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PositiveBehavioral Support
Research Connections
Winter 1999

State Perspectives

Teleconference on Positive Behavioral Support

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) is hosting a teleconference series on PBS. For more information, contact NASDSE, 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 320, Alexandria, VA 22314;703-519-3800 (voice), 703-519-7008 (TDD).


States are playing an important role in ensuring that practitioners have research-based information on PBS. Martha Fields, Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, points out that "PBS requires schools to put into place proactive structures that prevent unwanted behaviors and encourage positive ones, while being respectful to children and families."

States face a major staff development challenge in familiarizing all school-based personnel with information about effective approaches. Kentucky and Colorado provide examples of how states are supporting practitioners.

Using Technology to Disseminate Information

"It may seem unusual for a state department of special education to be focused on discipline, but in Kentucky we believe that the stronger educators are in addressing behavior, the better they will be in educating students with challenging behaviors, and when educators feel more competent we see increased opportunities to integrate youngsters with challenging behaviors into more normalized settings," explains Mike Waford, behavior consultant in the Division of Exceptional Children's Services, Kentucky Department of Education. "One of our priorities at the state level is to train schools in effective behavioral support strategies and schoolwide discipline approaches." One of the approaches being undertaken is the use of technology to disseminate information.

C. Michael Nelson and Terry Scott, faculty at the University of Kentucky, are directing the technology initiative. "The first thing we did was set up a web site where practitioners can get current information, such as resources, ideas, strategies, links to other resources, and discussion groups." The web site is at www.state.ky.us/agencies/behave/homepage.html. 

In addition, Nelson, Scott, and their colleagues are developing an interactive CD-ROM on functional behavioral assessment. "The goal is to have a copy of the CD-ROM program in every school district in Kentucky," Nelson tells us. The CD-ROM program, which may also be delivered via the web site, has the following components: Overview of the process. Functional assessment tutorial. Case studies that allow users to practice conducting a functional assessment.

As an added feature, the software collects users' responses so that they can be downloaded and sent to instructors. "This type of professional support can be delivered to practitioners without their having to travel," Nelson points out.

Colorado Continues 1978 Initiative

Twenty years ago, the State Department of Education in Colorado began identifying effective programming components for students with challenging behaviors. According to Kay Cessna, "By 1988 we realized that we didn't need new alternative programs or more disciplinary procedures for children with challenging behaviors. Rather, we needed to provide all students with strategies for developing positive alternative behaviors and teachers with instructional strategies to support positive behaviors."

The state collaborated with University of Washington researcher, Richard Neel, and six school districts to find a solution. The result was a model for providing behavioral instruction. According to Cessna, the model was based on the following assumptions:

  • A meaningful behavioral curriculum is determined by the student and discovered by the professional through a functional assessment.

  • The focus of instruction is on teaching students acceptable ways to reach those outcomes.

As part of the approach, educators look for behavioral intent. Cessna describes a key strategy, "We ask educators, 'what is the student after?' and then follow it with the question, 'if that is true, then how could you teach the child another way to get it?'" According to Jackie Borock, Behavior Disorders Consultant, Colorado Department of Education, teachers "like the approach because it has face validity and is easy to implement."

The state has conducted a number of implementation activities, including publication of Instructionally Differentiated Programming. The booklet, which was disseminated to all Colorado school districts, describes the model and strategies. It is available from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (1.800.443.ERIC).  (no longer available) Ask for ED 366 154.

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