WNPR

Connecticut's New Education Commissioner Discusses Behavior Strategies

May 18, 2015

The state’s new education commissioner said that about half of all Connecticut school districts have been trained to handle behavior problems in a new way.

As the new Commissioner of the State Department of Education, Dianna Wentzell said she’s enthusiastic about the state’s movement toward a more positive way to deal with bad behavior.

"The evidence base, and the research base in this particular area of education, is emerging, and it’s emerging really quickly," Wentzell said. "We’re learning a lot all the time, so to keep the information flowing to our leaders, and our teachers, and our paraprofessionals, and our parents, is really very important."

Wentzell said that classrooms are being structured differently, and that more focus is being given to social and emotional well-being. It's all part of the state’s effort to implement positive behavioral interventions and supports, or PBIS.

"Many of our schools use the responsive classroom approach, which is very complimentary with PBIS, and begins everyday with a morning meeting, that’s really helping kids get centered in their day, so that’s very common in Connecticut," Wentzell said.

PBIS also involves being more responsive to individual student needs, and decreasing reactive management.

When it comes to students in special education, who are often harshly disciplined for behavior problems, Wentzell said it’s important for school districts understand the spirit of the law.

"It’s an important part of our work. And every year we update them on laws affecting their practice in general, but through the special education bureau, significantly supporting not only compliance, but best possible service for all of our kids," she said.

The federal government gave Connecticut a $3.3 million grant to help train schools on these behavior intervention strategies.