solutions to pressing challenges. He has authored numerous books including A Better Way to Budget: Building Support for Bold, Student-Centered Change in Public Schools

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How to Leverage Your IEP Service Tracking System for…

SPECIAL EDUCATION By Theodora Schiro, on 9/21/2020

Why does progress monitoring matter?

School districts need to monitor student progress to assess student outcomes, submit mandated state and federal reports, and in many states, claim Medicaid reimbursements. But progress monitoring can also be used to help identify and support requests for additional staffing needs or pinpoint professional development gaps.

Getting the most benefit from the progress data you collect and report on depends on how you leverage your service tracking system or other systems you have in place to manage it.

Use systematic progress monitoring to improve student outcomes

Accurate and detailed progress monitoring is critical to student success. You need accurate data to:

  • Guide instruction
  • Make decisions about student growth
  • Communicate progress on IEP goals
  • Determine effectiveness of providers and programs

Creating standardized procedures for progress monitoring and using consistent tools for progress data collection is much more efficient than allowing all service providers to use their own preferred methods or disparate systems.

Every provider should follow the same steps for each student:

1. Clearly define the concern.

Be sure to use specific language. The target behavior should be alterable, meaning the student’s performance can be changed. Be very specific: Identify when and how long the behavior occurs. Give examples: Is it observable? Can you see it or hear it? How would you measure it?

2. Determine how progress will be measured.

Teachers and service providers have to measure a wide range of student responses. Data might include the duration or length of time a student stays on task or the frequency a specific behavior is observed. To describe the action accurately, use common rubrics or rating scales.

It’s also important to include data on how much assistance was provided to the student by counting and reporting the number of cues given.

3. Decide where you want to start and where you want to end up — the baseline and the goal. Use charts to collect data and track progress.

Establish a baseline, usually the average of at least three data points or comparison with typical performance standards. Then determine precisely what goal a student must meet to determine success. Using a SMART model helps identify a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goal.

Examples:

  • The student will demonstrate correct production of the /l/ phoneme in all positions of words at the sentence level with 75% accuracy independently by 9/30/2020.
  • By March 2020 when properly positioned, given light touch physical cues and verbal cues, the student will use a switch (jellybean, etc.) to engage in preferred cause/effect operations to initiate and/or continue activities modeled to her (ex. Switch toys, computer interface switch with computer access), on 4/5 opportunities over 3 consecutive sessions.

Produce true data-driven IEP progress reports

Use a simple chart to track progress. It should include a baseline data point and the goal data point. Connect the baseline point to the goal data point to create an aim line representing the student’s estimated or expected growth rate.

Collect and review data regularly — determine the schedule by identifying the IEP progress reporting periods and annual review dates. Use the data to make decisions on frequency and duration of services.

Are the provider’s strategies working, or do they need to be adjusted? Does the student’s goal need to change prior to the next annual review?

Would providers benefit from professional development in specific areas of concern?

Does the data present a need for additional staff to support student success?

Fiscal and regulatory impact

In many states, a quality progress monitoring system also demonstrates fiscal responsibility as it is necessary for both compliance and Medicaid reimbursement. Systematically implementing progress monitoring can make a significant difference in the revenue a district can collect through Medicaid reimbursements to support ongoing student services.

Medicaid impact

“Documentation of each individual or group session must include the following information…. Student’s progress toward established goals.” — Medicaid Certified School Match Coverage and Limitations Handbook, Florida

“LEAs must maintain documentation of the student’s response and progress resulting from the claimed service. This documentation must be updated no less than quarterly.”  — Handbook for LEAs, Illinois

“The Progress Summary is a written note outlining the child’s progress that must be completed by the provider every three months from the start date of treatment or when medically necessary. The purpose of the Progress Summary is to record the longitudinal nature of the child’s treatment, describe the child’s attendance at therapy sessions, document progress toward treatment goals and objectives, and establish the need for continued participation in treatment.” — LEA Provider Manual, South Carolina

  • Services must improve a condition, not just maintain it. To be reimbursable, regular progress monitoring data is required to show that services impact student achievement.

Revenue impact

  • Sometimes providers have their own way of collecting data to document student progress. If they also use the data for IDEA documentation, state reporting, and Medicaid reimbursement, entering it separately for each function leads to unnecessary duplication of effort and takes time away from students. If providers document services for Medicaid claims in one place and progress monitoring data for IEPs is collected elsewhere, they’re doing the work twice! Wouldn’t it be better if they spent their time servicing students instead of doing more paperwork?
  • What if you could collect all the data in one place and use it for compliance reporting, Medicaid reimbursement, and progress monitoring for IEPs?  Imagine how that would reduce the workload, increase documentation, and drive up Medicaid revenue.

IDEA impact

“The Progress Summary is a written note outlining the child’s progress that must be completed by the provider every three months from the start date of treatment or when medically necessary. The purpose of the Progress Summary is to record the longitudinal nature of the child’s treatment, describe the child’s attendance at therapy sessions, document progress toward treatment goals and objectives, and establish the need for continued participation in treatment.” – LEA Provider Manual, South Carolina

  • Progress on IEP goals must be reported at least as often as parents are informed of their non-disabled student’s progress. Is that data easily accessible in your service tracking system?

Are you using the right service tracking system?

Does your service tracking system work for you, or are you working for it? You might be spending more time and effort than you need to. With standardized procedures and a quality tracking system, every provider in your district enters progress monitoring data at the end of each session directly into your service tracking system.

This has several benefits:

  1. Improved visibility: Reports are automated and every provider’s documentation is captured in the same way. All users can see the reports along the way and make adjustments in services without waiting until the annual review of the IEP.
  2. Parent engagement: A quality tracking system can even improve parent engagement. Any time a parent requests an update on their child’s services, you’ll have the data at your fingertips and consistent quality of reporting across providers.
  3. Audit protection: Your IEP service tracking system may also affect your audit results. Ideally, it should give you peace of mind, not keep you up at night worrying that negative findings could affect funding.

But don’t overlook the most important benefit: STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.

Your system should be built not only around compliance with state reporting and IDEA requirements but also best practices that result in improving student achievement. Reports should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Which intervention strategies impact student progress the most?
  • Which therapy types might need extra support?
  • Are the goals short or long term?
  • Are the goals the right length?
  • Are students meeting goals in the right time frame?
  • Are the goals attainable?
  • Do goals need to be adjusted to make them more attainable or more challenging?
  • Do you have enough data to determine ESY eligibility?

With the right system, you will have all the data you need to make the best decisions for your students and your district. Simplify the documentation, management, and tracking of student services and strengthen compliance with Frontline’s Service Management software. Learn More 

Theodora Schiro

Theodora was a teacher and school administrator for over 37 years. After leaving the public education world, she started a new career as a freelance writer. She enjoys writing content that helps businesses and service organizations thrive.

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What Is A Trial?

While providing Datability Web training to school districts, I often get asked about trials; What are they? When do you use them? How are they scored? The simple answer is, a trial is one instance of the skill you are trying to teach. For example, if you were trying to teach someone to button their shirt, you could count one button as a trial. Assuming a shirt has 5 buttons, a student buttoning 1 button would be 1/5 trials and could be scored as 20%. But what if the student has mastered buttoning 5 buttons? Now you could count a whole shirt as 1 trial. So essentially, a trial is anything you want it to be as long as it’s defined in the goal. How are you scoring your goals? Leave your comments below and don’t forget to visit www.DatabilityWeb.com.

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Writing Measurable Goals

I travel to a lot of districts to teach educators how to use Datability Web and, even though my goal is to teach features, I inevitably get asked the question, “How do I write a good goal for (fill in the blank)?. Truth be told, it’s something I struggle with as well. As special educators, we usually understand what our children need but it’s often hard to put it into a measurable bite-sized nugget. Personally, I subscribe to the S.M.A.R.T methodology, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A quick google search will bring up many videos on this methodology. I think the key is to get granular with what you’re trying to teach and figure out the real issues that you’re trying to correct. For example, is your student’s inability to do algebra really because they are unable to solve for x or is it because they don’t have the time management skills necessary to study. And don’t even get me started on essay writing….  As professionals, there’s really no way we should ever have a “Student will write an essay” goal on an IEP. What can’t they do? Is it the planning or is it pulling information? Break down the skill of writing an essay into a task analysis (look up the term) and score each part. Anyway, rant over. I’d love to hear your ideas so feel free to comment and definitely check out www.databilityweb.com and sign up for our free trial.