SEL for All Learners

By: Christina Cipriano, Ph.D and Susan E. Rivers, PhD

Social and emotional learning. Some think this sounds touchy feely, soft, lovey-dovey, full of hugs and smiles; not academic, not rigorous, not something that belongs in school. This couldn’t be more inaccurate. Social and emotional learning is for all learners in the classroom, including students requiring Tier 2 and 3 supports and the teachers who educate them. However, the focus on all learners has been remiss in the current design of most social and emotional learning efforts. A gap Rethink Ed is working hard to fill.

Social and emotional learning, or SEL, refers to evidence-based practices informed by rigorous, systematic social science that underscore the way we understand, use, and manage emotions to learn. Emotions drive how we think, pay attention, make decisions, manage our time, and countless other processes that impact how students and teachers show up in the classroom. SEL programs cultivate the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. These competencies underscore the capacity to learn, develop and maintain mutually supportive relationships, and be healthy, physically and psychology. (Visit www.casel.org for more information on the evidence supporting each competencies).

Scientific studies evaluating the impact of SEL programs show that these practices improve students’ academic performance, behavior, and attendance. These practices help students and their teachers form and sustain better quality relationships, and improve both students’ and teachers’ psychological health and well-being.

Rethink Ed values learning for every student and is excited to expand the reach of quality SEL practice to meet the needs of the diverse learners and our schools. EVERY child deserves quality SEL learning experiences.

To learn more about the positive impact SEL can have on ALL learners click here

Progress Monitoring Explained

By Jennifer Bessette, Director of Professional Services

What is progress monitoring?

Simply put, progress monitoring allows educators to measure student performance throughout the year. Progress monitoring lets you know which students are succeeding and which students might be struggling to make progress. This information is used to make decisions about the student’s educational plan, and ensure student growth. Schools may also use progress monitoring techniques to make decisions about whole classroom performance.

Why do we need it?

It helps us make informed decisions. Without measuring student performance, you are merely guessing student ability. These guesses are subjective, and may or may not be accurate. For example, you may notice a student point to his shirt and say “blue.” This leads you to believe he knows his colors, so you decide not to teach this skill. In reality, however, he may have heard someone else say his shirt is blue. If you ask him what color the sky is, he may not know the answer. When you measure student performance, you obtain a much more objective view of what the student does and does not know. Once you know how students are truly performing, you are much better equipped to make decisions about their education. Learn how Greenwood School District takes the guesswork out of teaching by regularly monitoring student progress.

Students make more progress. When you’re able to make decisions based on student performance, students make more progress. This is because you are now (hopefully) adjusting your teaching methods based on student need.

Communication improves. Progress monitoring allows you to have more detailed conversations about student performance. You are now able to provide documentation on student strengths and challenges. This is especially helpful when students perform differently in different settings (as is often the case in special education). For example, you can clearly see how a student performs in the resource room, general education classroom, speech therapy, music class, and even at home. This provides a well-rounded view of the students for all educators, related service providers, family members, and district administrators to share. Learn how North East ISD uses progress monitoring to improve home-school communication.

Is collecting data the same as progress monitoring?

Not exactly. Data collection is a great first step towards monitoring progress, but it is only that – a step. Here at Rethink, we spend a lot of time discussing the importance of data collection. We send our partner districts messages celebrating the amount of data staff collect, and offer support should data collection decline. This is because data collection leads to progress monitoring. It is not enough to merely record data – educators need to review the data and base their decisions on the data collected. If the data isn’t accurate and easy to understand, educators are going to have a tough time knowing what to do with the data. For more information on how Rethink Ed helps educators collect and analyze data, check out this recent webinar.

Need help improving your district’s progress monitoring skills? Contact us today!

3 Tips for Making Data-Based Decisions like a Pro!

By Jennifer Bessette, Director of Professional Services

Data. Some people love it. For others, it can be a real four-letter word. Whether you love it or hate it, data is here to stay! It is CRUCIAL to student success. Without data, we have no way to objectively analyze student progress. However, simply collecting data without pausing to reflect & make decisions gets us nowhere. Check out these great tips to ensure a successful data-driven school year!

1. Collect a Baseline
Prior to teaching a new goal to your students, it is a great best-practice to begin by collecting baseline data. You can think of baseline data as a pre-test: we’re simply testing the student to see what he already knows before we begin teaching. Imagine you’re planning on teaching a student to identify community helpers. Without collecting a baseline, you likely don’t know if the student knows some community helpers, all community helpers, or no community helpers at all. This would make it difficult to know where to begin. Once you collect some baseline data, you may discover that the student can already identify the police offer, the fire fighter, and the doctor, but cannot identify the postal worker, the construction worker, or the teacher. You now know where to begin your lesson!

Baseline data also documents the awesome work you’re doing teaching your students. Without baseline data, someone might wonder if you actually taught this skill to the student or if he already had this skill to begin with. If your baseline data shows the student cannot accurately and reliably perform the skill, but after you begin teaching, he now has the skill, you are showing that it is your teaching that made the difference!

2. Be Specific
Analyzing data can be quite difficult if you were not specific during data collection. Take the example of teaching your student identify objects. If the student is not mastering this skill, why not? Take a look at the following graph:

What do you know about this student by looking at this graph? You can see student has not been able to perform this skill with more than 66% accuracy. Why? Honestly, it’s difficult to know the full story looking at this graph. Let’s take this same data, and present it in a different way:

Looking at this graph, you can now see the student is able to identify the ball and the car, but is struggling to identify the block, book, and doll. Now you have a much better sense of the student’s strengths & challenges, and know where you should focus your efforts moving forward!

3. Check for Pre-Requisite Skills
Sometimes students struggle to make progress on all aspects of the goal no matter how hard you try. This can be frustrating for educators, parents, and the student. Imagine a student has been learning to tell time, and has shown very little growth on this skill.

One question you might ask at this time is: Does the student know all of her numbers? If not (or maybe she’s forgotten), telling time would be a very difficult skill for her! This would be a great time to stop & test for the pre-requisite skill of Identifying Numbers.

Clearly, you can see the student did not have this pre-requisite skill. However, after pausing to teach this skill, it looks like the student can now identify all numbers 0-12. Let’s return to the Telling Time lesson.

There! That did the trick. Now that your student can identify all numbers 0-12 and she is able to tell time to the whole hour. Success!

What are your favorite tips for making data-based decisions? Let us know in the comments below!

Student Performance Drives Teacher Evaluation

By Patricia Wright, PhD, MPH

As an educator, I have always viewed my success by student learning. If students are learning, then I must be teaching effectively – right? I guess that depends upon how learning is measured. There is research that demonstrates that tying student achievement to teacher evaluation improves student outcomes. However, many teachers voice concerns about their evaluations being tied to student achievement given the multiple variables that affect student achievement. Much of this debate is related to the use of a single measure, high stakes testing, as the primary measure of student performance.

In special education, reliance on the single measure of a high stakes test is not necessary since a direct measure of student learning is available: achievement of IEP goals and objectives. A well-written IEP contains goals and objectives that are designed to be achievable within one year. Demonstrable growth is demonstrated by students throughout the year and this growth is documented through progress monitoring and graphic display of individual student data.

Special education teacher evaluation should include supervisors reviewing this individualized student achievement data and assessing the success of an educator through their student’s learning. Principals are often the professionals conducting teacher evaluations. A special education teacher should feel confident in sharing their student achievement data with their principals. Those graph lines going up, documenting student growth, can be proudly shared as demonstration of teacher effectiveness. Teacher evaluation is a hot-button issue. Special educators are in the unique position of having individualized education plans and individual student data to document their teaching effectiveness.