Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) provide a coordinated structure for supporting the academic and behavioral needs of children. Yet, while legislation broadly calls for the use of both formative and summative measures in both areas, schools generally struggle to incorporate formative assessment related to behavioral concerns. This project will pilot usage of the Behavior Intervention Monitoring System (BIMAS) progress monitoring system as a means to track students’ self-regulation and school readiness goals. This project will include emphasis on how this data is utilized for decision making at the individual, group and school level.
Alex Freeman, School Psychologist, is in his first year of employment with Boston Public Schools. A May 2015 graduate of Tufts’ program, he currently works at Boston Teachers Union School, Haley Pilot School and P.A. Shaw Elementary. Prior to becoming a School Psychologist, Alex taught middle school Special Education in North Carolina as well as worked at two Boston nonprofits.
BLOG POST #1
The genesis for this project was two-fold:
- As a former Special Education teacher, I was perplexed as to how to more efficiently and with greater validity track IEP self-regulation and school-readiness goals in the classroom
- As a School Psychologist working with students with these same goals, I was interested in how to enable classroom teachers to track the generalization of the skills I addressed in individual and group counseling. Too often behaviorally based goals are not tracked with any kind of formality or regularity; instead, IEP meetings such goals are typically met with broad generalizations and anecdotal observations lacking true data.
The solution to my questions came with the Behavior Intervention Monitoring Assessment System (BIMAS), which is utilized in all Boston Public Schools within the Behavioral Health Services’ Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model (CBHM). Schools participating in this model receive expanded behavioral health services to support the social-emotional needs of students while agreeing to a host of internal commitments. One such commitment is that all teachers must complete a universal social-emotional assessment, using the BIMAS’ online platform, for their students twice a year. This allows schools to make database decisions across RTI tiers regarding the BIMAS’ five scales:
- negative affect
- social functioning
- academic functioning.
The BIMAS also includes a progress-monitoring feature, allowing users (teachers) to track the frequency of individual behaviors across time. I piloted progress monitoring at my school last year as an intern, and will now incorporate BIMAS progress monitoring in both of my CBHM participating schools this year. The goal will be to produce a system for both
- efficiently inputting progress-monitoring information into the BIMAS system and
- enabling teachers to access the data for data-based decision making regarding such behaviors at an individual and group level at IEP meetings, parent meetings, team meetings, etc.
So far, the process of beginning the progress monitoring has been slow. This is due to the fact that the BIMAS Universal Assessment 1 (in which all teachers complete the Universal Assessment for their students) was delayed, and just completed on November 19. The BIMAS company is responsible for uploading student data and attaching class lists to specific users (teachers). Without this upload, it is not possible to begin progress monitoring within the system, as students’ accounts are not attached to their current teachers.
Moving forward – this week – I will be distributing a “Progress Monitoring Form” to all teachers that will allow them to identify students and corresponding, discrete, behaviors for weekly tracking. Here, teachers will need to identify:
- the behavior
- the current baseline of the behavior’s occurrence (always, often, sometimes, rarely, never)
- the goal for frequency to be met by the end of the year.
As I receive these completed forms, I will input the information into the BIMAS system. Following, teachers will begin to receive weekly emails on Fridays with a link to the progress monitoring form. Completing the form for 3-5 behaviors typically takes less than a minute, and collects the data in a manner that ultimately produces graphs that include progress respective to a goal line.
My fears for this stage of the process is mainly capacity – the struggle to balance this initiative and the time-consuming data entry with the already demanding workload of my position. Further, it is imperative that my communication with teachers regarding this initiative compellingly speaks to the positive outcomes of the project in such a way that teachers elect to spend their already-stressed time to complete the “Progress Monitoring Form.”
BLOG POST #2
This past month, I traveled to New Orleans to attend the National Association of School Psychologist (NASP) annual conference. This event was a pivotal milestone in my individual behavioral progress monitoring work, as I presented to a crowd of my colleagues regarding this work.
As a first year School Psychologist, I originally did not imagine that my experience would render me qualified to present at a national conference. Yet, with the urging and support of my colleagues, I submitted a proposal regarding this project last spring. The process of submitting the proposal was one of growth for me, as it required that integrate research and best practices into my proposal, which expanded my knowledge base but also informed my practice. Further, I had to think critically about how my own practice – rooted in the Behavior Intervention Monitoring Assessment System (BIMAS), an online social-emotional universal screener with progress monitoring capabilities – could be related in a more universal manner so that all School Psychologists – including the vast majority not using this platform –would still benefit from the presentation.
The experience of attending the conference – my first – was absolutely fantastic. In addition to attending many excellent workshops, the act of presenting my work served to build my professional confidence. Whereas I once thought I was too inexperienced to offer any meaningful knowledge, I left my presentation pleased at audience comments as to the positive practical nature and thoughtfulness of my presentation. Here, I had presented my own work in a manner that I hope was both accessible and interesting. I strove to expose the work’s flaws and limitations, as it is my belief we learn from our mistakes.
Indeed, the flaws of the project have been many this year, the biggest being low teacher buy-in to the project. While I have disseminated an (in my opinion) easy to complete form to begin the progress monitoring, only a select handful of teachers have returned this form. Returning this form is a change from last year – in which I, as an intern, did all the upfront work for teachers without requiring their input.
I estimate such low participation is likely contributable to a mix of factors: (1) perception from teachers that individual behavioral progress monitoring for IEP self-regulation and school readiness goals is unnecessary (or, at the least, non-essential); (2) teacher capacity, as completing the form requires transferring language from IEPs to concrete, short behaviors and (3) my inability to “sell” the project.
Yet, emboldened by my experience presenting to my peers, I solider on – and remain steadfast that individual behavioral progress monitoring – particularly in regards to IEP self-regulation and school readiness goals is an essential and worthy practice. As I look toward the latter half of the school year, I plan to reinvigorate the process and continue to sell the project to teachers at my participating schools.
BLOG POST #3
As the school year and my professional learning grant hurtles to a close, I am left reflecting on the demands and capacity of both my position as a School Psychologist and all educators. In short, I did not meet my goals this year, as only a handful of teachers participated in my behavioral progress monitoring project.
However, before detailing the shortcomings of this project, I must acknowledge some successes — primarily the handful of participating teachers and the impact of the project on meeting best practices for data-based decision making regarding behavioral interventions. Indeed, at both of my participating schools, several teachers completed my individualized forms to systemize progress monitoring for student with IEP self-regulation goals. Such progress monitoring (see sample graph, below) allowed for data-based decision making on an individual (student) level. Such progress monitoring not only informed teachers as regard to response to their interventions, but also provided meaningful data for annual and reevaluation IEP meetings. This data was useful to me as well, as I was able to include such data in several psychological reports.
What is frustrating, then, is how essential and elemental such practice seems. If we are to report on behavior — particularly in terms of IEPs — how do we do so without meaningful data? Further, how is such data produced without an efficient system? These were the questions I sought to answer through this project, and the questions that remain.
What exists, in my opinion, is a gulf between our intentions and our capacities. As a School Psychologist, I feel that it is imperative that I educate and enable teachers to track behavioral data not only for students with IEP self-regulation goals (which should be non-negotiable) but also for students outside of the Special Education system with short-term behavioral interventions. This, indeed, in my intention — and this project was an attempt to execute that intention. Yet, I was not able to do so on the scale that I desired.
A large part of this shortcoming was entirely mine — as a first year School Psychologist, I found myself doing what I had to do (write psychological reports, and lots of them) in the short-term rather than committing to this project in the time and effort that it required. Though I had the materials and process “ready,” I was not able to follow-up with teachers in a meaningful way to truly make this project soar. Had I been able to attend more grade level team meetings or even sit down with teachers individually to complete the paperwork, this may have been different. But yet each day, week and month I found myself having to attend to other efforts, with little time to address this less pressing concern.
Inherent in this, too, is the incredible workload of our teachers. As a former teacher myself, I know the demands of running a classroom. I, too, know that presenting meaningful behavioral data is not a requirement in most IEP meetings. Thus, such a commitment too often falls to the wayside — not out of a lack of intention, but out of a lack of time.
Where am I left? With a resolve, yes, to continue this project — to find ways to become more efficient in my practice so as to be able to better champion this initiative. But also in a place of frustration: until behavioral data is truly demanded at IEP meetings, will such an initiative truly take flight? Further, if such behavioral data is required, what would be taken off the plate of our already overworked workforce?