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This practical book provides an in-depth look at specific behaviors and the strategies employed for addressing each behavior. This revision places school-based interventions in the context of positive behavioral support, a view embraced by practitioners and supported by research. It continues to promote collaboration between other agencies and families, along with better coordination of treatment options to create effective services and intervention in education.
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Mary Margaret Kerr received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Duke University and her doctorate from The American University in Washington, DC. Trained in special education and developmental psychology, Dr. Kerr has devoted her career to working with troubled children and adolescents and to teaching those who help them. The author of six textbooks and many articles, she has taught in special education and alternative education classrooms and continues to consult with school districts across the country. A former faculty member at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Kerr joined the faculty of the School of Medicine and the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh in 1980.
In 1989, Dr. Kerr joined the Pittsburgh City Schools as Director of Pupil Services, where she administered services such as guidance, counseling, social work, drug-free schools, alternative education, health services, school security, and discipline. In 1994, she returned to her faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is Educational Director and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Education. She also directs outreach services for the University's youth suicide and violence prevention center, STAR-Center. This center provides crisis response services, training, and consultation to school districts and communities across Pennsylvania.
In 1996 Dr. Kerr was appointed by the United States Court for the Central District of California as a Consent Decree Administrator for Los Angeles Unified School District. In this capacity, Dr. Kerr works with educators and parents to improve services for 81,000 students with disabilities.
When Dr. Kerr is not at work in Pittsburgh or Los Angeles, she is at home with her husband Bruce and their two children.
C. Michael Nelson began his special education career as a teacher of adolescents with learning and behavior disorders. After earning a master's degree in school psychology, he worked as a child psychologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He received his Ed.D. from the University of Kansas in 1969 and took a position with the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Kentucky, where he currently is a full professor and coordinates the graduate Personnel Preparation Program for Teachers of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities. Dr. Nelson has authored or edited over 100 professional publications, including books, textbook chapters, articles in referred journals, and multimedia instructional packages. He has prepared teachers of children and youth with behavior disorders at the pre- and in-service levels and has served as principal investigator on a number of research and personnel preparation grants. He has served as president of the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders. Currently, he is involved in two national centers that promote research and best practices for students with or at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders: the Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, and the Center for Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice. He also is associated with the Kentucky Center for School Safety.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
In our preface to the third edition of this text, we observed that public and professional concerns about students with challenging behavior had increased alarmingly. Fueled by press coverage of recent acts of school violence, this trend has accelerated. America's schools are facing a crisis with regard to finding more effective ways to deal with students who exhibit challenging behavior, including those who bring weapons to school, assault other students and teachers, exhibit defiant and disruptive behaviors, and commit acts of vandalism. The strategies traditionally used to address such problems, including punishment and school exclusion, have not been effective. Policies of "zero tolerance" for misbehavior have resulted in large numbers of students, even preschoolers, being suspended and expelled, or placed in alternative programs, often without services to address their complex behavioral and emotional needs.
At the same time, national reports continue to indicate that special education programs for the segment of the school population identified as having emotional disturbance (ED) or emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD) have not been effective. These students include children and youth with internalizing disorders (social withdrawal, psychological problems, and psychiatric disorders) in addition to those with externalizing disorders such as those mentioned above. This student population remains chronically underidentified and underserved in the public schools, and identified students are educated in the most restrictive settings and experience the lowest rates of planned inclusion. Status and outcome reports document poor academic achievement, high rates of grade retention, the lowest rate of high school graduation of any group of students with disabilities, and extremely poor post-school adjustment.
These issues continue to prevail in spite of the articulation of national educational policies and goals that focus more than ever on recognizing and addressing the mental health needs of children (i.e., Education 2000). Educational reform has been a major agenda in many states. Unfortunately, with regard to student behavior, most reform efforts continue to emphasize harsh and reactive punishment, applied piecemeal and too late. Excluding students with undesired behavior from schools only transfers the problem to other child-serving agencies, such as those in the fields of mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice. These systems likewise are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of children needing services, as well as by their own set of poor outcomes (e.g., high rates of psychiatric hospitalization, out-of-home placement, and incarceration). Moreover, the cost of treatment in these systems is enormously more expensive than public education (e.g., between $35,000 and $60,000 a year to incarcerate one juvenile), and these expenses are borne by taxpayers, not the youths' parents. Professionals in all of these disciplines are recognizing that EBD is a severe disability that often cannot be adequately addressed within a single system or in one location. Accordingly, in many parts of the country, system-of-care initiatives have been developed to provide comprehensive and coordinated services to these children and their families in their local communities. Evaluation reports indicate that it is possible to meet the diverse and complex needs of these children and their families without resorting to expensive programs that remove the child and attempt to treat him or her out of the context of the natural environment. However, even within these systems of care, services often are applied well after the child's and family's needs have reached crisis proportions.
Fortunately, the initiatives directed toward student behavior that we cited in the third edition have continued to evolve and have been augmented by more recent advances. A national movement to improve school safety through positive and proactive measures has been gaining momentum through the creation of state and national centers for school safety and publication of strategic documents such as Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools (Dwyer, Osher, & Warger, 1998) and Safeguarding Our Children: An Action Guide (Dwyer & Osher, 2000). The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) include, for the first time, requirements that schools conduct functional behavioral assessments of students with disabilities whose challenging behavior causes staff to consider a change in placement, including alternative placement, suspension, or exclusion. These assessments provide the basis for proactive behavior intervention plans. Changes also are taking place in the way behavior intervention plans are formed and implemented. Indicative of a shift in attitude and approach to dealing with challenging student behavior is the recent practice of referring to intervention plans as behavior support plans. This approach, referred to as positive behavior support, began in research involving individuals with developmental disabilities who exhibit challenging behavior. Its focus is on teaching students new, appropriate skills that are more effective than their old, undesired behaviors in achieving such desired outcomes as gaining attention and escaping or avoiding undesired events. Recently, this research has been extended to students with little or no cognitive impairment. The result is a growing intervention technology that employs information gathered from functional behavior assessments to build interventions that teach and support adaptive behaviors rather than simply responding to maladaptive or undesired behaviors with aversive stimuli.
The philosophy and practice of positive behavior support has been extended to school-wide planning as well. School-wide discipline systems that are based on establishing clear sets of behavioral expectations, teaching these expectations to students, and rewarding them for their success, have begun to replace old systems based exclusively on punishment. Evaluations of these positive approaches to school discipline provide convincing evidence of their impact on school climate and student behavior. Moreover, behavioral researchers have articulated tiered models of positive behavior support, based on the concept of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. These models serve as guides to practitioners in making decisions regarding when, and to whom, to apply more intensive levels of intervention. Thus, primary prevention attempts to prevent initial occurrences of a problem (e.g., challenging student behavior) through universal interventions apply to all students. School-wide discipline is an example of universal intervention. Secondary prevention addresses students who are at risk for developing chronic patterns of disruptive or dangerous behavior or emotional disorders. It is applied through targeted interventions—systematic strategies that are individualized or used with small groups. Tertiary interventions address students who exhibit chronic patterns of behavior or conditions such as EBD. These intensive interventions may involve alternative placement or multiagency planning and implementation.
By tracking students' responses to each level of intervention, educators can determine when more intensive interventions are needed for which students. Monitoring student response to each level of intervention thus serves as a convenient screening tool: Students who do not benefit from universal interventions are candidates for secondary prevention activities, and those who fail to succeed when targeted interventions are applied may be in need of tertiary prevention strategies. The theme of positive behavior support runs across all three levels, in that the major focus of intervention is on teaching the student appropriate skills that will meet his or her needs more effectively than do the problem behaviors.
Another set of advances involves the use of technology in providing training and support for professionals who serve students with challenging behavior. Dozens of World Wide Web sites provide information and access to resources with regard to effective academic instruction, assessments and interventions for undesired student behavior, and improving school safety. Interactive, multimedia training modules (even entire courses) are available in CD-ROM and Web-based formats. These innovations, in addition to distance education courses, are increasing professionals' access to training in effective practices for students with challenging behavior. Thanks to online linkages, professionals now have greater access to another important resource—each other. Collaborative approaches to intervention planning and implementation, including wraparound planning and collaborative teaching in general education classrooms, also have improved the support base for persons who work with the full range of student behavior, from strategies that prevent or minimize initial occurrences of problem behaviors to intensive interventions for some of the most challenging pupils. As educators have become more involved in transdisciplinary systems of care for this population, their collaboration with other providers and with families has increased, which has resulted in improved support for both the student and the classroom teacher.
Finally, attention is being directed to the critical need to deliver more effective academic instruction to students with EBD. Researchers have documented the lack of effective instructional practices with this student population, and leaders in the field are calling for a focus on improving the appropriateness of curriculum and students' rates of correct academic responding. This emphasis fits well with the inclusion of direct instruction and reinforcement of appropriate social skills to replace undesired behaviors targeted for reduction in behavior support plans.
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