3 Tips for Back to School: Teacher’s Edition 2018

Back to School often means entering a new school, meeting new parents, and learning new school year expectations- an intimidating process for everyone. Here are three meaningful ways that teachers can get ready for back to school 2018.

  1. Presume Positive Intentions: Parents want to work with you. They also want what is best for their child at school, at home, and in the future. So often, parents have had negative previous experiences with IEP meetings or team members and that leaves a bad taste for future experiences. Combative attitudes, accusatory words, and cloak and dagger communication are toxic to the team and are often the result of misinformation or unsavory experiences. Keeping in mind the parent’s point of view is instrumental in resetting the relationship and starting everyone off on a positive note.A great technique is for parents to share their vision of the future for their child or if possible, have the student share his hopes and dreams with the IEP team. It will remind everyone why they are there and part of the team.
  2. Address Conflicts and Disagreements:Recognizing that there is always the possibility of disagreements as part of a team is an important fact of the team-based approach. There are a variety of legal protections as part of the IEP process that protect both the student and his/her family and school teams. However, before any formal conflict resolution takes place, teams should commit to informal problem-solving protocols. For instance, a mutually agreed-upon facilitator can listen to both sides and bring clarity to the issue. Again, at the heart of the conflict are the best interests of the student which sometimes requires all team members to take a step backwards and adjust their perspectives.
  3. Involve Early and Often: Going back to Chief Justice Robert’s statement that the IEP is not a form, serves as a great reminder that the IEP is not a “one and done” deal.At the start of the school year, teams should collaborate to determine how to best involve all members, including parents. Communication should always be priority and should include language and interpretation, with ample opportunity to connect via email, phone, or text. Schools need to ask parents their opinions, share student successes, and partner with them to support student through their learning experiences (both good and challenging). Special education team members share a lot of power in the student’s future therefore it is important that everyone is on the same page to ensure the best and most meaningful outcomes for the student.

Stop the Summer Slide

3 tips for teachers to support students & avoiding the summer slide

The Summer Slide is a familiar conundrum for all educators. The term refers to the learning loss many students experience over the summer break. Research done in 1996 concluded that students on average experienced the equivalent of at least one month of learning loss as measured by standardized test scores over the summer. While all students are at risk of learning regression over long breaks, additional research suggests that students with special needs may be more at risk of both regression and slower recoupment of skills when they return in the fall than their general education peers.

Isn’t that what the Extended School Year is for?

While many special education students will have opportunities to attend Extended School Year (ESY) programs over the summer, ESY can present its own unique challenges. For one, students are taken out of their regular routines, which for students with significant disabilities can severely impede their ability to learn. With only 4 to 6 weeks of classes, there is little time for establishing the procedures and routines that these students need to thrive. Additionally, students in ESY programs are often supported by interim teachers and paraprofessionals, many of whom have little-to-no experience working with the students in the program. Finally, ESY staff do not always have access to quality curriculum that is aligned with state standards and addresses the unique IEP goals of each student. As research reveals, “quality is the key to making time matter,” (Aronson, Zimmerman, and Carlos, 1999) and with all of these factors combined, ESY can end up having little impact on learning regression.

What can I do? I don’t see my students over the summer.

Whether or not your students will be attending ESY, there are things you can do now as a teacher to support skill maintenance over the summer for your students and make the inevitable change in routine more manageable.

  1.  Provide easy-to-access learning opportunities using technology

Rethink’s Activity Center provides students opportunities to practice skills they learned during the school year that are tied with IEP goals on mobile devices and laptop computers.

An article on how technology can help prevent summer “brain drain” pointed to the fact that students without access to educational content over the summer are more likely to experience learning loss. With mobile technology, providing students access to educational content on the devices they are already accessing is easy. Spend some time now finding online games, applications, and activities that reinforce the skills your students are learning in the school year and provide students and their families training and practice on how to use and access this content. Your students will be able to stay engaged in learning in a way that doesn’t just feel like homework.

  1.  Prepare students for upcoming changes in routine

For many students with special needs, unexpected changes in routine can be challenging. Preparing students for upcoming changes and helping them know what to expect can make the transition from the regular school day routine to home, ESY, day camp or wherever they may be over the summer more successful and set them up for success when it comes to learning.

Here are a few ideas for how you can start preparing students now:

  • Start a count down! Encourage your students to be excited about summer while also communicating to them that summer means a change in routine. You can review a countdown calendar with your students in the classroom every morning and use this as an opportunity to talk about some of the changes they can expect.
  • Review summer routines: If your student is attending ESY, use a picture schedule to help teach them about the new routine in advance. If ESY is in the building, you can even show them to their new classroom so that when the time comes, it is already a familiar place. If your student will be at home or somewhere else over the summer, find out from their parents and families what their schedule will be, and do the same by creating an individualized schedule that will help them anticipate the change in routine.
  1.  Involve parents and families

Often the one constant for students between the regular school year and the summer, parents and families are crucial to establishing new routines for students over the summer and providing them with opportunities for learning. As a student’s teacher, you can work with parents and families before school is out to support them in preparing their children for whatever the summer may hold. A few ideas for how you can collaborate with families are:

  • Encourage families to reinforce classroom routines at home:Consistency between home and school is key to reinforcing learning. If you are doing a summer count down in class, for instance, encourage parents to do the same at home every morning before school. If you are using a picture schedule to teach a student about their new routine, provide the parent with a copy so they can review at home as well.
  • Help families build learning opportunities into summer routines: Collaborate with your student’s family to create a predictable summer schedule for the student and build in specified times for learning into the schedule. For instance, if you are providing online activities for the student to work on over the summer, coordinate with the student’s parent to find a time in their daily schedule where the student will have access to a tablet or device, so they can complete the activities.

Remember that advanced planning is key to supporting your student in the summer transition, and there are lots of simple things you can do now to make this transition easier on your students and help them maintain all the wonderful things they have learned throughout the school year.

Happy Summer! Enjoy yourselves. You deserve it!

What’s the big deal with SEL?

By Christina Cipriano, PhD

Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, refers to interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies 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.

The Rethink Ed SEL for ALL Learners platform is a school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program for enhancing the psychosocial health and well-being of teachers and students while creating an optimal learning environment that promotes academic, social, and personal effectiveness. Psychosocial health and well-being refers to the knowledge and skills needed to promote mental health, emotion regulation, and prosocial behaviors—knowledge and skills that are necessary for optimal development.

Educators, parents, and legislators acknowledge the need for schools to address the social and emotional needs of students in order to provide a rich learning environment. In fact, a systematic process for promoting SEL is the common element among schools that report an increase in academic achievement, improved relationship quality between teachers and students, and a decrease in problem behaviors.

Ideal SEL curricula are those that address the full spectrum of children’s needs by cultivating a caring, supportive, and empowering learning environments that foster the development of all learners in the school. Rethink Ed SEL was designed specifically to meet these criteria.

Rethink Ed Spotlight Educator: Jean Lawson, Truman Elementary School (Springfield, MO)

Mrs. Jean Lawson

Ms. Lawson is a special education teacher at Truman Elementary School in Springfield, MO. Truman Elementary is a part of the Springfield Public School District, which is Missouri’s largest school district. Over 25,000 students attend 36 elementary schools, an intermediate school (grades 5 – 6), nine middle schools, five high schools, Phelps Center for Gifted Education, and 2 early childhood centers! Out of all the teachers at those schools, Ms. Lawson has been awarded Springfield’s Teacher of The Year 2018-19!

Classroom Cafe Cart

We are honored to celebrate with Ms. Lawson and feature her as a Rethink Ed Spotlight Educator. Ms. Lawson has successfully implemented Rethink Ed into her daily classroom activities. For example, she uses Rethink resources and data tracking to help her students meet their goals. These resources help create obtainable targets because she can break down a student’s goal into smaller, more achievable tasks.

“Skills we learn are practiced through authentic experiences. I believe in providing authentic experiences to bring learning into the real world. Math and social skills are used in cooking and selling snacks to teachers on our Rolling Café.”

Ms. Lawson also loves using the Rethink motivation boards from the resources section. In the photo below, you can see some of her students making pizza. When a student meets a goal or completes an assignment, they receive another pizza topping until they have made a finished pie! Ms. Lawson has seen great progress and success using these motivation boards. She found that many students,

Baking Pizza and cookies!

“who have been reluctant to do nonpreferred work, willingly work. The positive association with the table work has crossed over to other times where they will willingly work and not use the motivation boards. That’s success!”

With the ability to record, track, and analyze student data, Rethink helps Ms. Lawson promote the success of her students. We are honored to partner with Ms. Lawson and Springfield Public School District and we look forward to continuing to inspire hope and power potential.

Mrs. Lawson and her staff (along with Santa and an elf). This includes Mrs. Lawson and her other autism teacher (in the green on the right), Phoebe Ezell; and our 6 paras. A couple of them also work with students on their goals, collect and enter data on Rethink.

Autism Prevalence Increases Again: 1:59

About 1 in 59 eight -year-old children in 11 communities across the United States were identified as having autism in 2014 as reported by the CDC this week. This report increases the feeling of urgency to ensure that all individuals living with autism receive appropriate services and supports to achieve their optimal outcomes. We still have a long way to go on this front, as adults living with autism have high rates of unemployment, experience limited social engagement with their communities, and do not have access to appropriate services in adulthood.

Autism prevalence has again risen. In addition to the prevalence numbers two interesting outcomes emerged:

  •  1.  Change in Ethnic Distribution: In the prior report (2012) they identified 20 percent more white children with autism than black children and 50 percent more than Hispanic children. In the most recent CDC report, researchers identified 7 percent more white children with autism than black children, and 22 percent more than Hispanic children. As there is no biologic reason for the disparity in autism diagnosis by ethnicity, this is directionally correct. This finding demonstrates progress in addressing ethnic diversity in autism diagnosis but as current movements like Black Lives Matter have brought to society’s attention, there is significant work to do to ensure the color of one’s skin does not dictate life outcomes. Ethnic disparity is an issue in education as well. Disproportionality in student disciplinegraduation rates, and enrollment in special education have all been raised as concerns. This autism prevalence study provides additional data that our society continues to struggle with racism.
  •  2.  Geographical Distribution: 11 US communities participated in this study and the results show various rates of autism prevalence. Across the multiple monitoring sites, prevalence ranged from a low of 1 in 77 children in Arkansas to a high of 1 in 34 in New Jersey. This disparity is most likely reflective of access to healthcare as well as awareness and understanding of autism. New Jersey is well known for its diagnostic services and supports to those living with autism and other developmental disabilities. However, children should not be excluded from services an supports simply because they were born outside of New Jersey.

Prevalence studies are important. We now have 15 years of prevalence reports from the CDC informing us as a community. Progress is being made. But awareness of the number of people living with autism should prompt action to the development of meaningful supports. Additionally, the adult outcomes for many living with autism are abysmal. We can’t just identify people; we need to identify, support, and ensure every individual living with autism can lead a high-quality life.

So you might be asking what does this mean for me and how can Rethink Ed help?

Every student with autism deserves a quality education; Rethink Ed provides your district the tools to design, deliver, and monitor, evidence-based practices in special education. The comprehensive suite of tools ensures that every student develops the academic, behavioral and social/emotional skills they need to succeed in school, at work, and in life. Rethink Ed can help. To learn more contact info@rethinked.com.

Rethink Ed Spotlight Educator of the Month: Amanda Brock

Position: Implementation Specialist, Autism Department, the Office of Student Services
District: Washoe County School District, Reno, NV

Over the past 5 years, Mrs. Brock has used Rethink Ed to address the various needs in Washoe County School District. She began using Rethink as a teacher and now utilizes it as a district wide implementation coach. She is also a Rethink Ambassador and trains educators in her district on how to use Rethink Ed!

Rethink Ed supports Ms. Brock by helping her to:

Collaborate! Rethink Ed has given Mrs. Brock a common language, which has encouraged collaboration across the entire school district. For example, Mrs. Brock has two autism programs, with very different teaching and data collection styles. Rethink successfully helped to establish teamwork across multiple classrooms; “using the Rethink lesson plans and systems made it so any adult could work with any student at various locations throughout classroom.” With the help of Rethink’s lesson planning, they are able to ensure consistency in data collection. The detailed, step by step lesson plans easily allowed her to “facilitate lessons guided by paraprofessionals with the confidence that each step was being followed with consistency.” Rethink has helped Mrs. Brock to support the whole school community regardless of what class a student or educator is in.

With Rethink Ed, “I am able to guide teachers…and see growth in teacher knowledge and decrease in problem behaviors not only with the target student but with the whole class.” 

Train other Educators! As a district wide Rethink Ambassador, Mrs. Brock encourages all of her teachers to utilize the entire Rethink system to best support their students’ needs. She provides ongoing training and support for educators on the various functionalities of the system. Washoe County School District has 63,919 students in 104 schools. The district has 4,705 instructional staff; therefore, Mrs. Brock can’t always support everyone in person. But with the help of Rethink she can “run reports on usage and determine what kind of support is needed for different teachers.” For example, Mrs. Brock used Rethink with “novice teachers to direct them first to the training center and available materials; for most teachers, I guide them through selecting appropriate lesson plans and engaging with the behavior tool and for my veteran teachers, I encourage use of running reports, graphing tools, meaningful usage of the student activity center as well as exploring the various webinars available.” The teachers are benefiting from Rethink webinars and resources regardless of what stage of their teaching career they’re in. Teachers can “solve issues in their classes by using different aspects of the Rethink system.”

Further her Career! As a Rethink Ambassador, Mrs. Brock has experienced personal career growth. Rethink has, “furthered my knowledge about adult learning theory and how to effectively deliver professional development to adults in a way that would be most meaningful for each individual.” Over the last 5 years, Mrs. Brock and Rethink have grown and adopted to meet the changing needs of educators and students. Mrs. Brock is excited to continue to work with Rethink as the program develops more resources and tools to meet the growing needs of our students.

 

4 Indicators That You’re A Conference Guru

Over the last few weeks Rethink had the wonderful opportunity to attend and present at multiple conferences across the US. In addition to all the amazing take-aways from the presentations and panels we attended, we also learned a little something about ourselves: we are indeed conference gurus.  Are you a one too?  If you can answer yes to the following, join the club!

  1. You have successfully set up a monster booth at least once in your career

If you have ever lugged huge “booth carriers” across country, completed a full workout getting all the components out and ready to put together, and then spent 2 hours trying to work out how everything fits together … you might be a conference guru!

To avoid throwing out our backs, the Rethink team wisely decided to take a more subtle approach to our booth. We kept it simple with our Rethink banner and our own smiling faces. We met lots of current customers and hopefully future partners and had some great conversations.

  1. You are prepared with both summer and winter attire depending on the whims of the hotel air-conditioning

If you ever had to carefully plan and are prepared with your attire and wardrobe to allow for significant temperature changes in short periods of time (often in the same workshop session) … you might be a conference guru!

Thankfully the Rethink team came prepared for anything and managed to keep our body temperatures relatively stable with just the right mix of summer/winter attire!

  1. You have breathed a sigh of relief when people actually attend your presentation session

If you have experienced slight panic or anxiety attacks with the thought that you will be the only presenter at the conference who has no one show up to their presentation … you might be a conference guru!

  1. You willingly give up your holiday weekend to advance your knowledge and learning while sitting in uncomfortable seats and eating overpriced hotel food

Yep! That’s us–walking 15,000 steps (or approximately 7 miles per day) from classroom to classroom and even spending some sessions seated on the floor, all in the name of knowledge!

Why do we do it you ask? The answer is simple: we are passionate about our field and consider the chance to advance our knowledge of value to ourselves, the places we work, and the children and students we support. See you all next year for more of the same!

What are the benefits to digital data collection? Move into the 21st Century: From Paper to Digital Data Collection

By Patricia Wright, PhD, MPH

The world is changing, and data can now be collected electronically, on the fly with an app and a portable device such as a tablet or phone. In the last decade, we have all lived through the movement from paper medical records to digital and the medical community is reaping the benefits. Now is the time for Education to take the next step and join the revolution.

Digital data management is here to stay but as educators and school systems move from paper to digital, some are approaching this frontier with gritted teeth.

Special education is data rich especially when it comes to progress monitoring IEP goals and objectives. Special educators develop IEP documentation, including IEP goals and objectives. These documents are stored digitally, but educators must also collect data to progress monitor and evaluate student’s achievement of their IEP goals and objectives. Historically, this data has been collected by pencil and paper, graphed by hand or more recently graphed in excel – it was A LOT of work and still is!

You may be thinking: Why Should I care? What are the benefits to digital data collection? There are 5 major benefits of digital data collection:

  1. Data is analyzed instantly! With electronic data collection the data can be graphed and analyzed instantly. No more calculating by hand and moving data into a spreadsheet.
  2. More Time to spend on other projects! Every teacher wants more time, using digital data collection for progress monitoring can buy you some valuable time.
  3. Say goodbye to transfer errors! We all like to think that we are perfect but transcribing numbers from paper to a spreadsheet leaves room for error.
  4. It’s green! You won’t have endless stacks of papers that need to be shredded and recycled.
  5. Timely Instructional Decisions! Simply press the record button and data analysis is available immediately. No more waiting until the end of the quarter to adjust instruction. Instructional decisions can be made in a timely manner for maximum benefit.

Join the revolution, start collecting your data digitally!

Rethink Ed Data Recording App! Download in the app store today!

I’m a Teacher not a Data Analyst: Five Easy Steps Towards Making Data-Based Teaching Decisions

By Patricia Wright, PhD, MPH

The educational system values and uses data to inform everything from the evaluation of individual students and entire school districts to educator’s performance-based pay and the success of curriculum. Teachers play a role in every single one of those decisions, yet teachers are often not comfortable with data analysis. In fact, 72% of districts cited lack of teacher preparation as a barrier to increased use of data systems. With so many benefits of digital data collection (think less time on IEP documentation!) it is vital that teachers, specifically special educators, start increasing their understanding of data-based decision-making.

Here are 5 simple steps you can make towards becoming a data analyst AND a better teacher:

  1. Write measurable goals and objectives
  2. Develop a data collection system and collect data
  3. Represent the data visually (usually with a graph)
  4. Evaluate the data
  5. Adjust instruction as guided by the data

Step 3 is an important one: Represent the data visually (usually with a graph)

It is difficult to analyze data if it is not represented visually. Graphs help define what is happening. For example, graph one instantly demonstrates the progress and learning a student is making.

Rethink Ed Graph 1

In the graph below, we can quickly determine that the students’ performance is variable and learning really isn’t occurring. With graphs you can evaluate the data (step 4) and adjust instruction (step 5) as guided by the data to better meet student needs. In this below example, the teacher can look at the instructional experience the student is having and discern what is inhibiting his learning.

Rethink Ed Graph 2

Graph your data – become a data analyst!

6 Reasons We Love Social Emotional Learning (And You Should Too!)

If you’ve been to a conference, spoken with colleagues, or read the news lately, you’ve probably been hearing quite a lot about Social Emotional Learning, or SEL. SEL helps students by promoting self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. If you don’t already love SEL, here are 6 reasons why you should:

  1. Students learn how to deal with complex emotions. Navigating emotions can be difficult, especially for children and teens. In fact, a child or teen commits suicide every 3 hours and 33 minutes. One of the major focuses of SEL programs is to help students successfully regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different scenarios. This helps students change their way of thinking to better manage stress, motivate themselves, and make better decisions.
  2. Teachers feel less stressed. According to a recent survey, 73% of educators report feeling stressed often at work, and 24% report feeling sometimes stressed at work. These educators also report feeling emotionally or physically exhausted at the end of the day. SEL programs can help improve student success, which certainly helps reduce educator stress. Additionally, educators can benefit from improving their own SEL skills, by learning how to manage stress, make better decisions, and communicate with others more effectively.
  3. SEL provides schools with a bullying prevention toolkit. Students who are bullied are twice as likely as their non-bullied peers to develop negative health effects. According to the CDC, defiant & disruptive behaviors are associated with engaging in bullying behavior, while poor peer relationships & low self-esteem are associated with a higher likelihood of being bullied. SEL programs help students improve their ability to empathize and take the perspective of others, respect others, negotiate conflict, and seek help when needed. SEL programs also help to increase self-confidence.
  4. Students are more employable. According to a recent report, employers are looking for employees who have strong communication skills, are self-motivated, able to solve problems independently, and work well with others. These are all skills SEL programs focus on!
  5. Students are less likely to be incarcerated. A longitudinal study found that the level of aggression exhibited by children at the age of eight is a strong predictor of criminal events over the next 22 years. With current statistics showing that a student is arrested every 31 seconds, we should all be looking at strategies to prevent conduct problems & reduce aggression in our schools. SEL programs help students develop impulse control, respect others, and make ethical decisions.
  6. School districts save money! For every dollar school districts invest in SEL interventions, there is a return of 11 dollars! An 11:1 return on investment is pretty fantastic!

 

Join the movement: Check out Rethink Ed’s upcoming SEL product line or join us at the 2018 Virtual Conference, Social Emotional Learning: Supporting the Whole Child.