Over the next three years, Ramapo for Children commits to provide professional development to 150 Pre-K sites in New York City. The goal of this professional development is to prepare educators to demonstrate effective methods of handling discipline problems by: preventing those behaviors that are avoidable from occurring, and dealing with disruptions by handling behavior problems effectively. Ramapo will also provide parent and caregiver support to these sites in the form of on-campus workshops and coaching opportunities.
Ramapos targeted professional development constitutes both centralized workshops and individualized one-on-one coaching. Ramapos programs begin with a professional development workshop that introduces teachers and principals to the Ramapo approach to promoting positive behaviors and presents the core tenets of Ramapos program offerings. Using a trauma-informed lens, Ramapo introduces participants to a toolbox of classroom management strategies for positively and proactively handling distractive, aggressive, and/or disruptive behaviors. All school staff participating in the workshops receive an easy-to-use reference guide detailing strategies that can be implemented in the classroom immediately.
Next, Ramapos seasoned educators provide in-classroom coaching to support the school staff in implementing classroom and behavior management strategies. Coaching activities include observation of individual classrooms and detailed coaching notes from each observation to document what strategies are in place to support positive behavioral management, and what structures and skills teachers are working on to improve relationships and decrease conflict in the classrooms.
Skills typically developed through Ramapos workshops and coaching include: managing discipline situations so that they become teachable moments; building positive relationships with all students, including those considered disruptive; anticipating and avoiding factors that trigger disruptive behavior; coaching social and emotional skill development; and designing age-appropriate positive behavioral supports for individual students.
This commitment to reach 150 total sites represents a significant increase in the number of sites to which Ramapo has brought its approach, up from 25 sites in 2014. Work at this much larger scale will allow NYC to serve as a demonstration site for other cities that will also roll out Universal Pre-K in the coming decade. Through the use of Ramapo's targeted professional development, the NYC Department of Early Childhood Education will be able to model and evaluate best practice solutions to reducing and hopefully eliminating suspensions across Pre-K sites in the city.
On-site coaching is evaluated using a standardized classroom observation tool that Ramapo has developed to capture both qualitative and quantitative classroom-level data on specific teacher-student interactions as well as the degree to which Ramapos behavior-based strategies are being utilized in the classroom.
In 2016, Ramapo will shift from a paper-based version to a mobile app version of the evaluation. This will enable coaches to automatically enter their observations into an online database that can be shared with Ramapos program evaluation team, all coaches, and the teachers and schools being supported. Findings and feedback from the database will in turn enable Ramapo to disseminate timely information to the education field demonstrating the links between classroom management and student performance.
Joint participation of early childhood site leaders, teachers, and staff in workshop training is a cost-effective way to ensure all participants receive the same workshop content at the same time. This structure will bolster the ability of each early childhood site to effectively implement Ramapos approach to positive behavior management in all classrooms and shared activities.
In addition to full-day centralized leader and teacher workshops, Ramapo will provide targeted support in the form of three full-day on-site coaching days for 25 early childhood sites (a quarter of sites receiving support services). This will result in a total of 75 days of on-site coaching each year, for a total of 225 days of coaching across all three years.
The coaching will be targeted to those sites flagged by the NYC Department of Early Childhood Education as needing additional, specific classroom behavior management support. At each early childhood site where targeted support is needed, Ramapo will pair one of its coaches with social workers assigned to support the site. Complementing these efforts, Ramapo will offer in-school parent coaching and workshops at sites where educator professional development is occurring.
In Year One, Ramapo will complete workshops for leaders and teachers for up to 50 early childhood sites including revisiting sites from previous years pilots. Ramapo will also finish its transition from paper-based on-site coaching evaluations to using its new mobile app.
In Year Two, Ramapo will provide four full-day centralized workshops for leaders and teachers for up to 100 early childhood sites.
In Year Three, Ramapo will provide four full-day centralized workshops for leaders and teachers for up to 150 early childhood sites. All workshops will accommodate up to 45 participants and take place on a quarterly basis throughout the year.
On-site coaching evaluations will be carried out on an on-going basis, and as Ramapo learns more about the links between classroom management and student performance from its database, those timely findings will be disseminated to the wider education field.
Relationships between young children and their caregivers parents, certainly, as well as teachers are foundational for social-emotional development. Particularly for children growing up in impoverished communities, these relationships can be key protective factors that may buffer the effects of exposure to toxic stress and thereby positively impact the structure of the developing brain.
For this reason, it is vital to childrens success that Pre-K program staff are provided ongoing support in their efforts to forge healthy, attuned relationships with students, manage their classrooms effectively, and create environments that foster social-emotional development. Not only will this Pre-K staff support serve individual students, but this approach will also contribute to important issues surrounding educational equality and thus in the long-term, social equity.
Currently, in the absence of this type of training, thousands of children are suspended annually from preschool programs across the country, and these exclusionary discipline practices have been shown to disproportionately target students of color. Suspended children then receive decreased access to instructional time and are at increased risk of subsequent alienation from their school communities, as well as increased likelihood of involvement in the legal system.
Ramapo for Childrens programming is based on the understanding that challenging behaviors are the language students use to communicate when the demands of their environment are misaligned with their social, emotional, or adaptive capacities. Ramapos professional development model teaches practical skills for managing childrens disruptive behaviors, resulting in classrooms that do not resort to exclusionary discipline practices. Ramapos curriculum is structured, proactive, easily implemented, and can be effectively utilized by seasoned practitioners and those new to education.
Additionally, Ramapo provides support and coaching to parents to equip them with a common language and skills. Ramapo has codified a unique toolkit which provides all participants with skills and strategies. This easy-to-use booklet of behavioral strategies, accompanied by activities and worksheets developed by Ramapo, provide educators and teacher alike with new tactics they can employ to create environments where the children in their care can be most successful.
Ramapos team of professional trainers and educational coaches already has experience in more than 300 schools across New York City.