High-functioning Student Assistant Program (SAP) teams know that when students’ behavioral needs are addressed promptly, they will be on the pathway towards academic success and The Pittsburgh Promise. Establishing a strong SAP team rhythm also means ensuring that teachers are able to teach without classroom disruption when behavioral problems are resolved.
According to Principal Robert Scherrer of Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, “Our SAP team is always looking to first identify what are the barriers to a student’s learning. That’s why the multiple perspectives at each meeting are invaluable. Everyone has an equal and valued voice.”
Sci-Tech’s SAP team values meeting regularly, and there is cohesiveness among members who understand that when any facet of a child’s health and wellness is interfering with learning, it must be addressed immediately. Such issues may include a chronic health condition such as diabetes management, asthma, aggressive behavior, exposure to trauma, not performing at ability, school absence, anxiety, depression, child abuse and on.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach at Sci-Tech. Relying on the expertise of their members, Sci-Tech’s SAP team differentiates its approach to meet the unique needs of each student. Thorough screening allows for a systematic ‘ruling out or ruling in’ of various factors that influence intervention and support plans. After careful examination and discussion regarding a referral, a useful roadmap is devised to reach the student and parent. Efforts are also made to integrate with other school-wide systems, such as the Discipline Committee attended by the SAP Coordinator.
With good data gathering, no stones are left unturned so that everyone’s input is valued and useful. Elaine Ashcom, Sci-Tech’s SAP Team Coordinator remarked, “All of SciTech’s SAP team members participate and share their expertise in many different ways. This hard work helps to hasten our provider services to reach our students and their families in a more timely manner.”
The role of the SAP teams district-wide, which includes administrators, teachers, counselors, nurse practitioners, PSE professionals, and mental health and prevention providers, is to coordinate prevention education programming aimed at school-wide positive behaviors [i.e. D.R.E.A.M.] and address barriers to learning that are non-academic but affect a student’s ability to perform well academically. There are several core competencies that lead to great SAP Teams:
Using targeted interventions that are meaningful, supportive and impactful
- Referring to the Student Support Services Guide for Teachers that outlines the referral process for utilizing each school’s SAP team
- Taking a balanced approach when screening students, including consideration of their abilities and challenges
- Providing linkages to community mental health and other resources when necessary
- Sharing data, parent contact information, teacher follow-up and student interviews
- Providing updates on services, including new and past referrals, skill-building groups, mental health partnership services and classroom presentations
- Holding regularly scheduled meetings that are organized and rely on clear agendas (at least twice per month)
- Encouraging team members to contribute and listen during meetings
- Incorporating clear and measurable goals, team member input and behavioral checklists when action planning to ensure data-driven practices
- Updating referral sources of action steps taken by the SAP Team to heighten team visibility, responsiveness and credibility
Ultimately, SAP teams address students’ social, emotional, behavioral and life circumstance needs so that teaching and learning environments district-wide are safe, positive and free of disruption. All Pennsylvania schools, per Chapter 12 regulations, are required to have functioning SAP Teams.