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U.S. Assistant Secretary Posny spoke on education reform at the 2012 Best Summer Institute

KILLINGTON-Assistant Secretary Alexa Posny delivered a keynote address to the 2012 BEST Summer Institute Thursday, June 28 at the Killington Grand Hotel.  Posny focused on how to promote best practices, reform, and excellence in the education of students with disabilities.

The Summer Institute is an annual event where teams of educators, families, community members and human service providers share and learn strategies for supporting students and their families, schools and communities.

Posny heads the Education Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, which includes programs aimed at helping and improving results and outcomes for the nation's infants, toddlers, children and adults with disabilities. She was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009; she also served under President George Bush as the director of Special Education Programs.

In her remarks, Posny discussed Response to Intervention, Universal Design for Learning and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports as they relate to creating effective teaching and a positive school climate and culture.

She encouraged educators to focus on how they can help students understand that they can do it on their own, instead of telling them exactly what to do. Positive encouragement and a proactive environment creates the foundation for successful teaching.
Students should be taught how to be safe, stay on task, act responsible and respect themselves and others in the early years of education, she emphasized.

About 50 percent of children in the US are currently on special learning plans, Posny noted, saying that many of these children have been over-diagnosed and do not need to be in these more expensive programs, but are pushed there because they need more positive encouragement. Many do not get this from their homes, she added, noting the direct connection between socio-economic status and susceptibility of students falling behind.

Another factor influencing this trend has been the fact that the federal government allocates more money to schools for special ed programs and services than regular educational programs.

Posny then discussed what has been working to reverse this trend: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a program for effective discipline that focuses on positive reinforcement rather than punishment-based rules for students. Posny sited Kansas Junction City High School as an example of PBIS success. In five years the school increased the number of students with proficient test scores from 8 to 63 percent. In a Kansas elementary school the number of students eligible for special ed programs dropped from 28 to just one.

Posny hopes more schools will implement PBIS and enjoy similarly successful results. Students, schools and budgets will all benefit.

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