Rethink Ed Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Colleen Washburn

class1

Position: Primary Autism Center Program Teacher
District: Denver Public Schools, Denver, CO

Colleen Washburn is a Primary Autism Center Program teacher in the Denver Public School District in Denver, Colorado. Denver Public Schools is the largest school district in Colorado and is one of the fastest growing districts in the nation.

One of the biggest challenges as a teacher is consistently tracking and understanding data, managing behavior, and collaborating with other paraprofessionals and teachers. However, Ms. Washburn has found that with Rethink Ed she is able to “keep up with extensive data collection and use this data to guide effective student behavioral interventions.” Over the past two years, Ms. Washburn has successfully used Rethink Ed in her classroom.

class1
Ms. Washburn’s Classroom

Daily, Ms. Washburn uses the Rethink Ed platform as her primary classroom autism center program. It has been incorporated in her daily behavior tracking routine for various students within the program. This data is used to create and supplement behavior plans, as well as guide the use of interventions. The data created through the Rethink Program has also allowed her to supplement IEP’s with easy to understand information for parents. This helps strengthen communication with parents because she is able to show them concrete data in the form of graphs and charts.

She began using the program with only a few select students however she quickly realized the benefits of the program like downloadable data charts and consistent data tracking on the Rethink Ed App. Now, she uses it for her entire teaching caseload and is able “to track the effectiveness of strategies, as well as determine a pattern for student behavior.” Over the past year Ms. Washburn has implemented several different Rethink Ed strategies for her students in order to find optimal behavior plans. She has even seen the beginning stages of positive changes in student’s behavior!

class2
Classroom Coffee Cart Business

Together, Ms. Washburn and her paraprofessionals utilize Rethink Ed to track behavioral data in the classroom. She says the ability to work with her paraprofessionals and track the effectiveness of behavioral interventions implemented in the classroom is the most valuable aspect of Rethink. Collaboration using the Rethink Ed platform allows data collection to be taken in various settings and by various individuals ensuring that students are appropriately generalizing skills. They do this by utilizing the Rethink Ed App on the iPad. The App allows them to easily collect data, continuously review data to see progress, and quickly see if an intervention is not supporting a student’s need. Rethink Ed has helped support student learning and engagement in the classroom.

Online training videos have taught Ms. Washburn and her paraprofessionals how to use, implement, and understand the program. Prior to Rethink Ed she and her paraprofessionals had difficulty organizing data and taking it with fidelity. The Rethink Ed App supports Ms. Washburn and her paraprofessionals with real-time data collection including numerous behaviors for several students. It allows them to take ownership of data collection and helps to provide a better picture of the students’ progress throughout the entire day. Rethink Ed resources and strategies continue to support Ms. Washburn and her classroom allowing her to focus more on what she loves—molding students’ lives.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall: Tips for Increasing Parental Engagement

Parental engagement in special education is crucial for student success both inside and outside of the classroom. However, barriers sometimes hinder parents from exercising their right to engage. The educational policy and laws surrounding special education can often be difficult for parents to understand and when not explained thoroughly, the assessment and Individualized Education Program process can be intimidating.

Some parents may also have to overcome negative experiences they’ve faced in their own academic career. In these cases, it is important for educators to provide parents with the right resources and support to become active participants in their child’s education. But like parents, educators too face engagement challenges. This is sometimes due to a lack of time for parent meetings or a lack of training on how to integrate parents into the school culture.

Parent engagement is an ongoing process and initial low levels of involvement may not necessarily mean that parents lack the will to be more engaged. Barriers to increased parent engagement often present an “Us vs. Them” mentality and result in an increase in stress and a decrease in student outcomes. In order for parents and educators to ensure that students are getting the most out of the special education process, they must find a common ground. So how do parents and educators overcome these barriers and work together?

The 3 Pillars of Success

1. Knowledge is power!

When parents go through the special education process with their child, it can sometimes feel like they are entering a new country or world. The culture and language is entirely new. This can be intimidating initially  and cause parents to shy away from engaging with the school. The more parents know about special education, the more likely they are to be involved in their child’s education.

2. Communication is key.

An open line of communication can help establish rapport between parents and educators. Just as educators share in student successes and challenges in the classroom, parents should be encouraged to share in their child’s successes and challenges at home. This will allow both parents and educators to see the full picture and help students strengthen weaknesses and enhance their skills. Educators can encourage an open line of communication by developing and maintaining a communication system. This can be accomplished by sending simple notes home to parents and encouraging parents to send their comments in as well. Parents and educators can also establish regular phone calls, or scheduling time to chat during parent-teacher meetings.

3. Consistency is crucial.

Students sometimes perform or behave differently at home than they do at school. For example, a student may be able to set the table at home, but not at school. Or a student may independently zip his coat at school, but fail to do so without assistance at home. In these instances, students struggle with the ability to generalize skills, which means they may not perform in the same way when our actions change.

Here are some examples of things that might change:

Following instructions: A student responds correctly to the question “What’s your address?” but not to the question “Where do you live?”

Identifying materials: A student is able to identify a plastic penny, but not an actual penny.

Responding to instructors: A student who learns to respond to a single person initially may not always comprehend how to respond to another instructor or approach that varies slightly. This is because different instructors may use different materials or phrase questions in different ways.

Applying skills in different locations: Initially, a student might learn to respond to instructions or a request in a single location. For example, the student may learn to line up in the classroom, but is unable to stand in line at a store. Different locations may also have different materials, expectations and instructors.

Following prompts: Parents and educators may prompt or assist students in different ways. For example, when teaching a student to complete a puzzle, a teacher might use hand-over-hand guidance to assist the student in placing a puzzle piece in a specific location, while mom might simply point to the puzzle piece.

Adjusting to expectations: Parents and educators may expect different results from students. For example, an educator may expect their child to zip his coat all the way with no assistance while a teacher expect a student to zip their coat part of the way with no assistance or all the way with some assistance.

Adhering to demands: The number of demands we place on a student might be different in different settings. For example, the student might be expected to complete multiple tasks in a row at school, but minimal tasks at home (or vice versa).

All of these differences may result in the student performing differently at home than he does at school. It is therefore crucial to keep things as consistent as possible. An open line of communication is a great way to ensure consistency across settings. Remember, parental engagement in special education is crucial to student success. When parents and educators work together, there is no limit to how much students can achieve.

Using Baseline Data to Inform Instruction

It’s no secret that data can be daunting. For some of us, the word “data” means pile-high clipboards and stacks of complex data sheets or binders of reports. Data can also feel like never-ending lists of impersonal statistics that are difficult to difficult to comprehend and cumbersome to analyze.

When we look at data through this lens, it becomes impossible to see how data can improve student performance and enhance holistic education practices, but it can. So let’s break it down.

In it’s simplest form, data is a collection of facts and statistics that can be used for planning or analysis. All educators are charged with ensuring they use data to inform instruction, so students benefit from evidence-based techniques and approaches to education. Data can also be helpful in monitoring student progress and identifying areas of need through assessments.

Pre-tests, homework, attendance, grades and test scores are all data sources that help inform classroom, school and district decisions.

What is baseline data and how is it collected?

Baseline data is a measurement that is collected prior to intervention or teaching starting. It can be collected through various measures including: percent accuracy, frequency, duration, rate and intervals. When selecting a measure of baseline data collection, it is important to consider how intervention or instructional data will be collected to ensure consistency.

Percent accuracy is collected by calculating the number of target responses divided by the total number of opportunities. Some examples of this measure of data collection include:

  • Percentage of spelling words spelled correctly
  • Percentage of correct math problems
  • Percentage of items correctly identified

You can record frequency by tracking the number of each instance of a behavior. Collect frequency data with counters, tallies or a similar technique. Some examples of this measure of data collection include:

  • Number of words read
  • Number of times a student gets out of their seat
  • Number of times students raise their hands

Duration is measured by tracking how long a behavior occurs. To record duration, start a timer when the behavior commences and stop the timer when the behavior ceases. Some examples of this measure of data collection include:

  • How long a child engages in tantrum behavior
  • How long a child engages in peer interactions
  • How long it takes to complete lesson plans for one week

Rate is calculated by recording the number of behaviors per unit of time. Some examples of this measure of data collection include:

  • Number of words read per minute
  • Number of math problems completed per minute
  • Number of tantrums per hour

Interval data can be used when tracking each occurrence of behavior is not possible, or when the start and end time of the behavior is not clear. You can also use interval data to obtain a sampling rather than an exact count. Also you can measure interval data by determining a preset time interval and then marking whether the behavior occurred during that interval. Some examples of this measure of data collection include:

  • The occurrence of body rocking
  • The occurrence of staying in an assigned area
  • The occurrence of off-task behavior

Why is baseline data important and when is it used?

Without baseline data, many educators run the risk of failing to show progress in a number of student populations, such as with at-risk students, English language learners or students with disabilities.

Baseline data should always serve as a starting point for instruction. It justifies the need for behavioral intervention plans and allows for shifts in instruction that help every student achieve progress. Also it aids in proper selection of skill acquisition activities and allows educators to determine appropriate interventions with a degree of accuracy that increases likelihood of student success.

With baseline data, educators can essentially create a roadmap for students to achieve their educational goals and gain the support they need to master skills, lessons and more. Despite growing needs and changes in the educational landscape in America, baseline data continues to be a useful tool for educators to track and analyze student progress across the country. When you use data to guide instruction, there’s no telling what you’ll discover.

But one thing’s certain: You’ll create a dynamic and individualized experience your classroom that will move your students and school forward.