Rethink’s Dr. Patricia Wright Talks Paraprofessional Training and PD in New York City Public Schools

How Rethink has Partnered with New York City Public Schools to Provide Paraprofessionals Training and PD

Rethink’s Vice President of Professional Services, Dr. Patricia Wright, appeared on WNYU’s The Rundown to talk about the need for high-quality professional development for paraprofessionals working in special education.

In the interview, Dr. Wright discusses Rethink’s partnership with District 75 in New York City to train about 4,700 paraprofessionals in best-practice teaching and intervention strategies to support them in working more effectively with students in their classrooms.

“It’s really commendable that New York City is investing this effort in their paras to ensure that they have the information, resources, and the supports they need to do effective education,” Dr. Wright explained.

Rethink’s platform provides paraprofessionals in District 75 with access to hundreds of video-based exercises and printable lessons and materials to train them in evidence-based practices in special education.  In partnership with District 75, Rethink’s highly-trained team of BCBAs and clinicians conduct trainings and workshops with groups of paraprofessionals in District 75 to build competency not only in how to access the resources available on Rethink but also in learning to apply those resources in context.  

“I think New York City was creative in this aspect,” said Dr. Wright. “They wanted something that would not just be a one-off workshop, but would provide that ongoing support.”

You can learn more about the work Rethink is doing in District 75 in a recent article in the Associate Press.  


Check out the full transcript below:

Rachel Parks Liu-WNYU: You’re listening to The Rundown on WNYU. My name is Rachel Parks Liu, and today I’m here with Patricia Wright, the VP of professional services from the agency Rethink to talk about paraprofessional training working with special needs students in New York City.

Dr. Patricia Wright-Rethink: Great to be here, thanks for inviting us.

RPL: Thank you so much for coming down to the studio. So, can you talk a little bit about your company’s ideology?

PW: Sure, so Rethink is an educational technology company, and we’re really committed to ensuring that every teacher has access to effective intervention strategies, so that they can teach students with disabilities effectively. So, our methodology is something that’s called Applied Behavior Analysis, which has a strong research base, but I think what differentiates our company is that we really strive to have that research and that science available to every educator, including paraprofessionals that may not have formal training in that science. Our company really takes that science and that incredible research, and makes it applicable and accessible for all educators.

RPL: So, how would that work in regards to a specific student?

PWSure, so our educational technology provides training and support and information via videos and written resources and applied practice, things that people can use in the classroom, so the paraprofessionals can access that information and receive that kind of direct training, and then they’re able to apply that to a student in the classroom, which is really what every educator wants, right? They want to make sure that students are receiving effective intervention and that they’re delivering education that’s promoting best student outcomes. If we can get that in the hands of everyone, then it can be available to every student, which is our desire.

RPLVery cool, so it’s resource based program?

PW: Absolutely, so it’s resources, and again, I think that what’s really great about our educational technology is that it has videos, so there’s real teachers with real students, and you know how powerful video is, right? You’re part of the YouTube generation. The technology is accessible in a way that it’s not just about reading, or not just about attending trainings, but there’s actually videos that the paraprofessionals and the other educators can access to learn about those strategies, and then they also can apply them in the classroom and get feedback from other people, so there’s resources in there as well so they can try it with a student and see how that works. Really, that’s how learning happens, right? You learn something, then you apply it. You get some feedback, and you try it again.

RPL: So, I know now you have this huge project that you’re working on with the city of New York. What’s the scale of that project?

PW: Sure, so New York has been really interested in ensuring that their paraprofessionals, and there’s tens of thousands of them, they need access to effective supports. We’re training a little, about 4,700 paraprofessionals to deliver effective intervention. So, they’re accessing our resources to learn effective strategies, evidence based approaches, to be able to work more effectively with their students. I really commend New York City schools. This is a big project, and taking it on. Paraprofessionals often don’t get a lot of support, so it’s really commendable that New York City is investing this effort in their paraprofessionals to ensure that they have information and resources and the support they need to do effective education.

RPL:  So, do you help in the training by providing them the resources, or is it a one-on-one teaching?

PW: So, we have different models of resources, again, and because it’s technology, right, it’s available to anyone that has, you know, internet access, so any of those paraprofessionals, they can access it in the schools, they can access at the home, they have that information available to them anywhere there’s web access, and then we also have highly trained professionals that do, kind of what we would think of as workshops. They go in and work with groups of paraprofessionals to help them understand both how to access those resources, and then, more importantly, how to apply those resources in context. So, we do kind of a workshops supports for them so that they can then go back to their classrooms and deliver it in an effective manner.

RPL: You may not know the answer to this question, but how, in New York, have paraprofessionals previously been trained?

PW:You know, I think that every school district is dedicated to ensuring that their educators have training, so I feel confident that New York City has delivered in support of their paraprofessionals because they really want the best for the children, and they know that requires training. I think what’s unique about this project, and why they turned to us is, they really felt the value of educational technologies, and they really felt like, “Gosh, sometimes we have these one off workshops, paraprofessionals come in and they attend a half-day training, and then they leave.” What they really wanted was to have those resources available to them for that ongoing support. So, it’s just like all of us: you go into a training, you learn something, and then you leave, and you’re like, “Now, wait a minute, what did that person say?” So, with this, it’s like you come into that workshop, you learn and then you leave, and you’re like, “Now, what did that person say?” I can actually just access some information, via the web, via video, via written technology, to be able to reinforce that learning for myself. I think that’s what differentiates this, but you know, I think every school district is dedicated to promoting the professional development of their educators, and again, I think New York City was creative in this aspect because they wanted something that would not just be a one off workshop, but would provide that ongoing support.

RPLSo, how long will you be continuing working with them?

PW: So, we’re working with them for this year, we’re dedicated to, and we’re certainly dedicated to having a long term relationship with the New York City schools. We work collaboratively with their leadership to ensure that we’re meeting their needs, and we kind of build an ongoing relationship, and stay engaged for as long as they perceive that we’re needed, and we can offer them effective supports.

RPLPatricia, thank you so much for coming and talking about Rethink’s work in New York City, this has been The Rundown on WNYU.

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