Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP)

The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) is a language assessment based on B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior (1957), a landmark analysis in the study of language and the teaching methodology of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It is a behavioral approach to language assessment and can be used for any individual with significant language delays regardless of age.

There are 5 components of the VB-MAPP:

  1. Milestones Assessment: which is designed to provide a representative sample of a child’s existing verbal and related skills.
  2. Barriers Assessment: which provides an assessment of 24 common learning and language acquisition barriers faced by children with autism or other developmental disabilities.
  3. Transition Assessment: which contains 18 assessment areas and can help to identify whether a child is making meaningful progress and has acquired the skills necessary for learning in a less restrictive educational environment.
  4. Task Analysis and Supporting Skills: which provides a further breakdown of the skills, and serves as a more complete and ongoing learning and language skills curriculum guide.
  5. Placement and IEP Goals: which correspond with the four assessments above. The placement guide provides specific direction for each of the 170 milestones in the Milestones Assessment as well as suggestions for IEP goals.

The VB-MAPP is now available as an add-on feature to Rethink’s comprehensive program. Rethink provides educators with convenient, online access and an easy, paper-free way to utilize the VB-MAPP. The Rethink Lesson Library is also aligned to the VB-MAPP Assessment and provides lesson recommendations based on the scores attained on the assessment.

Rethink Ed Spotlight Paraprofessional of the Month: Clifton G. Jones III

Position: Paraprofessional Educator

District: Prince George’s County Public Schools (Maryland)

Mr. Jones Paraprofessional Educator at Prince George’s County Public Schools

Clifton G. Jones III is a Paraprofessional Educator at Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland. He has used Rethink Ed in his classroom for the last two years, and it has become part of the classroom’s daily schedule. He considers Rethink Ed as a “great resource for staff at the school.”


Mr. Jones uses Rethink Ed to help with Individual Education Plans (IEP) goals, objectives and data collection. For paraprofessionals, the program is helpful when working with special needs students because of its detailed information pertaining to goals and objectives which help in producing positive outcomes in students. Also, Rethink Ed improves the teaching of new skills. When one of Mr. Jones’ students was not progressing in a newly presented skill, he was able to compare his own lesson plans and materials to Rethink Ed’s materials and gain new ways to implement the lessons and support the student.

“(I would) just document the behavior, the setting, time of day and the frequency of the behavior,” Mr. Jones states of his tactics, before using Rethink Ed. Now, Mr. Jones documents all the same things as before but also focuses on what happens before and after the behavior, as well as the possible function for it. Understanding the problem behavior allows him to implement strategies to reduce it.

The Rethink Ed Basic and Advanced Training series is the most valuable aspect of the program for Mr. Jones and his classroom. The training series has helped him prepare for the Registered Behavior Technician Exam (RBT), and has taught him how to use the skill of reinforcing to motivate students and increase their instructional participation. Excited to pursue his RBT Certification, Mr. Jones believes, “the basic and advanced ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) training’s are great for professional growth and development.”

Mr. Jones with his Students

Rethink Ed has helped Mr. Jones realize the necessity of the RBT certification for his future career development. He trusts that the certification will help “paraprofessionals to articulate what we do in the classroom when working with our students with special needs and how we teach and help them to learn and progress with new skills.” Rethink Ed has also taught Mr. Jones the necessary terminology to help explain exactly how he supports his students in the classroom.

Rethink Ed has proven to assist Mr. Jones in his role as a paraprofessional, and it will continue to support him in the next stages of his career.

Marooned on Teacher Island

Using Professional Learning Communities to Foster Peer Support and Collaborative Practice Among Educators

By Katherine DeCotiis Wiedemann, M.A., BCBA

Being a teacher can sometimes feel a little bit like being stranded on the island in Lord of the Flies – wading through the endless chaos of high-energy kiddos with no other adults visible on the horizon. With class sizes on the rise, many teachers rarely get the chance to see their colleagues in action, and often feel overworked and under-informed. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Luckily, there are ways to access help and input from colleagues, and they can be a lot easier than lighting signal flares with a piece of glass or writing “SOS” in the sand with a stick. How can teachers access peer support to boost morale, encourage new ideas and improve existing teaching practices?

In recent years, one of the most popular channels for fostering peer support among educators and promoting positive student outcomes has been the use of professional learning communities (PLC). Rather than conceptualizing this model as a “program” or specific kind of meeting, teachers should think of a PLC as an “ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve” (DuFour 2006). A professional learning community focuses on students learning rather than just teachers teaching, working collaboratively and holding the group accountable to real results. Members of a PLC come together to consider three crucial questions: What do we want each student to learn? How will we know when each student has learned it? How will we respond when a student has trouble learning? Together, the members of a PLC set attainable, measurable goals related to specific issues or concerns facing the school. In a traditional school, teachers are dispersed in separate classrooms throughout the building, and are basically responsible for implementing the curriculum in their own way. In a school that uses PLC, however, there is a fundamental shift towards a team-based approach to learning, curriculum and school climate.

When schools begin to address their issues as an entity, they may identify individual inconsistencies and can create schoolwide, systematic approaches and strategies to address a wide range of issues with consistency. The implementation of professional learning communities can also establish and nurture a school-wide culture of collaboration, which serves as a great example to students of the importance of asking for and accepting help from others. This way of thinking takes the pressure off individuals to come up with the right answer on their own and instead fosters a more cooperative approach to education. Many in the field assert that there is now enough evidence and research to suggest that the implementation of professional learning communities in schools represents best practice.

The long-term benefits of PLCs are powerful and two-fold. On one side of the coin, teachers gain knowledge and access to new ideas through joint questioning and investigation, and feel less isolated and more committed to their profession. On the other side of the coin, when implemented effectively, PLCs can lead to higher levels of student achievement across the board.

If you’re stuck on Lonely Teacher Island and don’t want to end up like Piggy, put out the smoke signals and strike up a conversation with your colleagues about boosting peer support and collaborative learning in your school. How might you use Rethink to create or enhance existing professional learning communities?

For more information on PLCs, check out these resources:


DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Moore County Schools. (2012). Professional learning communities [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

Performance-Based Compensation for Teachers

By Anna Marie Reiners, M.Ed, Ed.S, BCBA

Merit pay or performance-based compensation for teachers has long since been a topic of discussion in the education field. It is known as a system that rewards individual teachers with bonuses based on improvements in their performance. While some education critics argue that it is the key to improving student performance, it is at times discouraged by teachers – the very ones it was meant to serve.

In addition to criticism from school-based teachers, a merit pay compensation system can be very hard to implement in schools. This is because it is often time consuming and difficult for school boards and unions to change the current pay structure for hundreds or thousands of teachers. The process for collecting the performance-based data required to determine pay is widely considered arduous and daunting.

For those school districts that do take on the task, bonuses and salary increases based on student achievement are carefully considered. Districts that modify their current pay structure with the hopes of igniting teacher enthusiasm consider the ways paying for performance might attract creative, high-performing teachers and decrease retention. However, it can be argued that one of the benefits of merit pay is the ability to identify poor-performing teachers and remove them easily or assist them in improving their skills to meet the qualifications for performance-based compensation.

In many cases the average pay structure for school-based teachers gives districts exactly what they pay for – little to no teacher enthusiasm. Lackluster pay structures based on tenure, seniority and continuing teacher and leader education can seem as though there is no incentive for teachers to improve their performance and productivity over time if their salary schedules are already set in stone. This is extremely prevalent in industries that struggle to inspire staff that become stagnant.

Yet, the implications that come from using test scores and work time as an incentive for merit pay cannot be ignored. In fact, it can be alarming to teachers that pride themselves on leaving a lasting impact in their students’ lives by truly elevating a child’s educational experience. Many teachers must not only cater to testing techniques, but understand how to modify and adapt grade-level curriculum and improve individual learning outcomes for every child they serve. Paying teachers to work harder, instead of smarter does not ensure they will be effective in practicing the methods they research and learn. It also doesn’t ensure that their practices will improve the educational experience for their students. In schools and districts that take on a wide variety of roles and serve diverse student populations, more focus should be put on measures that impact individual student growth and their ability to access the curriculum. Teachers who prove effective in the classroom should be the ones to make more money, not teachers who simply put in more hours.

In a typical pay structure for an average school or district, performance is evaluated at the end of the year with an evaluation. These performance-based evaluations are often very subjective and only take small measures of a teacher’s performance into consideration. This is especially true for special education teachers who are evaluated by principals that may not have experience working in a special education classroom. So the question is: How can we accurately measure what good teachers do and use these statistics to set the bar for success?

Within any school, teachers take on a very tough task of educating students. Their overall performance has a number of factors that cannot be trivialized into a simple rubric that calculates time spent on the job, testing and student performance. Too often schools ignore the benefits of effectiveness, the lifespan of the knowledge imparted by teachers and the quality of teaching practices. Schools should seek to measure a more holistic view of a teacher’s role by using reviews such as the Period Service Review.

Designed by Dr. Gary W. LaVigna and his colleagues, the Periodic Service Review is a total quality assurance system and instrument that serves as a healthy alternative to conventional performance reviews in service industries. The system uses four integrated elements – performance standards, performance monitoring, performance feedback and systematic training – to mobilize others, maximize service and meet goals and objectives.

PSR was developed to ensure that service industries are able to measure and deliver high-quality services by setting defined criterion for each unique position or service. The criteria are set with unique and objective measures that are scored. Often times there must be a permanent product or direct observation of the measure for it to be scored. The criteria are scored individual teachers or a teaching team, with administrators on hand to complete fidelity checks to ensure accuracy within a pre-determined timeline or schedule.

The score of the PSR is then graphed for the visual analysis of progress over time. PSRs can be completed monthly and reviewed by principals or administrators quarterly to ensure there is growth in each defined measure. This allows for a clearer understanding of expectations by administrators and allows for staff to receive positive feedback when they are performing adequately. In addition, certain measures and outcomes can be weighed for emphasis and PSR scores for similar grade-level teachers can also be used to encourage teamwork among teachers. In this way, bonus pay or some variation of it can be built in to an existing pay structure gradually with feedback from teachers.

Grade-level teams can also use data and scores to help support each other and to encourage positive teaching practices in Professional Learning Communities. While performance-based compensation may be in the distant future for some, it is important for schools and districts start considering ways to meaningfully motivate teachers and continue developing their skills. Pay structures and systems should also work towards supporting all teachers, including those who are considered the most effective with new opportunities and room to grow.

Although new compensation systems are one way of doing this, education should be a field that provides and ample amount of opportunities for both educators and students regardless of the pay system in place. Data and improved measurements for performance are a part of the process and may play a greater role, but no school or educator is the same. Systems are dependent on the individual needs of those they serve and so all schools should evaluate the best systems for their staff and continue to refine and improve them over time.

Understanding the Danielson Framework in Special Education

Teaching is an incredibly complex profession. It requires teachers to maintain core skills and the necessary knowledge to help students succeed throughout their academic careers. While the teaching role is difficult and demanding from day to day, special education environments heighten the challenges some teachers face by requiring them to master additional skills. This includes differentiating instruction, implementing behavioral strategies and catering to individualized teaching practices to support students in attaining a certain level of advancement.

In these cases and others, it is vital for teachers to stay abreast of teaching techniques and continue to enhance their skills through ongoing professional development. To support teachers, every school and district should offer ongoing mentorship programs, teaching assistance and performance feedback to ensure teachers are meeting the needs of their students. One useful tool that helps is to make this possible is the Danielson Framework.

The Danielson Framework serves as a guide for coaching and mentoring in schools across the country. Originally developed by Charlotte Danielson in 1996, the framework for professional practice identifies aspects of a teacher’s responsibilities, which are supported by empirical studies and help to improve student learning. Danielson created the framework to capture “good teaching” in all of its complexity. The broad framework was also intentionally designed to capture effective teaching at every grade level and across a wide range of student populations.

Today it helps in different districts and states assist general and special education students and its usefulness in providing guidelines for proper support and adequate instruction is highly praised.

The 22-component framework has undergone several revisions over the years, including a revision in 2013 to respond to the instructional implications of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In some cases – such as in New York City – certain components are used to measure effectiveness in teacher evaluations.

At the very basic level, the Danielson Framework provides a rubric for four levels of teaching (ranging from “Ineffective” to “Highly Effective”) across four domains. These domains include:

  • Planning and preparation
  • Classroom environment
  • Instruction
  • Professional responsibilities

The Danielson Group lists several resources to help teachers and evaluators make meaningful connections between the framework and its application in special education settings. The Danielson Group also outlines a set of scenarios for each component across all four levels of performance to assist those who use the framework.

Key concepts when utilizing the framework in a special education setting include incorporating Universal Design for Learning principles such as:

  • Utilizing data-driven instruction and behavior management strategies
  • Fostering active engagement with the entire educational community (e.g., co-teachers, therapists, counselors, and child study team members)
  • Fidelity of instructional and behavioral practices across team members
Danielson Infographic

In order for any teacher to master the art of pedagogy in a special education setting, it is intrinsically clear that they need to maintain a commitment to assessing student needs and providing highly individualized support for every student.

Teachers should also work closely with fellow team members and engage in ongoing professional development to keep up with current best practices in their field. This is of course an incredibly dynamic and ongoing process, but it is helpful to know that the Danielson Framework is one tool that can be used for support. We encourage you to continue learning more about the framework and its practical use as a tool for instruction.