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Finding the Keys for Student Success

The Comprehensive Student Assistance Process (CSAP)

By: Brenda B. TaylorPublished: May 13, 2011
Topics: District-wide Implementation, Implementation Planning and Evaluation, Tiered Instruction, Urban Education


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Brenda B. Taylor is the Retired Deputy Chief of the Office of Specialized Instructional Services for the School District of Philadelphia. As Deputy Chief, Brenda was responsible for overseeing the provisions of programs and services in the areas of physical health, behavioral health, prevention and intervention, homeless student support and special education ensuring that all such programs are in compliance and meeting the needs of the population of students that the District serves. She was able to develop and direct the implementation/administration of the School District of Philadelphia policies and procedures designed to maximize the delivery of services that positively drives student achievement.

To ensure that every child has a successful school experience, the School District of Philadelphia offers help to students experiencing academic or behavioral obstacles to learning through the Comprehensive Student Assistance Process (CSAP). The CSAP is a three-tiered, collaborative process by which schools identify barriers to learning and remove barriers by accessing internal (school-based) and external (community-based) resources. The heart of CSAP is the classroom, where the classroom teacher analyzes the strengths and learning needs of each student and adapts instruction and environment to create optimal learning conditions.

Any comprehensive support process must begin with creating a network of supports for students and staff that result in a safe and productive learning environment. At the school-wide level, elements which contribute to such an environment include ongoing opportunities for skill-building among staff and students, the engagement of families as educational partners, a behavior management program which is clearly defined and consistently implemented, and a coordinated system of support for all students.

The Tier 1 level of intervention is designed to address the needs of students (individuals or groups) with similar barriers to learning. At this level, teachers meet regularly with their learning community colleagues to identify and implement proven instructional strategies for the classroom. The Tier 1 Coordinator (Learning Community/Academy Coordinator or Principal’s Designee) facilitates Tier 1 meetings. Common planning time is built into the school roster to permit time for these meetings. The strategies implemented are reviewed, and revised where needed, by the team after four weeks of implementation.

It is sometimes the case that individual students may be experiencing particular barriers to learning that need targeted support. Tier 2 is designed to address the needs of such students. At Tier 2, a core team of trained professionals (the referring teacher, counselor, learning community/academy coordinator, grade group leader and nurse) joins parents at a meeting scheduled by the school counselor, who coordinates and facilitates the Tier 2 process. Together, this team develops an intervention plan that is designed to address the needs of the student and/or family. This plan can include both school-based and community-based supports, and the team can include auxiliary members (school psychologist, agency staff) as indicated by need, law and/or School District Policy. The progress of the plan is reviewed thirty school days after implementation.

Tier 3: If individual student support has produced little or no improvement within sixty days, the focus transitions to a multidisciplinary evaluation. This evaluation may be for educational or behavioral reasons. Team membership, documentation, and timelines are governed by procedural dictates established by the School District of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The foundation of the success of the CSAP is based on the support of the central office. This support is provided through several levels of trainings:


The central office has hired regionally based CSAP Liaisons to coach and support the process. The liaisons provide in school coaching and assure that each school is supported and the process is consistent throughout the School District of Philadelphia.

Approximately three years ago the Philadelphia School District developed a web-based system to track the students services by the CSAP.  The following is data pulled from that system:


The numbers of students served have increased each year, indicating CSAP has become a system of support for struggling students that can be implemented to meet each student's the individual needs. The results from the 2009-2010 school year were promising:


CSAP data is also a part of each school's report card. The central office looks at the number of students in each school who are at the below basic level on the school's benchmark assessments and compares it to the number of students referred to CSAP. If the school has a high number of students scoring below basic on the benchmark assessment and a low number of students referred to CSAP, the school gets a low grade and is targeted for support. In addition, the school's Tier 1 process is reviewed and coaching is provided by the CSAP Liaison.
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