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What Can Be Done to Prevent School Failure and Antisocial Behavior: The Utah Example

The state of Utah demonstrates how states, local districts, and schools can build upon OSEP-funded research to improve results for students with disabilities, as well as for other students. Utah's BEST and FACT initiatives exemplify the link between OSEP support programs and state Part B allocations.

The BEST (Behavioral and Educational Strategies for Teachers) Project builds on the OSEP-developed National Agenda to Improve Results for Children and Youth with Serious Emotional Disturbance. BEST is a comprehensive staff development effort across the continuum of general and special education settings that builds upon the work of OSEP-funded researchers.

BEST combines:

  • model demonstration sites that reflect a variety of local needs and research-based approaches,
  • on-site training and technical assistance for teachers and schools that links teachers and other school staff with one another as well as with expert consultants,
  • ongoing development of materials that incorporate research-validated strategies and are employed in schools and classrooms across the state,
  • a state-wide newsletter that keeps teachers abreast of research and practice, and
  • a state-wide institute that brings together teams from across the state.

Teachers and principals claim that BEST training and support enhances their ability to educate and work with students who are behaviorally challenging in less restrictive and more enriching settings (Andrews, 1997).

FACT (Families and Agencies Coming Together) builds upon OSEP-funded research for what are called "wrap-around supports and services." FACT links education, health, mental health, juvenile justice, and human services resources, in order to support early intervention efforts that provide family-centered, culturally sensitive, community-based, collaborative, coordinated, and efficient services. Evaluation data suggest that FACT has helped to maintain or place young people in less restrictive settings, improved the links between schools and families, and improved reading and math scores.

Salt Lake City's Lincoln Elementary School suggests how these initiatives work. Located in the zip code area that has the highest adult and juvenile crime, infant mortality, and drug-use rates in the state, Lincoln has a FACT team that meets weekly to train its teachers to implement BEST approaches. By using resources like FACT, BEST, Even Start, and Foster Grandparents, Lincoln has transformed a low-achieving school that could not serve all of its students into a school marked by:

  • research-based practice,
  • collaborative partnerships with the community,
  • a child-focused curriculum marked by high expectations,
  • family, teacher, and student empowerment, and
  • the restructuring of the school into a community resource center.

Not surprisingly, Lincoln has won nation-wide recognition for its ability to serve all of its students - including those with disabilities - and to do so in a manner that enhances their academic scores, social skills, and feelings of self-worth. Once marked by disorder, family alienation, police involvement, and teacher-fear, Lincoln is now a drug- and gang-free school marked by student engagement, family and community involvement, and high teacher morale (Hostetter, 1997).


References

Andrews, D.; Project Coordinator, BEST, Utah State Office of Education (personal communication, February 20, 1997).

Hostetter, C.; Project Coordinator, FACT, Utah State Office of Education (personal communication, February 20, 1997).

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2000 Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice