Improving Teacher Effectiveness in Classrooms for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Principal Investigator: Robin Church

Standard practice in educational settings includes teacher evaluation by administrators to provide feedback about the quality of programming in their classrooms. This data is then used to improve a teacher’s skills in planning and delivery of instruction, and provides continuous quality monitoring as part of a school’s self-improvement plan.
There are over 100,000 school-age children with disabilities in Maryland (MSDE Fact Book, 2009-2010). More than 8,000 of them have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with an additional 3,000 who have multiple disabilities, many of whom have autism. Children with autism spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities learn best in highly structured learning environments with supports designed to access their strengths and specifically target their needs. Teaching to the learning style of these students may make an impact on whether or not they can attend to and process the information presented.
Without teachers who are proficient in delivering effective research-based instruction, these students are at risk of failing to thrive in their schools, homes, and communities.

The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina in conjunction with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders focused research on the assessment of quality in programming for students with ASD. They noted that the behavioral intervention literature on ASD is among the most active in the social sciences, and yet, a significant gap exists between scientific knowledge about efficacy of intervention practices and their use by teachers working with students with ASD.

The standard practice of teacher observation has been enhanced with The Model Classroom Program which was designed to increase a teacher’s use of evidence based practices that align to the National Standards Project and provide a framework specific for teachers with students on the autism spectrum. Our school has been using this program and observation system for 3 years as part of our standard educational practices.

With this project we are not doing anything different or new that deviates from our normal standard of educational practice. Through this exempt application we are asking for permission to share the de-identified, aggregated teacher data (collected for the past 3 years as well as prospectively) through presentations at conferences and publications so that others may use it to improve their teachers’ effective use of these evidence-based practices.