PROBLEM-SOLVING TEAMS: INFORMATION FOR PARENTS AND and Publications... · A Problem-Solving Team is…

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<p>PROBLEM-SOLVING TEAMS: INFORMATION FORPARENTS AND EDUCATORS</p> <p>By Kerry A. Schwanz, PhD, &amp; C. Ben Barbour, EdSHorry County (SC) Public Schools</p> <p>The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the current reauthorization of the Individuals withDisabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandate that educators focus on supporting the academic progress ofall students through research-based instructional strategies. Further, recent calls to reform specialeducation have emphasized the importance of using problem-solving approaches to support at-riskstudents within general education.</p> <p>Unlike traditional models of refer and place, problem-solving models seek to resolve studentdifficulties within general education through the application of evidence-based interventions andsystematic monitoring of student progress. The students response to regular education interventionsthen becomes the primary determinant of need for special education referral, evaluation, and service.</p> <p>While there have been many models of problem solving at building, district, and state levels, allshare several key common features: (a) screening and assessment that emphasize skills rather thanclassification, and measuring response to instruction rather than norm-referenced comparisons, (b)evidence-based interventions within general education, and (c) collaborative consultation and/or teamefforts among general and special educators. </p> <p>This handout describes the functioning and implementation of this collaborative team in the contextof a problem-solving model. </p> <p>Definitions and TermsA Problem-Solving Team is a school-based group composed of various school personnel, such as</p> <p>teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, and administrators, who meet to provideassistance to children who are having academic or behavioral difficulties in school. The team isresponsible for implementing a problem-solving approach to identify and intervene in response tostudents needs within the arena of general education. </p> <p>Many terms have been used to refer to this Problem-Solving Team including Instructional SupportTeams, Intervention Assistance Teams, Building Level Teams, Mainstream Assistance Teams, andStudent Support Teams. Here, Problem-Solving Team will be used to encompass all such teams thathave the purpose and employ the methods described in this handout.</p> <p>Problem solving versus pre-referral. It is important to distinguish Problem-Solving Teams fromwhat are frequently termed Pre-Referral Teams. The two differ primarily in purpose and intent. AProblem-Solving Team develops valid interventions designed to resolve a students academic orbehavioral difficulty in a general education setting if possible. The emphasis in problem solving is tomeet the students needs first and produce positive learning outcomes. </p> <p>Conversely, the mind-set of Pre-Referral Teams typically is to move a child through one or moreinterventions as a prelude to a traditional psycho-educational assessment for consideration of specialeducation placement. A Pre-Referral Team is often used as a mechanism to collect all the necessaryreferral information in order to get a student evaluated. Historically, Pre-Referral Teams have beenperceived as procedural hurdles en-route to special education services rather than as vehicles forimplementing evidence-based interventions to solve student problems.</p> <p>Common Components and StrategiesThere are numerous variations of problem-solving models in schools. Generally all have three basic</p> <p>components: (a) describing and analyzing a student concern, (b) identifying potential strategies toaddress the concern, and (c) testing the selected alternative strategies by implementing them andevaluating their effectiveness. </p> <p>S3133Helping Children at Home and School II: Handouts for Families and Educators</p> <p>The distinguishing features of Problem-SolvingTeams include the following:</p> <p> Use of a systematic, problem-solving process. Focus on modifying the environment to assist</p> <p>students. Focus on assessment of what the student knows</p> <p>and can do, and not on weaknesses. Use of functional assessments that can be</p> <p>performed by teachers. Interventions that have been shown by research to</p> <p>have a high probability of success. Use of strategies to ensure that the interventions</p> <p>are implemented consistently and accurately. Use of systematic data collection and progress</p> <p>monitoring to determine the students response tothe intervention. </p> <p>Problem-Solving StepsThe nature of problem solving involves a sequence</p> <p>of steps starting with a definition of the problem andproceeding to the testing of a hypothesis and evaluatingthe outcome of any intervention. Depending on themodel used, problem solving is typically broken downinto as few as four or as many as eight steps. Regardlessof the number of steps, the general problem solvingsequence is as follows:</p> <p>Step 1: Define the problem. Team members discussthe referral information and define the concern in observ-able and measurable terms. The emphasis at this step isto break down a broad general concern such as readingdifficulty into the specific skills related to the concern,such as problems with phonemic awareness, accuracy,and fluency, or poor comprehension, thus providing amore specific and behavioral definition of the problem.Questions that need to be answered through assessmentare also generated at this step. For example, a questionto ask regarding a first grader might be, What teachingstrategy will help Derrick learn the vowel sounds?</p> <p>Step 2: Develop an assessment plan. The Problem-Solving Team identifies methods for measuring thespecific behavior or skill identified in the first step. Thismeasurement, called a baseline, identifies the pre-intervention level of performance. </p> <p>For example, if the identified problem was readingfluency, the team may decide to obtain a measure ofwords read correctly at a certain grade level in 1 minute.The reading probe (simple test from the studentscurriculum) is administered on three separateoccasions, and the median number of words per minuteis the students baseline. </p> <p>If the identified concern was behavioral, the teammay use direct classroom observations or teacher</p> <p>frequency counts (e.g., number of times student leavesseat during instruction) as the method for obtainingbaseline data. </p> <p>Step 3: Analysis of the assessment results andgoal setting. The Problem-Solving Team compares thetarget students baseline performance to an acceptablelevel of student performance. This acceptable level ofperformance or standard for comparison is often basedon a classroom or local norm that has been developedusing measures such as Curriculum-BasedMeasurement (CBM) or observations of the peer group.Based on the discrepancy between the target studentsbaseline performance and the expected or desiredperformance, goals can be set for the next phase.</p> <p>Step 4: Develop and implement the interventionplan. The Problem-Solving Team identifies interventionsthat can be implemented with the student and relevantpersonnel who are responsible for carrying out theinterventions and monitoring the students progress. Itis recommended that teams implement an interventionfor at least a 3-week period. </p> <p>Interventions have two components: (a) a modifi-cation of instruction or behavioral contingencies for thestudent targeted in the identified area of concern and(b) a progress-monitoring component to evaluate theeffectiveness of the intervention. </p> <p>Modifications in instruction or behavioralcontingenciesthe intervention plan itselfare selectedbased on identified student needs and empirically basedstrategies. For academic concerns, the progressmonitoring might involve weekly administration of thesame CBM probes that were used to obtain the targetstudents baseline, or daily records of task completion.Using measurable goals and objectives allows forgraphing of the students performance, providing avisual depiction of the students progress toward thegoal established during step three. </p> <p>In addition to specific measurement of studentperformance, the intervention plan should addresstreatment fidelity; that is, the degree to which theintervention is implemented as planned. This is criticalwhen it comes time to evaluate the plans effectiveness:If the intervention appears to be ineffective, it is criticalto determine if the intervention really failed or failed tobe implemented. </p> <p>Teams that consider necessary supports to enablean intervention to be faithfully implemented will havefew problems with treatment fidelity. For example, if apeer tutoring intervention is recommended, the teamshould consider what supports will be needed by thepeer tutors, such as scheduled time, training as tutors,parent permission, and space to work.</p> <p>S3134 Problem-Solving Teams: Information for Parents and Educators</p> <p>Step 5: Analysis of the intervention plan. TheProblem-Solving Team analyzes the target students rateof progress and the students performance relative tothe goal that was set in step 3. Several differentoutcomes can occur when analyzing the data obtainedduring the intervention phase:</p> <p>If the team determines that the student is makingsufficient progress toward the goal or has achieved thegoal as a result of the intervention plan, then they maydecide to continue the intervention plan with periodicprogress monitoring without making any changes to theplan. The continuation of progress monitoring, however,is important in order to identify any future difficultiesthe student may encounter. </p> <p>If the team decides that the student did not makeadequate progress toward the goal with the interventionplan, then they may decide to develop a different plan ormodify and add on to the one already in place. </p> <p>If the team determines that the students needs aremore than can be met in a regular education setting(after intensive intervention in the regular educationsetting and data documenting lack of growth toward thegoal despite the interventions) , then the team maydecide to refer the child to the special education team forconsideration of an evaluation of eligibility in accordancewith state and district procedures. Regardless of theprocedures and criteria used for special educationevaluations, the data gathered by the Problem-SolvingTeam will provide invaluable information to the specialeducation team regarding the students needs andresponse to intervention. </p> <p>Frequently Asked Questions About Problem-Solving Teams</p> <p>What is an intervention? An intervention is a newstrategy or modification of instruction or behaviormanagement designed to help a student (or group ofstudents) improve performance relative to a specificgoal. In the context of problem-solving models,interventions are evidence-based strategies; that is,they have been proven effective in similar situationsthrough well-designed research. Simply making achange is not really an intervention. For example,shortening assignments or moving the students deskare not really interventions, although a well-designedintervention might include such changes. An effectiveintervention is based on valid information about currentperformance and desired performance, is realistic forimplementation in the current setting, is directed towardimportant and realistic goals, and defines success inmeasurable terms.</p> <p>How is the effectiveness of an interventionmeasured? Through a problem-solving process,</p> <p>information (data) is gathered throughout theimplementation of the intervention in order to see if it isworking for the child. Teams will often use CBM tomeasure a students academic performance and charthis or her progress in response to interventions. Witholder students, progress toward goals might involve testscores, grades, tallies of completed assignments, etc.Other measurement techniques are used to measureprogress toward behavioral goals, such as directclassroom observations or frequency counts (tallies ofoccurrences of behaviors such as fights or officereferrals). Effectiveness is judged by comparing theresults of these measures with the students baselineand with the goal of the intervention.</p> <p>Are students later referred to special education?Evaluation for special education eligibility is only onepossible outcome of the problem-solving process. Thegoal of Problem-Solving Teams is to help children in thegeneral education settingand often they succeed.Research indicates that implementation of Problem-Solving Teams can significantly reduce referral tospecial education while improving student achievementand behavior. </p> <p>Are parents involved in problem-solving teams?Parent input is critical to student success in school.Many Problem-Solving Team models include parents asmembers of the team. Parent input should always besought because parents know their children best andoften have unique information and ideas to share. Theyoften can provide needed background information abouta students health and development as well as inputabout how the child acts in a variety of settings.Depending on the nature of the intervention, parentinvolvement may be crucial to its success.</p> <p>What skills and training are needed to implementproblem-solving teams? Educators and parents are notnecessarily comfortable and skillful as team memberswithout training and practice. Teaming requires goodlistening and collaboration skills, as well as a goodfoundation in the design of academic and behavioralinterventions and in the measurement of student skillsand progress. Schools seeking to implement a Problem-Solving Team process are urged to start slowly, and tostart with training in team processes and interventionstrategies. Although the team itself will mostly likely bea core group of regular and special educators, all schoolpersonnel will need to be familiar with the process to beused by their team, including how to make a referral,how to collect baseline data, and how to help collectinformation to evaluate intervention outcomes.</p> <p>S3135Helping Children at Home and School II: Handouts for Families and Educators</p> <p>ResourcesInverson, A. M. (2002) Best practices in problem-solving</p> <p>team structure and process. In A. Thomas &amp; J.Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology IV(pp. 657669). Bethesda, MD: The NationalAssociation of School Psychologists. ISBN: 0-932955-85-1.</p> <p>Tilly III, W.D. (2002). Best practices in schoolpsychology as a problem solving enterprise. In A.Thomas &amp; J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in schoolpsychology IV (pp. 2136). Bethesda, MD: TheNational Association of School Psychologists. ISBN:0-932955-85-1.</p> <p>Reschly, D. J., Tilly III, W.D., &amp; Grimes, J. P. (1999).Special education in transition: Functionalassessment and noncategorical programming.Longmont, CO: Sopris West. ISBN: 1570352275.</p> <p>Ysseldyke, J., &amp; Marston, D. (1999). Origins ofcategorical special education services in schoolsand a rationale for changing them. In D. J. Reschly,W. D. Tilly III, &amp; J. P. Grimes (Eds.), Specialeducation in transit...</p>


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