By: Brittany Miracle
Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future, places the student at the center of every student initiative, while implementing Ohio’s four learning domains:
- Foundational Knowledge and Skills;
- Well-Rounded Content;
- Leadership and Reasoning;
- Social-Emotional Learning.
Ohio’s commitment to meeting the needs of the whole child is seen in these four, equal domains. By emphasizing the need to equally support student’s social-emotional development, we are committing to developing students who are socially and self-aware; have management and relationship skills; and are responsible decision-makers. In order to develop student’s social-emotional learning, we must create safe learning environments filled with supportive adults who empower students, show empathy and believe every student can succeed.
One of Ohio’s strategies to foster caring educational communities while building the social-emotional skills of our learners is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). There is tremendous momentum in Ohio around PBIS. Each Child, Our Future, recognizes the need for a positive climate in every school to support student well-being, academic achievement and future success. Ohio is enthusiastic to continue building statewide capacity to implement PBIS.
What is PBIS?
PBIS is a schoolwide and systematic approach to improving school climate, culture, academic performance and social outcomes for all students. Locally selected interventions and systems create positive behavioral outcomes for students and safe and supportive cultures in schools. The administrators, teachers and students choose the interventions and supports that will improve behaviors and enhance the unique culture of the school.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is a way for districts and schools to develop policies and practices that define, teach and support appropriate behavior. PBIS changes mindsets about behavior and discipline. Rather than telling students what not to do, emphasis is placed on teaching students what to do.
Why is PBIS Important?
Ohio schools implementing PBIS have reduced rates of office discipline referrals, suspensions and expulsions. With these reductions, administrators and teachers have more time to focus on academic achievement. With fewer classroom behavior distractions, students spend more time engaging in academic instruction.
Students in a school implementing PBIS enhance their social, emotional and behavioral competence. Students buy into and are excited about PBIS because they are active in developing their school’s social values. They understand expected behaviors in all parts of the school by consistently receiving recognition for positive actions and experiencing predictable consequences for problem behaviors. Students lead by example with a common language for communication, collaboration, problem-solving and conflict resolution.
Educators develop positive, predictable and safe environments that promote strong relationships with their students. School staff prompt, model and acknowledge positive student behavior by setting consistent expectations in all parts of the school. Constructive support on problem behaviors and reinforcement of positive behaviors reduces the likelihood of reoccurring problem behaviors. Educators have more time for instruction and to support social, emotional and behavioral development of their students.
How is Ohio Supporting PBIS?
Ohio’s efforts to expand PBIS to all districts in the state have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Ohio has been awarded two sequential, five-year School Climate Transformation Grants. Ohio plans to provide 1,000 training events and PBIS technical assistance to 15,000 school staff during the next five years. Ohio’s PBIS work is supported by the PBIS Network. The PBIS Network is composed of members from the 16 state support teams and staff from the Ohio Department of Education. The PBIS Network develops PBIS training events, resources and support materials for statewide use. Visit the Ohio Department of Education’s Creating Caring Communities webpage to learn more about Ohio’s efforts to expand PBIS.
Ohio recently enacted the Supporting Alternatives for Fair Education (SAFE) Act, House Bill 318. It is one of the strongest state laws in the country to attempt to reduce disciplinary referrals, especially for prekindergarten through grade 3 students. This bill strengthens requirements and supports for school districts to implement PBIS, social-emotional learning supports and trauma-informed practices. The new legislative mandates allow the Department to encourage greater use of PBIS. Ohio’s Creating Caring Communities webpage helps schools and districts understand how the HB 318 requirements can benefit Ohio’s students.
Ohio celebrates the success of schools and districts with the annual PBIS Showcase. Great PBIS programs are highlighted at this event with gold, silver and bronze awards. Schools are invited to host learning sessions at the PBIS Showcase to share information about their best practices, successes and teachable moments while implementing PBIS. Visit this webpage to learn about the process for becoming a gold, silver or bronze PBIS award school or to see a list of last years winners.
If you want to learn more about PBIS or share your story with us, please reach out to the Office of Integrated Student Supports by email to PBISOhio@education.ohio.gov or call (614) 466-7956.
Brittany Miracle works in the Office of Integrated Student Supports. She oversees programs that support vulnerable student populations and helps schools meet the needs of the whole child. You can learn more about Brittany by clicking here.
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By: Virginia Ressa
Editor’s Note: Last week, the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) wrote a guest blog about Autism acceptance and shared resources for promoting acceptance. In addition to those resources, OCALI’s premier event, OCALICON, offers nationwide attendees a space to exchange ideas about policies and practices related to people with autism and disabilities. In November, Virginia Ressa wrote about her first experience at OCALICON, and we think this is the perfect time to share her story again.
I always enjoy going to conferences. Spending time with colleagues, discussing content and pedagogy issues and debating the latest concerns always renews my commitment to education. As a social studies teacher, I looked forward to the Ohio Council for the Social Studies conference every year. I looked forward to having lunch with old friends and talking about our shared struggle of making ancient history interesting to seventh-graders. I really enjoyed participating in this conference and similar conferences, like the Ohio Council for Law-Related Education’s Law and Citizenship Conference, each year. I knew people and was comfortable in those settings. But, looking back, I wonder if I was really learning anything new. I heard updates from the Ohio Department of Education, learned about new resources and maybe picked up some ideas on how to teach certain topics. There was a great deal of value in the renewal and re-energization those conferences provided, but was I really stretching myself? Did these conferences really challenge me to grow professionally?
My last blog post was about attending the Future Ready Ohio conference. I chose to write about that conference because I got so much out of it. Maybe it was because the content was new to me, and I didn’t know what to expect. I ventured out of my comfort zone and, as you might expect, I learned a great deal. This month, I attended all three days of OCALICON. Do you know about OCALICON? Some quick background: Here in Ohio, we are lucky to have a nationally recognized organization that works to improve achievement for students with disabilities. OCALI (formerly known as the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence) holds an annual conference that attracts more than 2,000 participants from across the country and even internationally. Since 2007, participants have come from all 50 states and 17 countries.
This year, the Department’s Office for Exceptional Children partnered with OCALI to hold its Special Education Leadership Institute in conjunction with OCALICON. It was a great pairing and allowed Ohio’s attendees to participate in some Ohio-specific events and access all OCALICON’s rich content. Participation was up to about 2,900 attendees! I was one of the new attendees, and I felt the mild tension of being in new territory.
When I was a content area teacher, OCALICON wasn’t on my radar. None of the special education conferences were. Yet, all my classes included students with disabilities. I had their individualized education programs (IEPs) and knew what kinds of accommodations I was supposed to make. That seemed like enough. I never realized how little I knew about students with different disabilities and how to support them in accessing grade-level content. By attending conferences only related to my content area, I was limiting my learning and my ability to improve my practice and meet the needs of all the learners in my classroom. At OCALICON, I found myself outside of my comfort zone — and it was great. There were a few familiar faces and session topics, but most were new to me.
Of this year’s 2,900 attendees, only 60 were general education teachers. This number grew slightly from last year’s 38. Still, the majority of attendees are special education teachers or intervention specialists and special education directors. I’m beginning to think we are approaching conferences in the wrong way. I’m a social studies teacher and know a lot about history because it is something I’m interested in. I read books and watch movies about history all the time. What I don’t know enough about is how to support students with multiple disabilities. What I don’t know enough about is how to use technology to provide students with intellectual disabilities access to grade-level content. About 80 percent of our students with disabilities can, with accommodations, access grade-level content. This would be much more doable if our intervention specialists were not the only ones who knew how to do it.
So, what have I learned? I’ve learned I should attend conferences that focus on content I don’t know a lot about. This is one of those “aha!” moments when I realize I’ve been looking at something the wrong way for years. I wouldn’t sign up for a course on something I already know, so why keep going to the same conferences? I know our content area conferences are valuable for networking and refueling, but I would argue that attending conferences outside of our comfort zones has a great deal of benefit as well. Conversely, for special education teachers and intervention specialists, that would mean attending a few social studies and mathematics conferences.
My challenge to you is to open your mind to a new, authentic learning experience by finding and attending a different kind of conference this year. For instance, you might consider attending the next Ohio Council for Exceptional Children conference. Without a doubt, you also will want to save the date for OCALICON 2019.
Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.
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