Results from end of school year discipline data, the area of behavior indicated that suspension rates for students in Special Education was high, and above the district and state average for suspensions for Special Education students. District and site improvement plans for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years also had existing goals focused on reducing the suspension rates for suspension, and the 2017-2018 improvement plans also had a goal added to target the above average suspension rate for special education students.
A Closing the Gap Goal was created to intentionally target this disparity in suspensions as this need for improvement aligned with the school counseling, site and district visions and missions: By June 4, 2018 the suspension rate for students with disabilities compared to non special education students will decrease as measured by school suspension rate data; by 50 percent from a rate of 9.8% during the 2016-2017 school year to 4.9% this 2017-2018 school year.
Activities and Interventions to achieve this goal were chosen based on best practice, action research, being evidence based, and research informed. School wide core curriculum was also chosen to supplement the more targeted interventions for this closing the gap goal and the evidenced based Second Steps Curriculum was used to teach social emotional skills such as problem solving, emotion management and empathy.
Some Mindset & Behavior standards that were chosen that would help achieve program goals and carry out the mission and vision of the program included: M2: Self-Confidence in ability to succeed (Grades TK/K-5 Core Curriculum.), B-LS 4: Apply self motivation and self-direction to learning (Grades TK/K-5 Core Curriculum), B-SMS 2: Demonstrate self discipline and self control (TK/K-5 Core Curriculum, TK/K-5 Small Group and TK/K-5 Closing the Gap) and B-SS 4: Demonstrate empathy (TK/K-5 Core Curriculum, TK/K-5 Small Group, TK/K-5 Closing the Gap)
One targeted intervention for closing the gap included small groups which included special education students who had been suspended the past school year as well as special education students with 3 or more behavior referrals the year before. As the year progressed students were added to small groups if a trend in behavior referrals to the principal or counselor was seen during behavior data review which occurred weekly. Not all students who were referred to small group counseling were given consent to participate in group, but they did receive social emotional learning opportunities during core guidance class visits.
In addition, since research shows that students who feel connected and a part of their school have a lower incidence of absences and behavior problems, a concerted effort was made to include special education students in the counselor led Character Counts Clubs for 5th grade in the Fall and for 4th grade in the Spring.
Further disaggregation of results data for the prior year indicated that within the suspension data for special education students, there was a group of students from one specific special education class had students who had at least 1 behavior referral and 1 office visit to the principal for behavior related issues. This class is called; Special Day Class and for the 17-18 school year consisted of 13 students in grades 3rd-5th. Core Classroom guidance for this class was done using the Second Step Curriculum like with other classes. Unlike with other classes, the teacher for this class was provided a shared google document with links to supplemental Second Step activities, videos, songs, and materials to be used during a social emotional learning time slot designated only for this class, every day at 8:30am. As part of best practice, the purpose of this was to continue reinforcing what the counselor was teaching during the class visits, but everyday in class by the teacher. Student’s in this class were also provided items such as Second Step folders with the Problem Solving STEPS, book markers, and pencils.
Perception data for this group of students showed a marked increase of 47% percentage points in identifying a skill for learning and a 23% increase in students being able to correctly identify a calm down strategy, the percent of students who correctly identified one of the Problem Solving Steps, grew by 47%.
Implications for the future include continued data review of special ed populations in areas of behavior, collaboration with teachers to provide social emotional learning in my absence, as well as continued professional development for myself and staff in the area of functions of behavior and more education on how to meet the needs of special education students.