How to implement ‘cascade’ of support during pandemic

Positive behavioral interventions and supports can create positive, predictable, and safe online learning environments
By: | February 8, 2021
Teacher can create supportive online learning environment by providing students with positive feedback.Teacher can create supportive online learning environment by providing students with positive feedback.

Every level of education has experienced stressors this school year, said Brandi Simonsen, professor of special education and co-director of the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

“The importance of district support for schools and state support for districts—that entire cascade needs to be aligned and supported,” she said. “At each level, there needs to be open communication, a feedback loop, support, and opportunities to learn together and celebrate what’s working.”

The higher up you can build in supports, the less that falls to the school and the teacher level, she said.

By implementing positive behavioral interventions and supports during remote instruction, educators create positive, predictable, and safe learning environments where they can teach students social, emotional, and behavioral skills.


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“These supports are important for all students, but they are critical for students with disabilities,” Simonsen said.

Here are some ideas of how to offer and receive support at different levels this school year.

States to districts

Share ideas. In the guide, “Returning to School During and After Crisis,” the Center on PBIS encourages states to share examples of how districts throughout the state are supporting a multi-tiered system of supports in remote and hybrid learning.

“Highlight local district- or school-based examples of educators effectively supporting students, including effective implementation of key practices during in-person and remote instruction, integration and alignment of support, and using data to drive decisions,” the guide suggests.

Districts to schools

Offer PBIS training. “We have a district leadership team that gets together monthly,” said Paula Raigoza, PBSIS project coordinator and professional developer for Clifton Public Schools in New Jersey. “In talking about the cascade of implementation, it really is so clear in our district, because it starts there.”

The district leadership team includes administrators, teachers, and even a parent. Raigoza, who previously worked on PBIS at the state level, explained that they provided the district leadership team two one-hour information training sessions and technical assistance as needed.

From there, the next level down gets trained. For example, when the district rolled out its virtual recognition system to use in remote learning, the district leadership team was trained first, then that team trained the administrators, who then trained the teaching staff, she said.

Schools to teachers

Celebrate successes. Think about staff morale and wellness, Simonsen said. Since March, many teachers have had to shift to remote or hybrid learning. “They both live and work at home,” she said. “Teachers are rising to the occasion, but it’s creating a lot of demands on them. It’s taxing.”

Along with creating opportunities for staff to be connected and to get the training, support, and resources they need to be successful, districts should also champion teacher successes, Simonsen said.


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“An important part of staff wellness [focuses] on the successes,” she said. “Teachers have been doing amazing things daily on a small moment basis.” Take the opportunity to recognize and celebrate these small moments of success because everyone is so busy that sometimes they are missed, she said.

Teachers to students

Provide positive feedback. For example, celebrate successes by recognizing students who go the extra mile to support a peer, Simonsen said.

Or, if a student makes a mistake, provide instructional feedback that will set the student up for success next time. When giving feedback, make sure it is specific and more positive than corrective, she said.

Florence Simmons covers Section 504, paraprofessionals, and transportation for LRP Publications.