Team Phoenix Presented by: Nancy Rodriguez

Winooski High School

The Winooski School is a single building containing the Elementary, Middle, and High School. The school district faces a lot of challenges due to it's population size and demographics. Many students in this school district struggle for many reasons, for example they come from low income families or are refugees who are still trying to adjust to the American lifestyle. Students often struggle with an emotional disturbance that can be traced back to negative experiences at home or in the classroom. When a student displays disruptive behavior they are deemed problematic by their teachers and require alternative programs. Team Phoenix was created at the Winooski School for the elementary, middle and high school students who could not operate typically in a mainstream classroom. These classrooms aim to regulate and stabilize their behavioral problems, so they can return to the mainstream system in a more productive manner.

"Our goal is to educate the kids and stabilize their behaviors. We have to stabilize first because if not stabilized then they are not able to be educated" - Brett Kernoff

What is Team Phoenix?

Team Phoenix is an adaptive learning classroom for children from sixth to ninth grade who need an alternative program outside of the mainstream. Students who come in have various difficulties, which require specialized attention. The program was founded by James Pape over a decade ago with the purpose of bringing kids back from out of district placements to their home school district. Then it was undertaken by Bret Kernoff, and he stands by the original goals of the program to educate kids and stabilize their behaviors. The funding for the program comes from special education funds, and provides both behavioral and educational services. The team that works with Phoenix is comprised of a clinical oversight (Mary Ann), group therapist (Penny), Social Worker (Jessica), a Special Educator and Behavioral Counselor/ Analyst (Bret), an Instructional assistant (Hannah and Rebecca), Interns, and sometimes an Intensive Needs Instructional Assistant (Amanda).

(Left to Right) Brett Kernoff, Hannah Bedell, Rebecca Trayner, Mary Ann Debay, Penny Grant, Jessica Cohen, Andi Thibodeau, and Amanda Benoit

Who qualifies for Team Phoenix?

To get into the program the students have to have an emotional disturbance or a significant learning difference (ASD) or both. They have to be referred by the IEP team due to their inability to succeed in the mainstream classroom. The kids can range year to year from all boys to half boys, but there are typically more boys than girls. The staff that works with these kids work incredibly hard and help provide a very positive experience for the kids. This is evident by the calming environment you can physically see, and by the kids wanting to stay in the classroom when they are encouraged to rejoin mainstream because they have found a place in which they feel safe and comfortable.

Student Expectations
*Phoenix Schedule is build around the mainstream gym and lunch schedule*
Objectives: To reduce unexpected maladaptive behaviors and increase expected prosocial behaviors.

Behavioral Components of the Program

1. Antecedent Manipulations: These include but are not limited to:

  • Background brain relaxation music (instrumental)
  • Soft incandescent lighting
  • A temperature of about 72 degrees is required for most students
  • Greeting each student when they arrive with a compliment
  • Posting classroom norms and reviewing them each morning

2. Reactive Consequences- both positive and coercive

  • Praise for expected behaviors and norm following
  • SHort term to immediate reinforcement for expected behaviors and norm following
  • Grid on the board in front of room with student names on the Y-axis and columns for reminders, warning, time away and processing on the x-axis
  • Processing of unexpected behaviors and norm violations.

3. Variable Interval Reinforcement

Reinforcement is provided throughout the day in intervals of time. The goal is to make it so the students cannot predict when the reinforcement arrives. Similar to a slot machine because you keep putting money in and sometimes money comes out.

4. Continuous Reinforcement

To establish a new behavior, it is essential to continuously reinforce the occurrence of that behavior. If prompting is needed to elicit the new behavior, reinforcement is still provided with the occurrence of the behavior. Be sure to fade the prompting.

5. Daily Point Schedule

Points are earned during class period for the performance of the expected behaviors listed on the schedule. This should happen with an adult reviewing the expected behaviors with the student and asking the student if schedules also allow for goal setting. After the students assess their accomplishment of the expected behaviors, they set goals for the next class period. This provided multiple opportunities for positive social reinforcements each class.

6. Progress Sheets

Project sheets list the lesson and the date at the top of the form. Just under that is specific task, the grade and notes. The grade is assessed by students circling a happy face, a neutral face or a sad face. A happy face is worth one point, the neutral face is a half point and a sad face is no points. The students self assess seven criteria with the opportunity for a bonus smile for outstanding or helpful behavior. Students then total their smiles and hand in their progress sheets. These are used for grading of academic and other classes.The seven criteria include:

  • I did all my work
  • I communicated respectfully
  • I followed directions
  • I paid attention
  • I was part of the class discussion and participated
  • My attitude was positive
  • I took care of myself

7. Token Economy

Points from the point sheets can be kept in a checkbook register in a spread sheet by a staff, depending on the needs of your students. Students may use points to exchange for backup reinforcement in the classroom store. The items in the store are highly desirable to the students.

8. Daily Home School Communications

The daily home school log is used to provide a summary of the students performance to home. The information included on the form is: Behavioral data summarized, if any work is not complete, the amount of time away if any in minutes, the level of safety, and daily staff comments.

9. Level System

All students begin the program at level 1. There are 5 levels in the system. Student ca earn higher levels with six consecutive weeks of 90% or higher in all three behavioral norms. As levels increase, so do privileges. At level 4, students begin exploring mainstream participation and a gradual fading of program supports. At level 5 students have no classroom supports and are fully engaged in the mainstream.

10. Behavior Data

Data is essential for all decision making. The adults in the classroom record data on the three behavioral norms. Intervals are set at thirty minutes and a whole interval recording procedure is used. This means for the students to earn the interval, they must demonstrate the desired behavior for the entire interval. Any instance of not following the expectation results in a zero for that interval. Data is then graphed and analyzed.

Behavioral Correction Methods

There are several behavioral processes done at team phoenix. Each student is different, so not everyone receives the same processing. However, everyone in the classroom are given the same behavioral conditions and they are expected to follow the same rules.

This couch is found in one of the small rooms in back of the classroom. Kids use this couch when they need a break, and it is something that they ask for. They use the couch to rest, sleep, or self-regulate. They're allowed to come back into the classroom whenever they feel ready to do so.
This is one of the time-out desk that is located in one of the rooms in the back of the classroom. It is used when a student needs to complete make-up work or requires one-on-one help. It is sometimes used for processing when the desk outside the classroom is being occupied.
This desk is located outside the classroom, and it is mostly used when the student has been kicked out of the classroom for not following the class norms. Therefore they have to do processing, and wait until the instructor allows them to come back into the classroom.

Phoenix Processing: A form that the student fills out if they have violated an expected behavior that needs to be remediated. There are about fifteen types of processing sheets, and it can differ from student to student. The most common processing allows the student to reflect on the expected behavior and unexpected behavior that they exhibited.

One of the most common processing sheets used by students. They reflect on their behavior and allows them to look at their behavior from two different perspectives.
They reflect on their unexpected behavior and then move onto the expected behavior.
This is another common processing used, and its used when student are not communicating a respectful manner.
After reflecting on the unexpected behavior they reflect on what's expected of them.

Safe Behavior Journal: Another behavior correction tool used to help the student identify inappropriate behavior and replace it with a more productive alternative. Different from the Processing sheet in that it asks the student to identify how their behavior affects them personally and the safety of the behavior.

This journal sheet is given when the student is disrespectful, and it allows them to reflect on their emotions and how it has affected others.
Self- Regulation Skills are used by students to reduce the occurrence of problem behaviors by choosing an alternative behavior to the problem, and regulate their emotions. Examples include: deep breathing, heavy lifting, writing, reading, drawing, and many others.

Corrective Consequences

Behavior Restriction: Students are placed on restriction when they have dropped below 60% in any of their behavior data weekly averages. Students must make-up any academic work missed, and finish any processing that led to restriction before returning to class. Students on restriction must maintain 100% safety for at least one day before returning to class. There are no classroom privileges available while on restriction.

Academic Restriction: Students are placed on academic restriction when their weekly academic averages drop below 70%. The goal of academic restriction is to support a student in academic demands so they can't fail. While on academic restriction they receive 1:1 support in academics if needed. While in academic review student may participate in all classroom activities, but no classroom privileges.

Safety Restriction: It is implemented for any unsafe behavior directed at self or others. An unsafe student will be monitored every second that they are in school. They must be dropped off and picked up by a parent or guardian. Students must be safe throughout the day.

Consistency Guidelines: Consistency guidelines are step-by-step procedures to respond to common behavior problems. They provide structure and consistency at all times.

Behavior Contracts: A written document that specifies a specific behavior and a reward for the performance of that behavior. The task required by the student must be a behavior you can see and measure. They are expected to complete the task by a certain time, and if completed then they are given a reward. An appropriate reward has to be something that is fair for the task completion.

What skills do students learn?

  • Self-regulation skills
  • Honesty
  • Academics
  • Self-care
  • Overcome anxiety
"It's not a teacher position, it's a life saving position" -Brett Kernoff


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