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!

6 Reasons We Love Social Emotional Learning (And You Should Too!)

If you’ve been to a conference, spoken with colleagues, or read the news lately, you’ve probably been hearing quite a lot about Social Emotional Learning, or SEL. SEL helps students by promoting self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. If you don’t already love SEL, here are 6 reasons why you should:

  1. Students learn how to deal with complex emotions. Navigating emotions can be difficult, especially for children and teens. In fact, a child or teen commits suicide every 3 hours and 33 minutes. One of the major focuses of SEL programs is to help students successfully regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different scenarios. This helps students change their way of thinking to better manage stress, motivate themselves, and make better decisions.
  2. Teachers feel less stressed. According to a recent survey, 73% of educators report feeling stressed often at work, and 24% report feeling sometimes stressed at work. These educators also report feeling emotionally or physically exhausted at the end of the day. SEL programs can help improve student success, which certainly helps reduce educator stress. Additionally, educators can benefit from improving their own SEL skills, by learning how to manage stress, make better decisions, and communicate with others more effectively.
  3. SEL provides schools with a bullying prevention toolkit. Students who are bullied are twice as likely as their non-bullied peers to develop negative health effects. According to the CDC, defiant & disruptive behaviors are associated with engaging in bullying behavior, while poor peer relationships & low self-esteem are associated with a higher likelihood of being bullied. SEL programs help students improve their ability to empathize and take the perspective of others, respect others, negotiate conflict, and seek help when needed. SEL programs also help to increase self-confidence.
  4. Students are more employable. According to a recent report, employers are looking for employees who have strong communication skills, are self-motivated, able to solve problems independently, and work well with others. These are all skills SEL programs focus on!
  5. Students are less likely to be incarcerated. A longitudinal study found that the level of aggression exhibited by children at the age of eight is a strong predictor of criminal events over the next 22 years. With current statistics showing that a student is arrested every 31 seconds, we should all be looking at strategies to prevent conduct problems & reduce aggression in our schools. SEL programs help students develop impulse control, respect others, and make ethical decisions.
  6. School districts save money! For every dollar school districts invest in SEL interventions, there is a return of 11 dollars! An 11:1 return on investment is pretty fantastic!


Join the movement: Check out Rethink Ed’s upcoming SEL product line or join us at the 2018 Virtual Conference, Social Emotional Learning: Supporting the Whole Child.

10 SEL Skills to Prepare Children for the Future

Preparing students for the future has been the role of schools since their inception. For today this means that schools must prepare students to function with the fourth industrial revolution, a time when technology is radically changing the way we live and relate to each other. I have heard many educators say that it is impossible to prepare children for future jobs as there is no way to know what job a student in kindergarten might encounter twelve years from now. One thing that is clear is that future employment skills will require skills that students can begin to learn today.

10 skills that will be needed in 2020 according to the World Economic Forum:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with Others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgement and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

Many of these skills are encompassed into social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL is the process though which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.  Schools are embracing SEL to prepare children for the future.

Rethink Ed is committed to meeting this education need with our new SEL curriculum. With quality educational supports we can ensure all children are prepared to successfully meet current and future world expectations.

VB MAPP + Rethink Ed = Student Success!

Rethink Ed understands the importance of quality assessments in delivering effective instruction. To assist with summative evaluation, Rethink Ed has integrated the VB MAPP (Verbal Behavioral Milestones and Placement Program) into the Rethink Ed platform. This integration allows educators to complete the VB MAPP within Rethink Ed, store data in one location, and allow seamless matriculation across grade levels. Lastly, VB MAPP is fully aligned to the Rethink Ed curriculum.

VB MAPP is important for educators because it provides a baseline level of performance, a direction for intervention, a system for tracking skill acquisition, a tool for outcome measures and other language research projects, and a framework for curriculum planning. Rethink is very excited to offer this feature for 2018! Contact info@rethinked.com to learn more!

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.

Integrating Social and Emotional Learning into Everyday Instruction

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is emerging in schools throughout the country. Some states are even developing and implementing social and emotional standards. The desired outcome of SEL, children and adults who apply understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions (CASEL, 2018), is admirable. Every teacher would hope their students would achieve these outcomes during their school years. But how do teachers make this happen? What should teachers do doing the day to produce this outcome for students?

There is agreement that SEL instruction should be integrated into activities throughout the day. This might include helping students engage in relaxation activities prior to taking an exam to assist with self-management or prior to exiting onto they playground student are prompted to look around and see what they might do to include a peer who might be feeling excluded in the activities. It’s important that teachers are prepared to teach these skills and that they are systematically applied in an effective manner that supports acquisition.

To promote student’s skill developing teachers can model the social and emotional skills themselves and provide direct instruction to their students. Students can also be prompted to practice these skills to support generalization. If a student is learning calming strategies like breathing prior to an exam they might be asked to practice this skill over a weekend when something stressful happens and report back when they return to school on Monday. Or a writing prompt of empathy might be given during literacy lessons, assisting a student to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses in their application of empathy.

The responsibilities of schools have extended past just teaching academics. Students need social and emotional skills that will allow them to succeed in a world that is multi-cultural, requires collaboration and that celebrates effective communication. Educators are developing repertoires to teach social and emotional skills into their daily practice.

Seven Strategies to Make Professional Learning Effective

Teachers become teachers because they are motivated to help children learn! Every teacher can tell you that they have plenty of opportunity to hone their craft and improve their practice. For some it is learning new content to teach, for others it is developing better classroom management support, for many it is learning the new rapidly developing techniques and technologies.

However, every educator can also tell stories of the useless professional learning sessions they sat through that weren’t related to their scope of practice. Recent research shows that current professional learning practices in schools are time consuming, not budget friendly, and are ineffective. Teachers want to learn and schools are providing professional learning opportunities, the process needs to shift into effectiveness.

Here are 7 Strategies, provided by the Learning Policy Institute, to make professional learning effective and meaningful. Quality Professional Learning:

  1. Is content focused: PD that focuses on teaching strategies associated with specific curriculum content supports teacher learning within teachers’ classroom contexts. This element includes an intentional focus on discipline-specific curriculum development and pedagogies in areas such as mathematics, science, or literacy.
  2. Incorporates active learning:  Active learning engages teachers directly in designing and trying out teaching strategies, providing them an opportunity to engage in the same style of learning they are designing for their students. Such PD uses authentic artifacts, interactive activities, and other strategies to provide deeply embedded, highly contextualized professional learning. This approach moves away from traditional learning models and environments that are lecture based and have no direct connection to teachers’ classrooms and students.
  3. Supports collaboration: High-quality PD creates space for teachers to share ideas and collaborate in their learning, often in job-embedded contexts. By working collaboratively, teachers can create communities that positively change the culture and instruction of their entire grade level, department, school and/or district.
  4. Uses models of effective practice: Curricular models and modeling of instruction provide teachers with a clear vision of what best practices look like. Teachers may view models that include lesson plans, unit plans, sample student work, observations of peer teachers, and video or written cases of teaching.
  5. Provides coaching and expert support: Coaching and expert support involve the sharing of expertise about content and evidence-based practices, focused directly on teachers’ individual needs.
  6. Offers feedback and reflection: High-quality professional learning frequently provides built-in time for teachers to think about, receive input on, and make changes to their practice by facilitating reflection and soliciting feedback. Feedback and reflection both help teachers to thoughtfully move toward the expert visions of practice.
  7. Is of sustained duration: Effective PD provides teachers with adequate time to learn, practice, implement, and reflect upon new strategies that facilitate changes in their practice

Do a little self-check and ask yourself: Does your professional learning incorporate all of these practices? What could you do to move the needle on your professional learning? Every teacher wants to get better, and these strategies can make that happen!

Why we must support SEL for At-Risk Students

By Christina Cipriano, Ph.D.

Spotlight on the uninformed educator. Maybe you know one?

Who still believes in the assumption that schooling has next to nothing to do with emotions and the greater educational and social climate. Someone who is unaware of the mounting evidence from neuroscience and education that validate the role of social and emotional learning (SEL) in high quality classrooms. SEL is the key: high quality classrooms are in support of, rather than dismissal of, student emotional health. SEL is more than the foundation for student’s learning in the classroom; SEL is the brush that paints the picture of what quality instruction and learning look like.

The areas of our brain that process and regulate our emotions are inextricably tied to areas of the brain responsible for our learning and cognition. This means that when a student is angry, upset or anxious, their brain focuses its energy on how they are feeling while they are trying to attend to what they are learning. Such emotions, when unsupported and unregulated, can decrease a student’s attention to the learning processes – the ability to meaningfully attend underscores human information processing and all learning! These temporary interruptions in attention diminish a student’s ability to listen, understand, and engage in learning meaningfully alongside their peers and teachers.

But what if these interruptions happen more often than not? Some students chronically struggle with their affective responses and regulation. Underperforming students, including students with special education needs as well as students who are low-achieving, are at increased risk of emotions that can override their attention.  Unfortunately,  focusing on just academics, since their scores are low, won’t address these needs. Many students struggling in school, need support to address their social emotional health. Students with special education needs, such as those with diagnoses of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD) and Learning Disabilities (LD) can experience prolonged disruption to performance in school by their symptoms. When students are struggling and school performance is poor, they are more likely to find school and learning as a source of anxiety, manifesting in diminished self-efficacy, motivation, engagement, and connectedness with school.

Think about it. When confronted with a challenge, it may feel natural to shy away and disengage. Neurologically, tasks that are difficult, complex, and new, actually require more of our active attention to complete- it is impossible to meaningfully encode, store, and retrieve new information if you have not properly attended to it from the beginning! When learning new information, nerve impulses will sometimes travel longer and more complex pathways to make meaning of the information. This longer time requires active attention- just like the first time you ate with a fork, or rode a bike. With practice and experience, these impulses speed up and become automatic, freeing up more of our attention for more learning! However, if we are continuously overwhelmed while learning, the energy to learn and attend meaningfully can be exhausting, anxiety inducing, and demotivating.

As a result, when students are struggling and find school difficult they are less likely to pay attention even before we account for the role of their emotional processing. Unfortunately, the same students who need to attend more are also most likely to struggle with reduced attention and processing skills from the start. SEL programming specifically designed with these students in mind can help increase student availability to learn and support closing the achievement gap.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in the Classroom

By Stephanie Whitley, MEd-BCBA

What is PBIS?

Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) is a schoolwide discipline system for creating positive school environments through the use of proactive strategies that define, teach and reinforce appropriate behaviors. PBIS is based on the principles of applied behavior analysis and is a proactive approach to establishing supports that:

•Improve the social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success
•Makes challenging behavior less effective, efficient and relevant.

PBIS is the only approach addressing behavior that was mentioned in the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is interchangeable with School-wide Positive Behavior Supports.

What does PBIS look like?

PBIS focuses on a comprehensive system of positive behavior supports for all students in a school and is implemented in all areas of the school, including classroom and non-classroom settings (e.g. cafeteria, bus, restrooms, etc.).

PBIS is a tiered system of supports to improve the daily lifestyle of all by reducing the effectiveness of challenging behavior and making desired behavior more functional. Tier 1 supports are universal supports that are taught and reinforced with the whole student population. Tier 2 supports are targeted supports for students that need further explanation and reinforcement of desired behaviors. Tier 3 supports are supports provided at an individual level. This is for students that need tailored instruction and reinforcement to meet their personal learning needs.


How is PBIS implemented?

To establish the universal/Tier 1 supports, a campus committee is formed of administrators, general education teachers and special education teachers. The list of activities below are established:

1. A theme is chosen to help students and staff easily remember the rules. This theme either ties into the school mascot (e.g. PAW rules for Wildcats or Bulldogs) or follows the three “Be’s” (Be safe, Be responsible, Be respectful).

2. Each area of the school or community in which students frequent are identified. This includes cafeteria, gym, hallways, playground, buses, etc.

3. The thematic guidelines/rules are then applied to each identified area. For example, being responsible in the hallway is walking directly to and from your destination.

4. Visuals of all identified guidelines are created and posted in the locations identified.

5. A reinforcement system is established. This includes tokens to be used for when students are engaging in the desired behavior and a way for the students to redeem their tokens. For example, the Wildcats may create “Cat Cash” as a token of reinforcement. A school using the three “Be’s” may use “Honey Money.” The students are then able to use their tokens to purchase items in the school store or treasure box. Items can include school supplies, toys, homework passes, extra restroom passes and even gift cards.

6. At the beginning of the school year and right after each long break, such as winter break, students are provided instructions on each guideline in each area of the school/community. Instruction includes examples and non-examples of the expected behavior. For example, students are shown what it looks like to be responsible in the hallway (walking directly to and from destination), and what it looks like to NOT be responsible in the hallway (running or stopping to look in each window of classrooms as walking to and from destination).

7. Teachers and staff members are encouraged to look for students engaging in the appropriately identified behavior and to recognize those students by providing a token and naming the specific reason the student is receiving the token.

8. The students accumulate and redeem their tokens for a secondary reinforcer.

Modifications and Accommodations

Some students may need modifications or accommodations to fully participate in the PBS system. Students identified for Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports should be a small group of the total school’s population that need:

•More frequent reminders of the expectations
•More frequent reinforcement and/or ability to turn in their tokens more frequently for the secondary reinforcer
•Primary reinforcers paired with the token
•An individual chart to track their token economy
•A separate “store” of reinforcers that are based on the student’s individual preferences

The school-wide and Tier 2 and 3 supports should be reviewed regularly. Data should be collected to evaluate the effectiveness of the PBS program and plan. This data should be in the form of office referrals, the number of students accessing the reinforcement system, the students’ and staff’s ability to recite expectations and examples of those expectations, as well as, the number of students that are able to fade from more intensive supports to lesser intensive supports. As all data is collected, the PBIS committee should review and make necessary changes to ensure the effectiveness of the plan.

Spotlight Educator of the Month: Mrs. Annika Morris

Position: Special Education Teacher
School District: Amarillo ISD (Texas)

Annika Morris is a Special Education Teacher at Amarillo ISD. Amarillo ISD is a large district in Amarillo, Texas and has over 33,000 students and 2,200 teachers! Mrs. Morris works with students with disabilities and their parents to ensure needs are met in the classroom and the students are

Rethink Ed Resources & Lessons

prepared for life beyond school. She has been using Rethink Ed in her classroom for two years.

Rethink Ed has helped Mrs. Morris, her paraprofessionals, and students grow and succeed in the classroom. By utilizing lessons from the lesson library and quick-start data library, Mrs. Morris can create individualized lesson plans and goals. The data sheets and printed lesson plans (in one easy location) help her and the

Mrs. Morris and her team of educators!

paraprofessionals in her classroom to work together. Entering data and detailed notes in the Rethink Ed app allows for increased collaboration.

Together, Mrs. Morris and her paraprofessionals review the data and determine if the student is generalizing the skills with another teacher in another setting and can visualize how quickly the student can respond. Because the data sheets are easy to read and use, both the teachers and paraprofessionals can efficiently document when working with students.
One of her favorite outcomes of using Rethink Ed is that it has resulted in

less questions from the paraprofessionals about what they should work on and how they should document what they do. The paraprofessionals feel more successful and in turn are students are more successful!

Mrs. Morris is excited and ready to meet her 2018 Classroom goals using Rethink Ed!