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K-8 Model Program for Supporting Students with Identified Social/Emotional Needs

In collaboration with Aaron Stabel*, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Sweetwater County School District #2 has developed a model program for K-8 students with significant social/emotional needs.  The B.E.S.T. Program, which stands for Behavior Expectations and Skills Training, relies on evidenced-based practices to deliver effective special education services to identified students.  The Program is housed at Washington Elementary and continued at Lincoln Middle School. 
While traditional models that focus on punitive policies, “zero tolerance,” or “get tough” discipline measures are associated with higher rates of problem behavior and more negative school climates (Heaviside, Rowand, Williams, & Farris, 1998).  The BEST Program’s contemporary model integrates the proven paradigms of Positive Behavior Support (PBS) systems, Response to Intervention (RtI), Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and psychotherapeutic services.  Data systems are established to progress monitor each student.

The essential classroom-based components of the BEST Program’s model focus on the Daily Tracking Form, an associated Level System, strategic classroom design and instructional supports, social-emotional supports, and functional behavior management.  These supports are based in the BEST Program’s classroom and integrated across the entire school to support BEST students in general education classrooms, lunchrooms, hallways, playground, and other learning environments. 


The Daily Tracking Form and Level System also provide a data-based decision making framework.  The data that students collect via the Daily Tracking Form allow the IEP team to identify student's strengths and weaknesses, design individual support plans, track progress, and make team decisions regarding intervention and placement. Daily Tracking Form data also allows the IEP team to work more proactively and accurately on problem areas with our students, as well as provide valuable information to parents and service providers such as psychiatrists and therapists for wrap-around services. 


Many students who are recommended for the BEST program exhibit deficits in socialization.  The BEST Program provides social-emotional supports through both formal and informal interventions.  BEST Program classrooms conduct regular “Classroom Meetings” to pinpoint and discuss social skill targets.  Social skills groups are also delivered and complimented by consistent incidental intervention by staff to promote positive social behavior patterns for all students.  The Daily Tracking Form's 'Social Contract' and 'Individual Goal' domains directly address social skill development as well. 


The BEST Program is not intended to function in isolation.  Building and district supports are required.  Site-based administration provides time for teachers to collaborate with general education staff and other service providers in order to support students across all educational settings.  Site-based administration also promotes a building culture open to helping students with social/emotional needs be successful on a public school campus.  District supports provide necessary crisis intervention training, appropriate staffing patterns, time to participate in monthly PLC meetings, and collaboration with teams on decisions relating to student data.


If your district is interested in learning more about the district's BEST Program, please contact Alan Demaret, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent and Director of Special Services for Sweetwater County School District #2.  Opportunities are available for your team to come and spend multiple days on site to learn more about implementing an evidenced-based program back in your district! 


*Aaron Stabel, M.A., is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst based in Truckee, California.  As a behavioral and educational consultant for school districts and families, he assesses and implements interventions for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADD/ADHD, emotional disturbances, and other developmental disabilities across the United States.  Aaron also worked at the U.C. Davis MIND Institute consulting on applied research focused on Autism Spectrum Disorders.  As a co-founder of Behavior Advantage, he helped create software systems to support school districts in conducting functional behavior assessments, developing behavior intervention plans, and progress monitoring student outcomes.  Over multiple years, Aaron consulted with the Sweetwater County School District #2 to guide the development and integration of their BEST Program's perspectives and intervention supports.