Widening the Circle

Explore the various professional development resources. These “starter” resources help to introduce the necessary skills to help schools build the capacity to implement inclusive approaches in faith-based schools.

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Professional Development-“Resource Review”

Incorporating any article from the Widening the Circle series (or any other professional journal article) into a professional development program can be an investment in the growth and success of educators. By creating opportunities for collaboration and expanding knowledge, conducting a study of the Widening the Circle article (“Resource Review”) empowers teachers to become more effective educators. There are many benefits to holding “Resource Reviews” about instructional practices.

These include:

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When a private school enrolls a child with a significant disability, the school needs to discern whether that student needs additional adult assistance to be successful. There are several factors that impact that decision: safety, medical needs, mobility, and finances. Adult assistants can be volunteers or hired aides that may take the title of Inclusion Aide, Paraprofessional, or Special Education Aide.

Safety

The paramount reason to hire an Inclusion Aide is to maintain a safe environment for the child, the class, and the school. The factors that can...

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Understanding the WHY

Every teacher encounters students who exhibit challenging behaviors. While maintaining a positive and productive classroom environment is paramount, simply reprimanding these behaviors often yields temporary results. Faith-based school teachers, grounded in love and compassion, seek solutions that go beyond punishment. This is where Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs) come in.

An FBA is a process that helps us understand the ABCs of a student's behavior: the Antecedent (what happens before the behavior), the Behavior itself, and the Consequences...

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Check-In, Check-Out (CICO) is a research-based behavior intervention that can be utilized for many different target behaviors because it can be customized and the foundation relies on the relationship between the teacher and the student. With CICO, the teacher would work with the student to set an observable behavioral goal. These may be directly related to the PBIS school-wide expectations.

For example, perhaps the student is working on being prepared. In the morning, she would check in with a specific faculty member with whom she had a good rapport. That person would help her get...

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Nothing is more trying to a classroom teacher than to work with a student with challenging behaviors. Other learning problems, like learning disabilities and speech issues, are easier for a teacher to engender a helping and caring response. The same is not true for students with behavioral issues. It is difficult to feel helpful and want to remediate behav- ioral difficulties when these behaviors are making the teacher’s life miserable. In many cases, the teacher just wants the “behavior problem” and, most often, the child to disappear. Who can blame them? However, this is not the response...

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Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which can also be referred to as Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) or School-wide Positive Behavior Supports (SWPBS) offer a comprehensive, preventative approach to managing student behavior. With this framework, the focus is on defining and teaching school-wide agreed-upon behavior expectations, promoted through positive reinforcement. PBIS schools collect behavioral data to identify students in need of additional supports and layer in the necessary interventions.

There are five steps to implementing PBIS which must be approached...

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Teacher Problem-Solving Teams in the Classroom

The cornerstone of a thriving faith-based classroom is a nurturing environment that fosters academic success and spiritual growth for all students. However, every teacher encounters students who face academic challenges or exhibit disruptive behaviors. While our faith compels us to offer compassion and understanding, addressing these concerns effectively requires more than just good intentions.

This is where Teacher Problem-Solving Teams (TPSTs) come into play. These collaborative groups bring together educators from various...

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An instructional coach is an educational leader who works in a school or district to support teachers in reaching their goals. Effective instructional coaches serve as thought partners, building relationships based on trust and mutual respect and providing reflective, inquiry-oriented feedback rather than making judgments.

The instructional coaching process has three important components:

The classroom teacher: • identify learning goals, provide data. • integrate new practices, invite feedback, meet with the coach weekly to reflect,...

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Widening the Circle explores a valuable tool for faith-based schools committed to serving all learners: the program audit.

Why a Program Audit?

Imagine embarking on a grand adventure. You wouldn't just jump in a car and hope for the best, right? You'd check the map, pack essential supplies, and maybe even research the best route. A program audit for special education services operates similarly. It's a comprehensive review that helps us assess our current strengths and identify areas for improvement, ensuring we're equipped to effectively serve students with...

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Guidelines on Person-First Language

Language is a powerful mechanism. Words can empower or diminish; affirm or dismiss. The words chosen when referring to individuals with disabilities hold importance. The term “disability” implies a disadvantage, which influences the way many people think about individuals with disabilities.

In truth, all people are made in the image of God, and each is unique and unrepeatable. However, human beings are predisposed to discomfort in the face of difference. As stated in the USCCB’s “Pastoral Statement on Persons with...

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Building a Bridge to Inclusion with a Special Education Manual

We all know the importance of providing a quality education for every child, regardless of their abilities. But navigating the world of special education can feel overwhelming, especially for smaller schools with limited resources. Here's where a diocesan Special Education Manual can be a game-changer!

Why Faith-Based Schools Need a Different Approach

While public schools have established processes for special education mandated by law (IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), these procedures...

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Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

We all have students who seem to have boundless energy, struggle to focus, or forget assignments. Understanding ADHD can equip us to better support these amazing learners!

What is ADHD?

Imagine your brain is like a symphony orchestra. Different sections work together to create beautiful music – processing information, controlling impulses, and staying focused. In students with ADHD, some sections might be a little louder or quieter than usual, making it harder for the orchestra to play in harmony. This can lead to...

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Decades of research on student engagement tell us conclusively that students who are engaged in learning do better in school. No mystery there.

But what does engagement look like? How is it measured? What does the term engagement actually mean? Let’s dig in.

Engaged students are those who connect with the content presented in the classroom or during a learning activity. Students can engage in a variety of ways. This is good news because it means students have a variety of ways they might connect with a concept including intellectually, behaviorally, physically, emotionally,...

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Early childhood educators may have questions about when to refer a child for an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist when speech is difficult to understand or a child struggles to communicate in the classroom. Knowing the expected developmental milestones can help, as well as preparing to speak with the parents about concerns.

According to ASHA, the American Speech Language Hearing Association, a preschool-aged child, who is three to four years old, should be combining four words to make sentences and be understood by most people in conversation. Four sentences may be used...

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Even if Tier One is effective where 75-80% of students are making progress, there will still be students who do not respond to the core educational program. For these students, there needs to be a next level to help to address these needs. Tier Two is referred to as the Targeted Intervention Level. Analysis of the student data will indicate which students require additional supports to make expected progress. The emphasis of RtI/MTSS is not on the labeling of students who are not making progress but on intervening early with high-quality interventions.

Some characteristics of Tier...

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MTSS is a three-tiered model of implementation that uses a differentiated approach to identify and serve the academic and behavioral needs of all students by focusing on high-quality instruction and a strong standards-based curriculum. The overall goal of RtI/MTSS is to improve student achievement using research-based curricular materials, delivered with evidence-based instructional approaches. This tier is dedicated to providing universal supports for all students to achieve success both in academic and behavioral realms. Consistent with the MTSS approach, the focus is on prevention. By...

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Co-teaching is the practice of pairing teachers together in a classroom to share the responsibilities of planning, instructing, and assessing students. In a co-teaching setting, the teachers are considered equally responsible and accountable for the classroom. Co-teaching is often implemented with general and special education teachers paired together as part of an initiative to create a more inclusive classroom.

Ferguson, Desjarlais, and Meyer (2000) describe some of the benefits of co-teaching in an inclusion classroom as the following:

• More opportunities for one-on-one...

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This Examen is an opportunity to seek God's grace, acknowledge our challenges, and renew our dedication to serving all students with love and compassion. This is a powerful opportunity especially for Catholic staff in the process of reaching to the margins. In this process, several critical questions arise:

• How do I personally interact with those who are unique and unrepeatable?

• What is stopping you from being the minister I need to be?

• Knowing that we were all made with intentionality, how does this truth inform my practice?

• How do I encounter the...

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