Item Coversheet

Action Item - 6.

Title: Acceptance of Grant and Authorization of Contracts with Various Vendors for Behavioral Health and Applied Behavior Analysis Professionals and Therapists ($300,000)

Board of Education Meeting Date:

Action under consideration


The Administration recommends that the Board of Education authorize The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to accept a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education and to execute and perform contracts to address the needs described below, subject to funding as applicable, as follows


Grant from:  Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education (PDE)


Purpose:  The provision of contracted professionals and therapists trained in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to provide direct support to students with autism and special needs and to provide professional development in ABA methods to District teachers and staff


Grant amount up to:  $300,000 


Start date: 7/1/2023


End date:  6/30/2024


Contract with:  

The Stepping Stones Group, LLC

Progressus Therapy, LLC


Purpose: The provision of behavioral therapists with expertise in ABA to provide direct support and interventions to students with autism and special needs who would benefit from ABA methods, and to support and train teachers and staff in ABA-based principles, models, interventions, and instructional techniques.


Compensation not to exceed:  $300,000


Start date: 7/1/2023


End date:  6/30/2024


Separate Compensation by Vendor:

All entities will be paid out of the aggregate amount not to exceed $300,000



Gompers, Samuel School; Comly, Watson School; Girard, Stephen School; Loesche, William H. School; Lea, Henry C. School, Holme, Thomas School, Decatur, Stephen School; Moore, J. Hampton School; Roosevelt Elementary School; Morrison, Andrew J. School; Carnell, Laura H. School; Nebinger, George W. School; Washington, Martha School, Vare-Washington School, Stanton, Edwin M. School; Bridesburg School; Taylor, Bayard School; Hartranft, John F. School; Kenderton Elementary School; Cramp, William School; Shawmont School; Edmonds, Franklin S. School; and other schools approved by the Chief of the Office of Special Education & Diverse Learners 


Renewal Options: No




Why is the contract needed?

Each year the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) awards the Office of Special Education & Diverse Learners a grant for the provision of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services to support students with autism during the Extended School and Regular School Year programs. Evidence-based practices and ABA based instructional methods are highly effective for many students with disabilities. Recognizing this, PDE through the annual ABA Grant awarded the School District of Philadelphia (District), as well as other Pennsylvania school districts, funding to be used for evidence-based and ABA teacher training and student support services. The Board annually authorizes acceptance of this PDE ABA grant award to be used to support students who would benefit from ABA instructional methods and whose Individualized Education Plans (IEP) require ABA support. The Contractors' ABA specialists shall primarily support and train new teachers on competency based and systematic ABA methods to support positive student outcomes. The ABA specialists will also support returning teaches to promote continued best practices and retention. Teacher retention is one of the PDE grant’s primary goals.


Students with autism often experience challenges in social-communicative functioning and sometimes exhibit repetitive or stereotypical behaviors. With effective instruction, teachers can assist students with autism in achieving positive and beneficial learning and behavioral outcomes. The Contracted therapist shall provide up to 23 classroom teachers and 70 special education assistants with a continuum of professional development support in the following areas:


1. administering student assessments when needed using the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Protocol (VB-MAPP), and Functional Behavior Assessments;

2. delivery of ABA programs and interventions to students which result in data which will be graphed and monitored in student program binders to determine student outcomes;

3. training District staff in the creation and delivery of ABA instruction, interventions and programs;

4. modeling for teachers and staff ABA methods and strategies including Discrete Trial Training (DTT)/Intensive Teaching (IT) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT)/Natural Environment Training (NET);

5. delivery of direct ABA services to students despite challenging behaviors which may include elopement, self-injurious behavior and aggression (hitting, kicking, scratching, biting);

6. creating a positive learning atmosphere for staff and students by using positive behavior strategies to promote skill acquisition and diminish challenging behaviors;

7. facilitating the development of behavior modification plan; and, preparation of individualized academic, social, and behavior learning programs for students with ASD using ABA principles, strategies and goals determined by IEP objectives.


How is this work connected to the District’s plan to achieve Goals & Guardrails?

The provision of professional development to staff in ABA for students who would benefit from this method of instruction shall support the Board of Education goals of enabling students to reach IEP goals and objectives, achieve proficient levels in annual state assessments, and to graduate ready for independent living, college and career.


How will the success of this contract be measured?

The Office of Special Education & Diverse Learners shall directly observe and monitor the contractor’s delivery of staff professional development training and support to students. Participating teachers will be provided two ABA competency assessments - one at the beginning of the school year to determine areas of need and a second at the end of the school year to measure acquisition of ABA instructional skills. In addition, there will be a review of participating students' IEPs to determine levels of improvement and progress toward reaching academic and behavioral goals.


When applicable, is this an evidence-based strategy? If so, what evidence exists to support this approach?

ABA is a systematic process to achieve socially significant and beneficial student outcomes based on a scientific approach to human behavior. It is an evidence-based practice that is well researched and cited in thousands of peer reviewed literature. ABA utilizes observation and measurement to understand the antecedent and consequent events that correlate with predictable patterns of responding. ABA is rooted in the theoretical constructs of B. F. Skinner’s model of verbal behavior. Current behavioral research is used to design and guide ABA interventions.


When applicable, was a larger community of District community members and/or stakeholders involved in this selection process? If so, what groups and how?

Consistent with the District’s competitive procurement process, the selection of these contractors included a committee of District staff with relevant special education, instructional, programmatic, and fiscal expertise who reviewed and evaluated contractors’ RFP responses.


Funding Source(s):

FY23-24 PDE Grant


 Office Originating Request: Academic Support