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Screening tools identify students with social, behavioral challenges

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

LAWRENCE — Teachers are trained to identify students who struggle academically. But it’s not always as easy to identify those who may struggle socially or behaviorally. A University of Kansas researcher is developing systems to support schools in implementing screening tools to look for students who might benefit from additional support academically, behaviorally and/or socially with the use of evidence-based strategies and practices.

Kathleen Lane, professor of special education and co-director of the Center for Research on Learning at KU, works with schools across Kansas and the nation to design, implement and evaluate Comprehensive Integrated Three-Tiered Models of Intervention, or CI3Ts. The CI3T model contains primary, Tier 1 for all; secondary, Tier 2 for some; and tertiary, Tier 3 for a few, levels of prevention designed to fit each school’s unique aspects. The integrated model offers a data-driven, graduated system of support to assist all students in the school, regardless of its size, from preschool through high school. The ultimate goal is to empower teachers to gather the information they need to form instruction, recognizing which students need help in which areas and provide that help.

“If I’m a student I might be doing just fine in learning to read but struggling with getting along with other kids on the playground,” Lane said. “Or perhaps I’m doing fine academically and don’t have behavioral issues, but struggle socially or have some combination that impacts my learning.”

Many schools have staff members dedicated to helping students who struggle in the classroom, socially or behaviorally, but other teachers and staff at those schools may not have the same training. The CI3Ts are designed to prevent silos and give teachers and staff throughout the school the skills to recognize and help students.

Lane recently received a grant from KU to launch Project Empower, a program to learn about some components of CI3T models in Kansas schools. Along with colleagues Wendy Oakes, assistant professor at Arizona State University; and Robin Ennis, assistant professor at Clemson University, Lane not only helps schools develop some initial understanding of CI3T systems, but she raises awareness of the importance of detecting and supporting students with behavioral and social struggles in an effort to ensure all students have an optimal experience in school. The program is similar to work Lane has done in schools throughout the nation.

The systems also make teachers and faculty aware of interventions and practices that have been proven effective at helping students.

“It allows you to systematically look at every student in the school and helps recognize how a school is doing as a whole,” Lane said of the CI3Ts. “It’s about a system-level change using evidence-based practices.”

CI3Ts models can assist school-site leadership teams in determining where schools are doing well in regards of helping students and builds upon that base with improvements and new practices every teacher can use.

“We want to empower teachers to meet students’ multiple needs: academically, behaviorally and socially, using information on behavioral and social performance to inform instructional programming,” Lane said.

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