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.

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!

Spotlight Educator of the Month: Joanna Cunningham

Spotlight Educator of the Month!

Position: Special Education Preschool Teacher
District: Shelby County Schools in Memphis, TN

Joanna Cunningham is a Special Education Preschool Teacher at Shelby County Schools in Memphis, TN. Shelby County Schools serves approximately 26,000 special education students and has an instruction force of more than 1,000 professionals. Rethink Ed’s platform, especially its data collection and professional development, the ABA training series, supports Ms. Cunningham every day in her classroom.

Rethink Ed is a valuable tool for creating IEP goals, collecting student data, lessons, and professional development. The platform assists Ms. Cunningham in developing student plans and goals. It helps her to “think through exactly what I want my students to be able to do at the end of the IEP and to ensure I’m collecting the data in the correct way. The lessons help ensure I’m delivering consistent instruction to meet these goals.” Confidently, Ms. Cunningham knows that her students are on the right path and working towards their goals.

Data collection is tricky. Often, we think we know exactly what we are collecting data on and why, only to discover that it was the wrong approach. But with Rethink Ed, Ms. Cunningham found that it “helped me look more closely at the way I’m collecting data, what I’m measuring, and to be more granular about it. By doing this, my students are benefiting from better instruction and quicker course correction (if needed).” She can work closely with her students and team to visually see where they need to focus.

Ms. Cunningham has noticed a marked difference and improvement in her students as well as with her team of teachers. The ABA series basic training has, “reconfirmed the education I have had in working with challenging behaviors and is helping me train my team to ensure we are carrying out behavioral interventions with fidelity.” They do this by independently going through the online modules and then discussing how they can better serve their students.

This is just the beginning of Ms. Cunningham’s and her team’s Rethink Ed Success. She is excited to continue to utilize Rethink Ed in her classroom and continue to track student data. She knows that this platform will assist with IEP teams going forward and is excited to “look back and see where the student has been and how far they have come.” Ms. Cunningham is ready to jump into spring with Rethink Ed at her side!

Congratulations, on being featured as our Spotlight Educator. We look forward to continuing to hear about your success with Rethink Ed.

Put You Back on Your To-do list: SEL Informed Self-Care for Educators

By Christina Cipriano, Ph.D. & Tia N. Barnes, Ph.D.

More tasks on your to-do list than hours in the day? Than days left in your week? Than months left in your school year?

If you are in education, odds are your self-care is on the bottom of your to-do list (if it’s even there at all)!

Why? People who pursue helping professions (like teaching, nursing, and human services) also tend to have personality types that compel them to put the needs and demands of others before their own. Helping professionals seek to comfort, appease, please, and secure the well-being and livelihoods of others, and generally demonstrate a tendency towards compassion, giving, and selflessness. Helping professions by nature are accompanied by work conditions riddled in high stress and continuously evolving demands in the service of others. These character traits and work conditions can leave the well-intentioned helping professional thriving in their work while simultaneously overextended in time and resources to take care of themselves once all the work is said and done.

Research from the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) movement identifies self-care as critical to stress reduction, classroom management, and overall teacher health and well-being. Self-care is engaging in activities or practices that help you limit or reduce stress. Self-care activities or practices can fit into seven categories: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, relational, and/or promote a sense of safety and security. There is no universal Band-Aid for self-care, the key is identifying activities that minimize your stress and promote your health and well-being.

Try these five steps to put you back on your to-do list:

  1. Step 1. Evaluate Your Self-Care:
    • Make a list of everything you do- the whole day- each and every activity. Think about a typical workday during the week from the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep. Review the schedule and determine both whether you like each activity and who the activity is for- do you enjoy the activity and are you engaging in the activity for yourself or others? Then take a moment to calculate the number of hours in a day that you actually enjoy. The number of hours you enjoy in a day that are for you? Warning: This may be a disappointing number!
  2. Step 2. Consider the Possibilities
    • Next, take a moment to think about some activities that you could add into the work day (these do not have to take place on a particular day; create a list of possibilities of activities you can add into your day to increase your enjoyment and lower your stress).
    • Since we want to not cause additional stress with self-care, narrow your list to 2-3 activities that you want to incorporate more regularly and write them down.
    • Be modest in your goal to promote realistic change in your self-care practices.
  3. Step 3. Identify Your Barriers
    • Think about the barriers that impact your ability to engage in self-care currently. Generate a list of barriers- there is never enough time, money, energy, or resources! These are likely the excuses we give for why we can’t take care of ourselves right now, or ever!
  4. Step 4. Rethink it
    • Switch your thinking from dead-end barriers to brainstorming problem-solving ideas to remove those barriers. No time or money to get to the gym? Watch a free workout video at home after hours. No time to explore a hobby? Piggyback on activities your spouse or friends enjoy.
    • Generate a list of activities you can put on your list to overcome barriers to self-care.
  5. Step 5. Just do it!
    • Now take the time to put you into action.
    • Be modest and realistic- even the smallest action is starting to invest in you. The reality is, you can always find room for you if you think hard enough. Try registering for a weekly class, scheduling recurring appointments, have a standing dinner date with friends on your calendar, follow an active online social network, listen to a favorite song, get dressed up for a dinner in with a partner, a five minute mindfulness pause in the car before entering work, pack your lunch, call family members on a drive, say what you are thankful for at dinner… the list can go on as long as your creative energy will let it!

It is not selfish to take care of yourself- you can’t serve from an empty vessel. Like they say on the airplane before takeoff, secure your safety vest before helping others. Don’t cross you off your to-do list- invest in you to enable you to get it all done.

Parent Engagement When Addressing Challenging Behavior

By Christine Penington, MA, BCBA

Parent engagement in addressing challenging behavior across a variety of settings (e.g., school settings, community settings, in the home) is a critical component of meaningful, lasting, positive behavior change for learners. When parents and teachers collaborate on the development and implementation of positive behavior support strategies across the home and school settings students will benefit from the clear and consistent expectations. Parents can remain engaged in developing effective positive behavior support strategies for their children by collaborating with school team members during the assessment, development, and implementation of behavior support strategies across home and school settings.

1. Assessment: Evaluate and Complete the Picture

The first step is to identify “why” the challenging behavior is occurring. Is the child engaging in problem behavior to get attention, to get out of a task, or to gain access to a desired item or activity?

In a function-based behavior intervention plan, why a behavior is occurring is referred to as the function of the behavior. Parents often have valuable information to contribute when the function of the behavior is being assessed. For example, maybe there have been recent changes in medication that may be effecting behavior. Perhaps there has been a significant change at home such as a grandparent moving in or a favorite family member moving out. Also, Parents can provide information on if the challenging behavior is happening in the home setting, what it looks like if it is happening at home, and if there are a pattern of events that take place to evoke the challenging behavior. Parent engagement during the assessment portion of behavior intervention planning can yield a more complete picture of why the challenging behavior is occurring.

2. Antecedent Strategies:

Step 2 is to develop a comprehensive function-based intervention plan with strategies for addressing the challenging behavior. Antecedent strategies are interventions that are implemented before the occurrence of the challenging behavior. These are strategies that increase the likelihood that appropriate behavior will occur. Examples of antecedent strategies include using visual supports, visual schedules, and setting clear expectations, providing choice, and providing scheduled access to breaks or attention from preferred people.

Antecedent strategies can often be powerful agents of behavior change and decrease the likelihood that problem behavior will occur. If an antecedent strategy is working well at home, this information can be shared with school team members, so a similar strategy can be implemented (the reverse is also true). Having similar proactive supports in place will help provide consistent rules and expectations for our student’s.

Teaching appropriate communication is also an important component of an effective behavior intervention plan. Functional communication training is the practice of replacing challenging behavior with functional and appropriate communication. For example, if a student is engaging in challenging behavior to get out of a task, a functionally equivalent and appropriate response is to ask for a break. For non-vocal learners, or learners with an emerging vocal repertoire, it is important for parents and school team members to discuss appropriate communication methods to support the learner in all environments. For example, if parents are already using a picture exchange communication system at home it is important to share this information with school team members and vice versa.

3. Consequence Strategies:

Step 3 is to develop a consequence strategy. While antecedent strategies can be highly effective at decreasing or eliminating problem behavior, a comprehensive behavior plan will also include consequence strategies. Consequence strategies, specify how the team will respond if the challenging behavior occurs and alternatively if the desired, appropriate behavior occurs. These consequence strategies are also based on the function of the behavior, or “why” the behavior is occurring. For example, if the assessment shows a child is engaging in challenging behavior to get out of a task, the consequence strategy for challenging behavior may be to follow through with the task. In this case the challenging behavior is not reinforced.

A comprehensive behavior support plan also specifies how team members will respond if the child engages in the appropriate, desired behavior. For example, if a student has a history of engaging in whining to get out of doing homework and instead of whining the student engages in the desired behavior (homework completion), it is important to reinforce the appropriate, desired behavior. Parent-teacher communication is important for developing and implementing effective reinforcement strategies. It is important to ask: Are there highly preferred items or activities the child engages in at home? Could these items or activities be utilized as part of the reinforcement system at school? If a specific type of reinforcement system is being utilized in the school setting such as a point system or a token board, can parents implement a similar system in the home setting? Sharing information on effective reinforcers, reinforcement systems, and reinforcement materials (e.g., token boards) can help promote consistency in expectations across settings.

4. Planning for Success: The last step

Planning for success is key for implementing positive behavior support strategies across settings. In the school setting there are multiple team members working together to address student needs with access to behavior support materials and resources. In the home setting there are often competing demands for parent’s time and attention and behavior resources and materials may be limited. Given the realities of implementing behavior strategies across these different settings it is important for teachers and parents to discuss realistic supports and strategies that can be put into place and maintained across settings.

For example, parents and teachers should discuss: If visual supports are suggested as a proactive support for a learner, what type of visual supports will be beneficial at home and where will parents access these materials? If scheduled access to attention is suggested as a proactive strategy who will provide attention to the child, at what intervals will attention be provided, and what supports are in place to remind parents to provide this attention (e.g., a vibrating timer)? What type of appropriate communication method is being used to replace the challenging behavior? What does the challenging behavior look like at home and how will parents respond when the behavior occurs? What time of reinforcement system is in place for appropriate behaviors?

By anticipating barriers to consistent implementation of behavior supports at home, how those barriers will be addressed, and what specific supports and strategies will be put into place parents can effectively plan for success when addressing challenging behavior across various settings.

Regression and Recoupment Data Collection and Analysis over Winter Holiday Break

By Patricia Wright

Qualifying students for Extended School Year (ESY) is a multi-faceted process. One of the considerations is regression and recoupment; is the student likely to lose skills and fail to gain those skills within a reasonable time-frame upon return to instruction. The winter break is an ideal time to assess regression and recoupment. Collecting data immediately prior to the break and immediately following the break can demonstrate the student’s performance over a two-week absence of instruction.

For example, the student below showed a significant regression and it took an entire month to recoup to the prior rate of performance. This may be a consideration in determining eligibility for ESY.

Utilizing data-based decision making for ESY eligibility can decrease the challenges created when relying on personal perspectives or opinions. Use Rethink Ed to actively collect data immediately prior and immediately following winter break and see how your students perform.

Difficulty Educators Have Addressing Behavior Problems: A Quick Look at a Token Economy

By Tranika Jefferson

Token Economies are great tools for educators since they have both an immediate and delayed component. In a token economy the students’ appropriate behavior is immediately reinforced with tokens. Students can later redeem these tokens for preferred items or activities. The token economy is known to be effective because the tokens symbolize reinforcers that they only get for engaging in desired behaviors (Miltenberger, 2008). They are often used with individual students or large groups of students to increase or maintain appropriate classroom behaviors and decrease inappropriate and disruptive classroom behaviors (Gallagher, 1988; Zirpoli & Melloy, 1993).

Identifying tokens is a major component in setting up a token economy. Tokens should be transferable, durable, and not something the student has easy access to on their own. They range from coins, stars, poker chips, or a stamp on a card. Tokens should be kept age appropriate when possible. For example, a younger student may like stickers of Peppa Pig while an older student may like to use a punch card.

Check out some of Rethink Ed’s motivation boards in My Resources. Here is an awesome example of pizza pieces as tokens on a pizza token board!

It is important to remember that as teachers one of your primary responsibilities is to teach positive and adaptive skills. Therefore, even when using a token economy your goal should be to reinforce and help maintain the appropriate behaviors that your student displays. In Myles, Moran, Ormsbee & Downing (1992, p 164) review of token economies, they cite the following:

“Whenever possible, focus should be placed on teaching appropriate, positive skills rather than attempting to prevent the occurrence of an inappropriate behavior. For example, the behavior students must raise their hands before talking is more positive than students cannot talk out in class.”

Too often, we get caught up in focusing on intervening and providing consequences to the problem behavior. However, children repeat behaviors that work for them and that get reinforced, whether appropriate or inappropriate. A simple way to think about this is emphasizing the desired behavior to eliminate the negative behavior. Keep these things in mind when building your token economy in your classroom!

References

Gallagher, P. A. (1988). Teaching students with behavior disorders (2nd ed.).
Denver, CO: Love.

Miltenberger, R. (2008). Behaviour Modification. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing.

Myles, B., Moran, M., Ormsbee, C., & Downing, J. (1992). Guidelines for Establishing and Maintaining Token Economies. Intervention In School And Clinic, 27(3), 164-169.

Rethink Ed Spotlight Educator of the Month: Ola Minxhozi

Position: Therapist, Team-Leader

District: Regional Center for Autism, Tirana

Ola Minxhozi is a therapist and team leader at the Regional Center for Autism in Tirana, Albania. Over the course of two years, she and her team have integrated Rethink Ed into their teaching practices and its use has helped them in a variety of ways.

Rethink Ed has helped them address problem behaviors, streamline the data collection process, and easily track progress. She described the training process as gradually introducing different features of the platform while setting aside time for individual exploration of Rethink Ed. “It was helpful for each one of us to use Rethink Ed’s materials and watch videos on how to use the program,” Ms. Minxhozi said. She also pinpointed the model student on the platform as a very helpful tool as it allowed staff to do trial runs with various aspects of Rethink Ed without altering any real data.

To Ms. Minxhozi, one of the most valuable aspects of Rethink Ed is its recognition that each student learns differently and has strengths and weaknesses specific to them; therefore, the program allows the instructor to assess the student’s abilities first and then recommends lessons that are appropriate for the student’s skill level. For additional support, “the learning plan gives other suggestions, helpful hints, and error correction only to better help the student in the process of learning.” Rethink Ed also allows the staff to save time when preparing for lessons by providing relevant materials and instructional videos with each lesson.

Ms. Minxhozi also highlighted the behavior support the platform offers as a feature from which she and her team have greatly benefitted. She recalled a particular student who would consistently run away from work area; guided by Rethink Ed’s steps for intervention, she was able to identify the functions of the behavior, which were to escape and to get the teacher’s attention. She chose from suggested behavior replacements that would work best for the student and reported that four weeks later, the problem behavior had significantly reduced.

“Working with children with special needs or children in autism spectrum disorder is as beautiful as it is challenging,” said Ms. Minxhozi. She cites “finding the best ways to help students to develop their abilities and potential” as the most challenging part of their jobs and by making a wide range of comprehensive resources easily accessible, Rethink Ed has helped make that process easier. At the Regional Center for Autism in Tirana, they are excited to continue incorporating Rethink Ed into their daily teaching practices and benefiting from all the helpful tools the platform offers.

Spotlight Educator of the Month: Debra Pearce

Position: Principal of Tanglewood Regional School

District: Prince George’s County Public School District (Clinton, MD)

Debra Pearce is the principal of Tanglewood Regional School in Prince George’s County Public School District (Clinton, MD). As a school Principal (and former district-level administrator), she is tasked daily with professional development, use of best practices and monitoring, and evaluation of student progress and staff competency. The Rethink Ed program enables her to complete these tasks through a single portal. She is the first principal to complete Rethink Ed’s Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Advanced Training Course!

Debra Pearce, Principal

Rethink Ed supports her administrative professional needs as well as her teachers’ needs. She has learned the program alongside her staff, which has benefited her because she is able to “talk the language” of the program. She says, “Being able to answer questions about the program and to coach staff in the use of the program and tools supports our culture of learning throughout the school.  The use of technology as a tool is also domain for our administrative evaluation.” Having completed the training, she is able to discuss Rethink Ed with her staff and understand the intricacies of the program. She has also found that her use of the platform encourages and facilitates the use of Rethink Ed in the building.

For special educators, Rethink Ed is a ready resource for classroom programming, data collection, professional development, and parent training. Ms. Pearce asserts that having these features in one platform helps her staff “work smarter, not harder” and “allows them to feel confident in their instruction.” Rethink Ed’s platform supports her administration through data collection, lesson planning, and professional development.

Office board display awarding pin to staff for completing Rethink Basic Training series. Leading by. Example is part of our school theme of COMPASS.

The two most valuable aspects of the Rethink Ed program for Ms. Pearce and her administration are the data collection components and professional development. Data collection is becoming increasingly important for all educators, especially those in special education. It is important that people can track, record, and show visual representations of data in the classroom. Teachers use Rethink Ed to track IEP goals, collect data, and develop IEPs that are tailored to fit the needs of the student. Ms. Pearce says, “Special education teachers are under an incredible amount of scrutiny when it comes to data review.  Having a tool like Rethink Ed allows teachers and support staff to collect and share data that is professionally formatted and is defensible.” Teachers have benefited from Rethink Ed’s data tracking as well as the platform’s professional development training.

Teachers learned about preference assessments and created motivation boards using the results of the preference assessments. Students choose what they want to work for throughout the day. This is from a total classroom display.

Rethink Ed’s online, on-demand professional training allows access to ABA training in schools that do not have district employed BCBAs. The training modules are aligned with the BACB outcomes and the Rethink Ed certificates are an important piece of documentation that supports teacher and administrator portfolios. Ms. Pearce says that as a principal, it is great to know that “Staff can access Rethink from anywhere at any time for initial and for refresher training.” She also states that Rethink Ed’s training courses are beneficial to students as well as teachers because “our students benefit from ABA practices while we are building our school system capacity to have access to BCBA staff.” Teachers and students are both reaping the benefits of Rethink Ed in Prince George’s County Public School District.

“It is our hope that as we continue to use Rethink Ed with all of our students, our communication of progress will further support our parents as partners.” She has been successful so far at working with parents and making them partners. Ms. Pearce is excited to continue to use Rethink Ed and jump into the new school year!

Walking the Line Between Non-Evaluative Feedback and Teacher Evaluations

Three Tips to Keep You on Track

By Maria Wilcox, Professional Services Director

Across the United States, the role of the instructional coach continues to gain momentum, change forms, and redefine itself to meet constantly evolving educator needs. As such, it is difficult to clearly outline the role and its responsibilities. One thing that is consistent and a critical component of the success of coaches is that coaches remain non-evaluative in their work.

Elena Aguilar, who wrote the popular book “The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation,” states “coaching tied with evaluation is a recipe for disaster; in order to be able to work with a coach and really learn, you have to be able to feel like you can really take risks. And if coaching is tied to evaluation, it’s not going to even be possible.” This piece of advice embodies the spirit of a successful teacher-coach relationship in that for professional growth and learning to take place, a supportive and feedback-rich environment is necessary.

However, in the age of high-stakes testing and increased teacher accountability, coaches are often brought in to address gap areas discovered during teacher evaluation processes. To ensure that truly meaningful coaching occurs, here are three tips for coaches to ensure their relationship with teachers remains supportive and fosters growth:

1. Outline roles and responsibilities of all professionals involved in the coaching process; this includes the coach, the teacher, and the principal or evaluator.

Ensuring that everyone knows their roles, the limits, and expectations creates a culture of transparency and honesty. If a teacher trusts the promise that coaching conversations remain confidential, he is more likely to be open with the coach and begin the work needed to change. Conversely, a principal’s respect of the growth process is critical.

2. Coaches should approach their work as a facilitator and learning guide, leaving agendas and ultimatums at the door.

When a coach approaches a teacher with an open mind and without ulterior motives, it allows the teacher to guide their learning process, select their outcomes, and be their own agent of change. Allowing teachers to do this fosters reflection and emphasizes reactive teaching, which drives them to further examine their practice critically and analytically. A coach should be there to listen, suggest, encourage, and provide feedback.

3. Approach coaching with student outcomes in mind; choose the coaching approach that best fits the district’s vision and needs.

There are a variety of coaching models; cognitive, inquiry-based, instructional, and student-centered. One is not better than the other and at the heart of each is the desire to improve student outcomes through effective and meaningful instruction. This cannot happen without honest and reflective practice from both the coach and the teacher.

Instructional coaching as a practice in schools, shows no signs of slowing down, nor are teacher evaluations going anywhere soon., It is our duty to grow as professionals to provide the best education and experience to our students. Instructional coaches have a unique and profound opportunity to guide a new generation of educators into the future, build capacity in our schools, and see kids succeed. As the saying goes, “behind every great person, is a great teacher”, and just maybe, an instructional coach too.