SERC’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team is looking to build a larger network of schools to serve as PBIS model and banner sites. It’s revising the application to make the process of scaling up more fluid while maintaining the high expectations for these schools, according to SERC’s Eben McKnight.

Schools can apply to be model schools if they have implemented PBIS for at least three years and exhibited strong implementation of Tier 1. Under PBIS’ multi-tiered system of behavioral supports, Tier 1 supports are used school-wide for all students while Tier 2 and 3 provide specialized supports for students with at-risk and high-risk behaviors.

Model schools demonstrate their outcomes and invite others to their sites to share their process and show what they have done. The American School for the Deaf, for example, has demonstrated how it has reduced restraint and seclusion. “Banner” schools meet much of the criteria of model schools without serving as a model and can identify areas that still need change.

SERC chose four model schools for the 2015-2016 school year, up from two in previous years. SERC will issue the application for 2016-2017 banner or model schools in early winter; schools will be notified by early spring. Under the new application, schools might serve in this capacity for more than one year.

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On November 9-10, the PBIS team and other SERC consultants attended the annual New England “PBIS: Research to Practice” forum in Norwood, Mass. The May Institute’s forum is an opportunity to share strategies and hone expertise on PBIS, including approaches to implementing universal screening of students.

At the forum, SERC looks for ways to integrate other areas into PBIS, such as social emotional learning, and reflects on discussions of behavioral supports through an equity lens. For instance, how schools label certain behaviors—such as “disrespect”—is often associated with a student’s race. As with all SERC initiatives, the PBIS team incorporates matters of equity whether training trainers or providing technical assistance to schools.

The advisory board of the forum includes SERC’s Eben McKnight and CSDE’s Donald Briere.


On November 16, SERC held a session at Goodwin College on “Using Technology and Interactive Tools to Enhance Literacy Learning in the Preschool and Kindergarten Classrooms.” The session helped participating educators from early childhood programs and the college gauge a suitable balance between the use and nonuse of technology in early learning.

Participants learned about good and not-so-good apps and software programs that promote early literacy in children with and without disabilities. Many educators, including early childhood educators, do not associate certain resources they already have—from iPads to pencil grips—as assistive technology. The session helped the participants align their resources and build a rubric for technology use that serves all children.


Also in November, SERC continued to provide technical assistance to teams from three Connecticut districts on assistive technology (AT) and accessible instructional materials (AIM). SERC is building the teams’ capacity to provide AT and AEM services to students in their districts and align it to the curriculum.

Districts use technology to accommodate students with disabilities and special learning needs when it comes to assessment and delivering the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests. SERC’s support helps the teams make the AT link between assessment and instruction.

SERC is currently providing assistance to the Naugatuck, Norwich, and Tolland school districts and will take on two more districts in January.


The SERC Library has hosted many visits to its “AT Corner,” where patrons view and receive demonstrations of various technologies from low- to high-tech. This fall, patrons included not only educators but also family members with children and students with autism accompanied by teachers. Many educators and families are not aware of what is already readily available, such as apps on Chromebooks they already have, as well as no-cost, no-tech alternatives.

Visiting the AT Corner has empowered parents to talk informatively at their children’s Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meetings about assistive technology options, according to SERC Consultant Smita Worah. For families and schools that do not have access to certain items, the SERC Library will soon extend borrowing privileges to materials in the AT Corner.


Every Election Day, when most Connecticut schools have the day off, SERC consultants cross the state to provide in-school professional learning and technical assistance. On Election Day 2016, some support included Naugatuck paraeducators learning about executive functioning, an overview of co-teaching in Bristol, individualized education program (IEP) support in Norwich, and a review of the Ed Benefit review process, in collaboration with the CT State Department of Education, in Milford.