TLC Program Evaluation: Executive Summary - January 2022

  • Randolph Public Schools TLC Program Evaluation: Executive Summary.pdf


    Randolph Public Schools

    TLC Program Evaluation: Executive Summary

    A Program Evaluation was conducted for the Randolph Public Schools to further examine the District’s Therapeutic Learning Center (“TLC”) program at the elementary level. This district-wide program services students with emotional and behavioral disabilities across grades K through 5 and is housed at the Lyons Elementary School. The overall purpose of the evaluation was to determine program effectiveness in supporting positive outcomes for students with emotional
    and behavioral disabilities serviced within this district program and to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement for the District to consider. The report also provides action-oriented recommendations to guide future decision-making based on the evidence acquired through the
    evaluation process.

    Several guiding questions were developed by this evaluator based on conversations with District administrators to help frame the scope of this evaluation. These guiding questions included:

    1) How is the District currently performing in regards to evidence-based practices specific to educating students with Emotional Impairments within the elementary TLC program?

    2) How are therapeutic supports differentiated for students who are serviced within the TLC program?

    3) What services, supports, and resources are needed to provide high quality educational programs for students with Emotional Impairments across a continuum of needs?

    The Quality Program Indicators for Children with Emotional and Behavior Disorders was used as the primary evaluation tool to measure the overall effectiveness of the current program model. This tool was utilized in combination with direct observations, comprehensive reviews of IEPs and evaluations for students currently in the program, and verbal feedback provided by program staff and administrators for the purposes of this evaluation. Findings were significant for several
    overarching themes that should inform the District’s plan of action with regards to programmatic improvements in order to more effectively service students with significant emotional and behavioral disorders:

    Overarching Finding #1: There is no clear “continuum” in programmatic structure or practices that are replicated across the TLC programs.

    The TLC programs at the elementary, middle, and high school levels are largely siloed at the present time, and a common theme of disconnectedness and confusion regarding the program model was evident. While this evaluation focused on the elementary program, interviews with TLC staff at the middle and high school levels revealed substantive differences in the TLC model at the secondary level, which creates substantial confusion with regards to the overarching structure and vertical alignment of a cohesive district program continuum for students with Emotional Impairments. Importantly, the TLC program at the high school level is considered to
    be a general education “alternative” program; while approximately 50% of students in the high school program do receive special education services, the model is not designed as a special education program to meet the needs of students with emotional disabilities, contrary to the design and intent of the elementary and middle school models.

    Overall, several areas for programmatic improvement were identified during this Program Evaluation, including the need for a clear vision for the program and fidelity in the implementation of evidence-based practices that connects to this vision. The District is also encouraged to develop clarity in the program description and entrance/exit criteria that is based on student level of need and type/intensity of specially designed instruction required in order to make effective progress. Additionally, staff interviews were also noteworthy for a palpable sense of confusion related to the roles/responsibilities of the teachers and various related
    service providers, most notably the School Adjustment Counselor (SAC) and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). The specific time allocation and degree of involvement from these related service providers was insufficient to meet the needs of students in the TLC program. Furthermore, substantial challenges related to the lack of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team was underscored.

    Overarching Finding #2: There is a significantly limited “therapeutic” component to the elementary TLC program.

    Evidence of this limited focus on social-emotional and behavioral needs of students was apparent in the analysis of students’ IEPs, which showed notably minimal supports with regards to service deliveries. A recent decline in available staff resources has also largely contributed to the lack of a foundational “therapeutic” component of the TLC program. Historically, a full-time allocated School Adjustment Counselor (SAC) was an inherent part of the elementary TLC
    program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and significant strain on financial resources, the District made several budgetary cuts in the Spring of 2020, including the reduction of SACs across the District and the reallocation of remaining SACs (1 per building). All program staff and building administrators noted the detrimental impact that this had on the elementary TLC program. While all staff members expressed a strong desire to do more group lessons with an increased focus on social-emotional skills within the context of TLC, there were widespread concerns about the lack of allocated staffing and availability to provide an increased intensity in
    services. Likewise, the program has minimal/no access to a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to assist in developing both evidence-based class-wide behavioral supports as well as individualized Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) for all students in the program.

    Overarching Finding #3: The lack of a robust multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) framework impacts the District’s ability to effectively service students with emotional and behavioral disorders within the least restrictive environment.

    Although the District has implemented many positive practices aimed at creating stronger tiered supports, continued efforts are needed to create a more inclusive culture and build upon the skill sets of all educators so that they can better support students with social-emotional and behavioral needs in the general education classroom. This is especially important in cases where current TLC students may not truly fit the program’s intended learning profile of students with Emotional Impairments. An analysis of student demographics showed some potential disproportionality, which may indicate systemic challenges in the District’s identification and placement process. Specifically, 80% of students in the elementary TLC program are identified as African American in comparison with a district-wide rate of 50.1%. This discrepancy mirrors that of national trends in data that show overrepresentation of Black students, and more
    specifically, Black boys, identified with emotional disabilities (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).

    Importantly, the TLC program is functioning primarily as a substantially separate program with TLC teachers providing the vast majority of academic instruction, yet only 60% of students had identified academic IEP goal areas. Only 13% of students currently have services written on their IEPs to receive academic instruction within the general education setting. Staff interviews were also noteworthy for a shared desire to develop a more systematic process for determining how to increase students’ time in the general education setting. Continued Professional Development in the areas of PBIS and SEL are needed for all staff to ensure that students with emotional and behavioral needs can be effectively supported within the least restrictive environment.

    Recommendations

    Several detailed recommendations were generated based on the findings from this program evaluation that will be useful in providing the District with additional ways to further develop capacity and ensure continued high quality programming for students with substantial social, emotional and behavioral needs. Recommendations were organized into three main sections: Recommendations for District-Level Considerations, Recommendations for TLC Program Model and Structure, and Recommendations for Curriculum and Instruction. These recommendations underscore the importance of strengthening the district’s multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework in order to meet the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students, with an emphasis on creating robust universal and targeted social, emotional and behavioral supports at Tiers 1 and 2. Specific recommendations for the TLC Program include developing clarity in the overall model of TLC with regards to student learning profiles and eligibility guidelines, as well as an emphasis on evidence-based Tier 3 therapeutic supports, program staff allocation and roles/responsibilities, and instructional models.