George Lucas Educational Foundation

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P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School

Grades K-12 | Gainesville, FL

Supporting Behavioral Needs: A Multi-Tiered Approach

At P.K. Yonge, a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is used to meet every student's academic and behavioral needs. 
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Supporting Behavioral Needs: A Multi-Tiered Approach (Transcript)

Lynda: If students aren't comfortable with who they are, or with their behaviors in school, if they're not succeeding in those kinds of ways, then they're not going to succeed academically.

Ritzy: If the child is not behaving, there's a need not being met. My biggest goal is to make sure they're getting what they need.

Ritzy: Do you ever have to make a decision? Do you know what a decision is?

Ashley: The approach for Social-Emotional Learning within the Tier System mirrors our approach to learning in the academic system.

Ritzy: Just like for reading, and just like for math, you need a solid core for behavior, for expectation, common language.

Ritzy: That's right! The difference between conflict and bullying. Anybody remember what the differences are?

Lynda: The core instruction for Social-Emotional in elementary, a big part of that is during morning meetings every day. That's the way that the school day starts.

Ashley: You greet each other. You get to share what's happened in your life.

Teacher: Put your thumb on your knee when you know what you want to share.

Ashley: Our core instruction is Second Step. And that's a program that ranges from lessons about friendship to conflict resolution. And typically that happens once a week during morning meeting, or that could happen during their whole learning community meeting on Wednesday mornings.

Ritzy: Is bullying something that happened one time, or is it repeated?

Students: Repeated!

Ritzy: Is there even power, or uneven power?

Students: Uneven power!

Ashley: Then just like Academic Tiered instruction, some students need a little bit more. Typically that Tier 2 instruction comes from a guidance counselor, usually within a group setting.

Ritzy: I group them by need, not necessarily by grade. We have friendship groups. Some students, they don't know how to initiate a friendship. I have a grief group of children who have lost a loved one. I have a group for self-regulation. So they're getting strategies on what to do with their emotions when their emotions become very strong.

Ritzy: Do you ever have to make a really hard decision because you're so angry you don't know what to do?

Student: Yeah.

Ritzy: Yeah. I'm going to teach you today something that is going to help you relax. Okay, here we go. Gently close your eyes, and take deep breaths.

So the strategy was to give them a sense of calmness. Go to their happy place. Use that self-talk.

Go on the cloud in your mind, and feel how soft and comfortable it is.

I find that sometimes pulling them out is not necessarily the answer. Pushing-in is something that they started doing more so in the last three years But I wanted to transfer some of the skills that we learn in my office to my classroom.

If you can get them to do that enough times, they're going to feel that success in the classroom. They're going to feel successful learning.

Ashley: Some students need more intensive support, and so then they would usually meet with the guidance counselor in Tier 3, more one-on-one.

Ritzy: For instance, a child is bullying other children. That child wouldn't be in Tier 2. Most children that are doing bullying have very specific needs, so you would have that child meet with me individually. I usually work really closely with School Psych. The trajectory or the need may be an evaluation. Then they're more likely to get involved with that child.

Will you let me know right away, so that way I can pull him in, because he did really well when we put him on that behavior plan last year.

Ashley: Our student success team meets every four-and-a-half weeks. And we talk through what types of support the kids need.

Lynda: There are many people around the table. The classroom teachers are there. The learning community leader, school counseling is there. Somebody from school psychology is there, an administrator is there.

Ritzy: Decisions are made of all of us as a group. So it's not like the teacher says, "Okay, I want them in Tier 2. Put them in there."

Teacher: It happens every time. Helping him see the pattern of the people that he sits with and the pattern of arguments and frustration that he has. Because I think it's frustrating for him, too. I honestly don't think that he really recognizes that pattern.

Ritzy: Is he-- and I know that at one point Peter was refusing to take his medication.

Based on his behavior he is.

I would say, he seems like, yes.

I would say he seems like yes.

Because it's very noticeable.

No, I just put in that Ritzy's is going to continue to work with Peter on these issues, but also working with Mom.

Ritzy: Quantifying their progress is what sets up a challenge. Because how do you quantify self-esteem? I usually do some form of evaluation that I know that the child is understanding the message, or the skill that they're trying to practice. Usually there is observations, pre and post-teacher input gives me data. Parent input. I use rating skills that give me information, but not necessarily scientifically coded information. We go back and every nine weeks at the SSTs I ask do they still need my services? So if this child has made enough progress, we remove them. I may do a check-in, I may do a follow-up, but it all depends at the need of every specific student. I want to make sure that every child that walks through those doors is treated in a way that's with respect and love and kindness. And I want to treat every child like I would want my own to be treated.

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Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is an umbrella framework that includes Response to Intervention (RTI) and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) frameworks. 

P.K. Yonge uses this tiered system, where every student receives core instruction, known as Tier One. Some students need supplemental instruction, which is referred to as Tier Two, and a small cohort of students receive the most intensive intervention and supports, known as Tier Three. This tiered system is used for academic supports as well as behavioral. 

"If a child is not behaving there’s a need not being met, and that’s the premise I always go on."

- Ritzy Ettinger, Guidance Counselor, P.K. Yonge

The school worked to create a core culture of what students and teachers should expect for student behavior. There was a need for a consistent language and way of treating one another. Addressing students’ social and emotional needs gives all students the opportunity to thrive and succeed in school.

These behavioral supports are integrated with academic supports in the MTSS framework. See how this school provides academic support for every student.


How It's Done

Student Success Team

The Student Success Team (SST) makes all decisions about tiered support. The team is made up of the K-12 MTSS Support Specialist, the Learning Community leader, all of the core teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, speech and language pathologists and sometimes occupational therapists. Additional people are brought in on an as-needed basis, and parents are informed and consulted on all decisions. The SST meets every four and a half weeks across K-12.

Quantifying Progress

Quantifying a child’s progress when it comes to social and emotional needs presents a challenge. Checking in on students’ progress involves several elements, including:

  • The Guidance Counselor asking teachers at SST meetings whether they think the child has made progress
  • Doing pre- and post- observations around the specific behavior
  • Getting input from teachers and parents
  • Creating rating scales with the School Psychologist that may give some input on how the child is doing.  

None of the assessments are exclusive, but used together they can give a better picture of how the intervention is helping a student, or whether additional support is needed.  

Tier 1: Core Instruction

All K-5 students receive Tier 1, or core instruction, for social and emotional learning. Every morning teachers have a morning meeting with their group of students. During morning meeting, teachers do a go-around check-in with students, use a common and consistent language around behavior, and address any classroom issues. In addition, every Wednesday morning, the whole learning community (two grades combined, K-1, 2-3, 4-5) has a large morning meeting where a specific topic, such as bullying, conflict resolution, or friendship is focused on.   

Teachers use the Second Step curriculum, which helps teachers instill social and emotional skills with elementary age students through stories, lessons, and activities. 

Tier 2: Groups  

For Tier 2 support, students are identified in the SST meetings that happen every 4.5 weeks. Tier 2 groups typically consist of 2-4 students, grouped by a common need/topic rather than by grade. Groups can be focused on friendship, divorce, grief, testing anxiety, body issues, etc. Students are pulled out during their lunchtime, not during academic subjects such as reading or math.   

Tier 3: One-on-One Time

If students have been in Tier 2 for more than 9 weeks, they can be moved to Tier 3 support.  Tier 3 is primarily one-on-one time with the Guidance Counselor.  This is done through both pushing-in to the classroom and pulling students out during lunch time or an elective.  If a student is working on a particular skill with the counselor in her office, then it makes sense for her to work with the student in the classroom.  As P.K. Yonge’s Guidance Counselor, Ritzy Ettinger, says, “Those kids that I’m pushing in with I also pull them out.  We practice some of those skills and then I go in and I help them in the classroom.”  If a student can do something successfully in the Guidance Counselor’s office, then they can try to do that in the classroom with the Guidance Counselor’s support, and ultimately this can lead to doing the successful behavior in the classroom on their own. This way the skills they work on in the Guidance Counselor’s office can also be realized in the classroom.

In a one-on-one session, students will work with the Guidance Counselor on different exercises and activities.  They will also rate themselves on where they are at around a particular skill.  There will be a series of pre- and post- check-ins with students along the way, some kind of evaluation that the student participates in so the Guidance Counselor knows that the student is understanding the message or the skill they are practicing.  

Reducing Stigma

One of the things P.K. Yonge has worked hard on is to reduce the labeling and stigmatism that can go with being identified as a student who needs more support. Some of that normalizing and making it safe comes from the ways in which they try to balance "pushing-in" and "pulling-out."  

Another strategy has been a 'lunch bunch' group. According to Ashley Pennypacker Hill, MTSS Support Specialist, they ask a child to lunch. She asks, "Are there some people that you would like to join you? Are there two friends that you would like to join you so we can talk about friendship and you could practice some of your friendship making strategies with these two friends?" Often they then bring two friends to lunch. "They're receiving Tier 2 support and they don't even know it. They just think that they're getting to have lunch with the guidance counselor, talking with their friends."

The Guidance Counselor also has a central location and open door policy in the school, so students always feel welcome to stop in and ask a question or get support, anything from getting a safety pin for their clothes to talking about something difficult that happened to them.  P.K. Yonge strives to create a culture of support and safety, making it seamless and normal for all students.  


Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Alissa Casey's picture

"If a child is not behaving there's a need not being met, and that's the premise I always go on." I love this quote from Ritzy Ettinger, the guidance counselor featured in this video. As both a teacher and a parent, I know how easy it is to become frustrated with the disruptions and derailments a misbehaving child creates. Unless a child's social and emotional needs are being met, however, all my best academic instruction is not going to be worth much. This is simple to understand, and equally simple to forget. I really like the systematic approach to meeting each child's social/emotional needs, and I like how social/emotional learning is given equal priority with academic content. This is the key to helping students achieve true success as happy human beings. Happy is often underrated these days. I'm big on happy.

misstbeck's picture

I am currently a student in education and in my time in the classroom already I know that students need to be happy in order to learn, which often times means they need a little extra help social/emotionally especially at a young age. They also need to have their social/emotional needs met, this is one aspect of the classroom I strive to focus on going into my student teaching. I am a big advocate for students who might need to do something a little different, or those who need a little bit more time to understand and comprehend a new skill or lesson. Those specifically who have other social and emotional needs than others. The quote, "If a child is not behaving there's a need not being met, and that's the premise I always go on." is great. I really agree with that and understand it.

Caitlin Hogan's picture

I find this RTI/PBIS combination absolutely wonderful. I'm currently a preservice teacher and I'm hoping to work with the EBD population someday and seeing this specific, supportive system is awesome. I love that all students are learning coping mechanisms and participating in social emotional learning. If students are not comfortable or happy in the classroom, their learning will be compromised; showing students how to acknowledge their feelings are great. I really liked when Ritzy said that the students who bully are lacking a need that needs to be met. That is such a productive and positive way to look at a child who may be bullying their peers. This video was super informative and I hope to engage in the MTSS someday!

RCrawford's picture

This approach sounds very promising. The school I work in is going through a transformative stage currently with a new administration and several new staff members. one of the biggest initiatives is to improve the overall climate of the school with regards to respect and behavior. In the past, discipline has been practiced arbitrarily and inconsistently. As someone who works with children with emotional and behavioral disorders within an inclusion setting, I see how much of a trigger this lack of structure and clear expectations can be. We are discussing the implementation of a positive behavior system (PBIS) at our school right now, and I will definitely be sharing this example of a successful implementation with my colleagues. Thanks!

dianastell1's picture

I was perusing your website/blog and love your informative and entertaining content. I just got done reading a new compilation of children's poetry called
(DOZY POEMS, COZY DAYS) which is especially geared toward calming children, whether just the active young child or toddler, or the challenged youth with perhaps ADD, ADHD or autistic tendencies
parents and teachers as possible to aid in the soothing and care-taking of our young generation.

JWendland's picture

Wow! I loved this video! I work at a high poverty school and we have a ton of behavior issues. I wish more than anything that we had the support staff to accomplish these same things. The one thing my school desperately needs is a full time counselor. We have one for the district and that means my school only gets serviced a couple hours a week. There for our tough cases we have are not getting their needs met at all. There is only so much we can do as classroom teachers. I loved your quote about misbehavior being the result of not getting needs met. Thank you so much for this great video!!

JWendland's picture

I think that is amazing that your school is going through this trasformative stage! Your school sounds similar to time before your transformation. Do you have the staff to take on the tierd process like the video has? That's what mine is lacking and I'm not sure how to accomplish the same goals without the necessary staff.

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