Documentation of interventions addresses early warning signs of academic and social/emotional problems and monitors interventions

March 08, 2015

Documentation of Intervention (DOI) is a relatively new and effective computer software tool used by school teams in Montgomery County, Maryland to measure what they are doing to address students’ academic and social-emotional needs.  School teams meet regularly to identify “early warning signs” of problems students are having in meeting expected academic and social-emotional mastery. Interventions are not just prescribed, but documented and monitored for implementation and fidelity. Teachers are supported and the team may assign specialists to address more intense needs. All interventions and their results are measured using excellent software that examines both academic and behavioral progress toward grade-level mastery.

Support staff are integrated into the team and intervention plans. School psychologists are providing direct services, such as individual and group counseling to address issues relating to anxiety, problem-solving, executive functioning, emotional regulation, and social skills. Additionally, school psychologists are consulting with classroom teachers to address behavior management strategies, academic time-on-task, and learning skills deficits. The DOI data is valuable, as it allows one to accurately measure the effect of an intervention. Student support teams are using the DOI data to better identify when an intervention is working and what may need to be modified to ensure greater progress. All of the student support team members and others participating in the interventions can record their instructional and social-emotional interventions and outcomes for the team to look at. The data can be shared with administrators, teachers, parents, and students to demonstrate the need for and benefit of a specific intervention.

The Documentation of Interventions software program was developed by Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and is being used effectively in many of its 200+ schools. School staff receive special access codes to the DOI system to protect confidentiality, and each provider has a code to input her/his activity and results. Additionally, informal documentation of progress, behavioral observations can be included that do not interrupt the instructional day.

Data does not mean “more testing.” Following every student who has such a plan, enables the team members to have current information across all services. Staff feel comfortable in the data recording process because they see its value in student progress and its connection to their work. The DOI is complementary to another similar software for students receiving special education services to improve IEP documentation.    

The value of such technology is that it helps teachers and school support teams to catch problems early, to provide scientifically-based, agreed-upon, documented interventions whose effects can be regularly examined. Students can also see their progress and how it relates to their persistence, learning skills and coping strategies. Early interventions reduce the “too-little-to-late” syndrome that results in increased failure, greater numbers of special education referrals and, over time, unresolved behavior problems, poor attendance and dropping out. 

dwyerKevin P. Dwyer, M.A., a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, is an education and child mental health consultant. He recently served as a principal research associate for the American Institutes for Research. For over 30 years he practiced school psychology in public schools and held several local, state and national leadership positions in the fields of mental health and education, being responsible for the design, development, implementation and evaluation of programs and practices, for improving school climate, safety, and wellbeing for the education, and mental health of children. He has helped school staff in many districts use data to inform decisions on improving caring and connectedness with students and professional peers. His work, publications, presentations, and practices have influenced public policy and the development of efficient, family focused collaborative child service systems. During his 30 years as a public school psychologist he worked directly with over 10,000 children and their families as well as trained over 6000 educators. He provided psychological services to children, including those with disabilities and those whose anxiety and mental health problems blocked learning and adjustment. He assisted teachers and staff in supporting a caring, inclusive school climate for all children. In 2007 the Maryland Coalition of Families awarded Mr. Dwyer and his wife for their work in making schools more family friendly. He served as president of the National Association of School Psychologist and was given its highest honor, the Life-time Achievement Award.  In 2000 he received the Tipper Gore “Advocacy award for improving the lives and mental health of America’s children” from the National Mental Health Association.

Kristen M. Gracyalny is a school psychologist with Montgomery County Public Schools. She completed her undergraduate training at Towson University within the honors clinical psychology program.  She continued her training at Towson University, where she earned her MA and CAS in school psychology. She has worked as a school psychologist in MCPS since 2010, where she has spent her time meeting the social-emotional needs of students, providing training to school staff on data collection and analysis, and being the PBIS coach for a school. 

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