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
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.
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.
Randolph Public Schools: AIM HS Program Evaluation
Randolph Public Schools: AIM HS Program Evaluation, 2023.pdf
This Program Evaluation was conducted for the Randolph Public Schools at the request of the
District’s Director of Special Education and Student Services in order to examine the District’s
High School AIM Academy Program as part of a larger continuum of program evaluations. The
overall purpose of the evaluation was to determine program effectiveness in supporting positive
outcomes for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities served within this district
program and to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement for the District to
consider. The report, in its entirety, provides action-oriented recommendations to guide future
decision-making based on the evidence acquired through the evaluation process.
Several guiding questions were developed by the evaluation team based on conversations with
District administrators and the previous evaluator to help frame the scope of this evaluation.
These guiding questions included:
1) How is the District currently performing in regards to evidence-based practice sspecific to
educating students with Emotional Impairments within the High School AIM Program?
2) How are therapeutic supports differentiated fors tudents who are serviced within the context of the
3) What type of program model would support a continuum of cohesive services and supports for
students with Emotional Impairments across the district in grades K-12?
The AIM program at Randolph High School possesses a variety of strengths that the district can
utilize when formulating an improvement plan. The most highlighted positive component of the
program is the figurative reach of the program’s Director. This role is pivotal in growing and
shaping a program and the relationships that the Director has forged with both students and
staff are remarkable. Collectively, the AIM team shares a passion for helping struggling
students through creative, out-of-the-box strategies to keep students invested in their learning.
Student attendance can often become an issue for students with significant emotional
impairments or behavioral difficulties that can lead to school refusal. However, the
compassionate and systematic approach to attendance relays a sense of accountability by the
students through daily student check-ins that may result in coordination with the family/home
setting to bring students to school. The result of this outreach is quite simply stronger
relationships with students, a hallmark of supporting students with emotional and behavioral
concerns. The AIM team goes a step further to connect on different levels with their student
body by hosting “pot luck” dinners throughout the year. The impact of this event is
immeasurable and brings students and staff together for non-academic, personal connections.
The district promotes and supports weekly meetings between the new Climate Support
Specialist at TLC (Middle School) and the Director of the AIM (High school) program to improve
programmatic alignment for students with significant therapeutic needs. The AIM School
Adjustment Counselor brings another layer of value by expanding the professional role beyond
the scope of pure clinical work and remains ever-present as a support to the AIM student body
throughout the day. The district continues to offer relevant and program-specific Professional
Development opportunities annually to AIM staff, such as Trauma-informed practices.
Additionally, the staff within the AIM program instituted their own book study to collectively
further educate themselves in program specific areas, most recently in Restorative Practices. A
strong communication system has been established and maintained by the Director to ensure
that ongoing updates are shared with parents in real time. And, lastly, the administration’s
dedicated efforts to the betterment of the program, such as this external evaluation process,
show meaningful leadership toward continuous improvement.
Overarching Finding #1
AIM Academy Program model alignment with Alternative Education (not Special Education)
The design of AIM Academy and the district-wide alignment to an Alternative Education
program are significant factors of the program that would necessitate the District applying for
categorization as an Alternative Education school. As such, the district lacks a special education
pathway for students who transition from the Middle School TLC program to the high school
level and may still require a more restrictive placement with strong academic, behavioral and
therapeutic special education supports and who do not fit into the “At Risk” category as defined
by DESE. The District will want to use caution when transitioning special education students
from TLC at the Middle School to the High School to ensure their special education needs are
the primary focus with the intent to service in the least restrictive setting. The District should
avoid having the AIM Academy attempt to be both an Alternative Education program and a
sub-separate special education program for students with Emotional Impairments as it can not
conform to the two varying sets of state regulations. The district will rely on DESE criteria for
programming that will guide the discrimination of what student profile should enter an
Alternative Education program and seek alternative pathways for students requiring
therapeutic special education services. The confusion lies in the difference between how the
district should approach a disability versus a disadvantage.
Overarching Finding #2
Lack of Curriculum and Instruction in SEL, PBIS, Transition and Life Skills
The AIM Academy provides a strong core academic curriculum and credit recovery services for
struggling learners in the areas of English Language Arts, Mathematics, History and Science.
There are some initial signs of Transition skills being forged within the program, however; this
is a benefit of a newly hired staff with a Transition Specialist background versus a long-term
programmatic implementation plan. From a special education lens, the AIM Academy lacks
comprehensive, systematic instruction and assessment in Social-Emotional Learning, Life
Skills, Self-Determination, and Transition skills centered around each individual’s need
(through an IEP). With consideration as an Alternative Education program, AIM will also want
to develop these skills but from a different perspective (a student’s disadvantage). Along that
same vein, the district may want to develop strong connections to community-based or
work-based learning opportunities for At-Risk youth to create real life experiences they can
Given the high number of special education students in AIM Academy, the absence of
curriculum in the areas outlined above has an impact on the quality of students’IEP. There is a
lack of comprehensiveness in testing and application for students identified as requiring a
sub-separate, therapeutic program. The IEPs moving forward will require stronger
representation of social-emotional learning, behavioral support, life skills as well as transition
skills. The development of a strong life skills approach (money management, cooking, cleaning,
laundry) is a necessary component of the AIM Academy curriculum for both profiles: special
education students and students At-Risk. However, the distinction of why students lack the
skills is imperative to “how” they are instructed and what type of support or program may be
needed. Students who are not limited by their cognitive capacity or an emotional impairment
but more so due to socio-economic disadvantages, cultural barriers and/or other societal
disadvantages may benefit from the same curriculum but for reasons that many “At-Risk”
students are facing, lack of access. Again, the confusion lies in the appropriate approach to the
student profile, is it one of disadvantage or lack of opportunity or is it due to an identified
Overarching Finding #3
Enhance Unique Learning Formats and Universal Design for Learning to improve Student Outcomes
The DESE Alternative Education Guide defines student learning time as learning that “can
happen in a variety of settings and formats” such as: Directed Study,Independent Study,
Service Learning and Work-based learning. The creativity offered through an Alternative
Education program offers students a variety of options for work credit. The Team will want to
coordinate this within the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to improve overall
access for students. UDL targets multiple means of Engagement (why), Multiple Means of
Representation (what), and Multiple Means of Action/Expression (how). As the district
solidifies its alignment to an Alternative Education program, a heavier emphasis should be
placed on ensuring a variety of learning formats, that consider UDL and how that can improve
student engagement, are in place. Universal Design for Learning naturally presents
opportunities for various learning styles and offers accommodations embedded into daily
learning. For students with disabilities, UDL offers many of the prescribed accommodations
found within IEPs that can support greater student engagement, improve understanding, and
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:
Recommendationsfor District-Level Considerations, Recommendationsfor TLC Program Model and
Structure, and Recommendationsfor Curriculum and Instruction.
The district-level recommendations underscore the importance of identifying the DESE-aligned
pathway that AIM will align with and therefore, vertical planning for the TLC elementary and
middle school programs may support the structure and model of a different pathway for
students who require a therapeutic special education setting at the high school level. Additional
recommendations to improve the District’s Trauma-Sensitive and Culturally Sensitive practices
Specific recommendations for the TLC Program Model and Structure include developing a clear
vision for the TLC program across all grade levels/buildings.In the case of AIM Academy, the
District would benefit from developing a clear vision for an additional program pathway at the
High School for students transitioning out of the TLC middle school. As noted above,
substantive differences in the TLC model were noted at the High School 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.
Within AIM, there is a limited overall emphasis on the intended “therapeutic” nature of the
program. As such, it is recommended that the District create further clarity in the explicit
identification and cohesive implementation of evidence-based social-emotional and positive
behavioral supports that are offered as part of the specially designed instruction of a special
education program versus an Alternative Education program, although both may require
therapeutic support. Of significant note, the absence of the BCBA is counter-intuitive to the
design and intent of the program, which is described as supporting students with behavioral
needs. A major strength of the AIM Academy is the ongoing presence of the Adjustment
Counselor for frequent check-ins and to keep a pulse on students’ state of regulation.
A review of current students’ assessment records revealed that cognitive and academic
achievement measures were consistently utilized to inform the eligibility process and
development of the IEP. General measures of behavior were also prevalent in most students’
records; however, assessments generally lacked the use of specific measures designed for
students with potential emotional disabilities. The District should consider adopting a
consistent practice across all programs in the use of specific assessment tools geared towards
determining the presence of Emotional Impairment. Furthermore, despite the behavioral
nature of students referred to AIM Academy, there was no evidence of Functional Behavioral
Assessments conducted, to instruct the development of BIPs, in the assessment records. The
assessment records also lacked testing in the areas of Transition Skills such as Independent
living and Employment. The addition of Transition Assessments will be pivotal to special
education students referred to AIM (or a future TLC model).
Given the potential alignment with an Alternative Education program, the district will want to
ensure that IEPs are comprehensively written for students in the AIM Academy and that
resources are available to support students determined eligible for AIM Academy. As the District
identifies a special education pathway for students out of TLC middle school it will be
imperative that each student is appropriately placed and that the level of special education
supports and therapeutic services are identified and practiced. It may benefit the District to
provide a professional development series on IEP development that will subsequently shape the
implementation of services for students at the high school level.
In an effort to increase the effectiveness and impact of paraprofessional support, the District
would benefit from creating clarity with regards to expectations for paraprofessionals that
support students in the AIM Academy.
All program staff, including teachers and paraprofessionals, should maintain current
certification in a crisis management program (e.g., CPI, Safety Care) at all times. The profile of
students in the AIM Academy may require a finely tuned set of skills in the art of de-escalation.
The District may consider adding more training and monitoring of the effectiveness of
strategies as it relates to time on learning as well as encourage staff to participate in ongoing
honing of their personal de-escalation skills with a lens on cultural sensitivity.
From a special education standpoint, the District would benefit from supporting an
interdisciplinary team model that encourages increased collaboration among various service
providers (Special Educators, OT, SLP, BCBA, etc.) and focuses on embedding social-emotional
and behavioral regulation skills across the entire day.
As mentioned in previous TLC program evaluations, the District would greatly benefit from
creating a TLC Task Force to drive programmatic improvements in a systematic and cohesive
manner across the entire TLC continuum from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Additionally, this
task force can provide guidance and support to the AIM Academy as an Alternative Education
program if needed.
Recommendations in the area of Curriculum and Instruction were considered first and foremost
with the framework of Universal Design for Learning. The premise of all curriculum and
instruction should fall under the umbrella of Universal Design for Learning with a focus on
enhancing the three elements: Multiple Means of Engagement (why), Multiple Means of
Representation (what), and Multiple Means of Action/Expression (how). Specifically, within the
TLC program, the students' varying social-emotional needs, and academic needs impact
traditional learning and teachers will want to focus on more high impact accommodations. Two
areas were highlighted for the District to expand on: Social Emotional Curriculum and
Instructional and Assistive Technology. Specific reference to models such as AIM: A Behavior
Analytic Curriculum for Social-Emotional Development in Children, by Mark Dixon and Dana
Paliliunas, which incorporates the research-based approaches of Mindfulness, Acceptance and
Commitment Therapy, and Applied Behavior Analysis was cited. The district will want to attend
to improved use of instructional and/or assistive technologies by students to support equitable
access to learning based on Individualized Education Plans. Although Randolph is a one-to-one
district with regard to personalized devices, safe use of devices can be a delicate balance of
student need and attention versus students who may show patterns of unacceptable behavior.
However, Assistive technology can be an extremely useful tool when considering student
accommodations and modifications such as self-pacing of student work, ability to discreetly
provide feedback, and for providing targeted personalized support (e.g., autocorrect,
suggestive phrasing,research split screens, digital organizers, etc). The district is cautioned to
intermittently ensure equitable access is promoted for students in AIM with regard to
individual needs, accommodations, and/or modifications as well as to consider the necessary
life skills of laptop use. Proficiency with online systems is a requirement in many areas and will
be needed for students who may want post-secondary education or who may enter the
Randolph Public Schools: “TLC” MS Program Evaluation
Randolph MS TLC Executive Summary
This Program Evaluation was conducted for the Randolph Public Schools at the request of the District’s Director of Special Education and Student Services in order to examine the District’s Middle School Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) Program as part of a larger continuum of program evaluations. The overall purpose of the evaluation was to determine program effectiveness in supporting positive outcomes for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities who are served within this district program and to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement for the District to consider. The report, in its entirety, provides action-oriented recommendations to guide future decision-making based on the evidence acquired through the evaluation process.
Several guiding questions were developed by the evaluation Team based on conversations with District administrators and through collaboration with the previous TLC evaluator 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 EmotionalImpairments within the Middle School TLC Program?
2) How are therapeutic supports differentiated for students who are serviced within the context of the TLC program?
3) What type of program model would support a continuum of cohesive services and supports for students with Emotional Impairments across the district in grades K-12?
The TLC program at the middle school showcased a variety of strengths that the district can utilize when formulating an improvement plan. The most impactful positive aspect is the hiring of an additional Climate Support Specialist, emulating the successful role developed at the high school level, within AIM Academy. For any therapeutic program to be effective, it is highly reliant on relationships amongst staff as well as between students and staff. The staff within the TLC program, including the newly hired Climate Support Specialist, exemplified dedication, personal connection and a supportive demeanor that clearly conveys their positivity toward the students. Collectively, the staff share a strong desire to collaborate toward improved programming and were forthcoming during the evaluation to promote positive change. Student attendance can often become an issue for students with significant emotional impairments or behavioral difficulties that can lead to school refusal. However, the attendance at the TLC middle school program was notably high providing additional evidence of the personal connections that often bring students to school settings. The district promotes and supports weekly meetings with the new Climate Support Specialist at TLC and Director of AIM (High school) to start to improve programmatic alignment. There is Common Planning Time scheduled for the ELA/Social Studies teacher with district curriculum leaders. The School Adjustment Counselor has started incorporating mindfulness activities. The district continuesto offer relevant and program-specific Professional Development opportunities annually to TLC staff. And, lastly, the administration's dedicated efforts to the betterment of the program, such as this external evaluation process, show meaningful leadership toward continuous improvement.
Overarching Finding #1:
An Omission of“Therapeutic” supports and Social-Emotional Learning Focus
An essential piece of a “Therapeutic” program is the integrated use of therapeutic tools and behavioral strategies in conjunction with a proactive, systematic approach to Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). The TLC program at the middle school is inherently lacking these components. A School Adjustment Counselor (SAC) is assigned part time to the TLC program and the limitations of scheduling greatly impact availability to the TLC students. To that end, it is questionable if the level of access to a SAC is any greater than a student in an inclusion setting would receive. Furthermore, there is not a Social-Emotional curriculum utilized in the program nor is there a sense of a cohesive approach to address Social-Emotional Learning and the resulting behavioral impacts within the program. The SAC attempts to spend more time in the
program but other school-wide responsibilities impact the presence in the TLC program. There is a necessity to interconnect the “therapeutic” supports and behavioral approaches (as it relates to finding #2) to create a strong foundation within the TLC program.
Overarching Finding #2:
A Lack of Classroom Management Resulting in Reduced Time on Learning
The program at the Community middle school lacks a cohesive and systematic PBIS system that targets expected rules within and across all learning environments. Lack of program structure directly affects time-on learning and student outcomes and this was corroborated by direct observation and data collection during learning opportunities across the school day.In addition to a programmatic system, the “therapeutic” premise of the program would benefit from a stronger system (i.e., Check In-Check out system) that focuses on behavioral and/or social-emotional expectations at the onset of each activity. This approach serves as a priming procedure to set students up for success and on the latter end of an activity it also provides a self-reflection piece. The Middle School “TLC” Program Evaluation identified the need to develop stronger self-awareness, self-management, and self monitoring skills amongst the student population. Program alignment with the school-wide “ROCK” system would start to build a connection to the larger middle school community. A program-designed positive behavioral support system will develop a more consistent approach to classroom management and, in turn, improve student outcomes and time on learning. The TLC program is situated at the end of a hallway in the back corner. There are both positive and negative aspects to this design. One perspective would oppose the site of the program as it could create a feeling of exclusion and separation from the “general education” classrooms and peers. The other perspective, especially in light of the program's current status, promotes student privacy, dignity and respect by shielding their behaviors from the larger group of peers. Alongside the two academic classrooms is an additional room called the “Flex Room”. This room holds much potential from a proactive behavioral and therapeutic standpoint, however, it remains undefined and used in reaction to student behavior, which is in opposition to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s September 2021 guidance on reducing and eliminating the use of time out space. Identifying how the “flex room” will be used and redesigning the space could greatly support more effective regulation through the development of personal coping strategies students learn to use proactively.
Overarching Finding #3:
Staff Retention Concerns /Staff Training in SEL and Therapeutic approaches
Both acquisition and retention of highly qualified staff have a major impact on the overall success of the Community Middle School TLC program. Reportedly, the last two years have resulted in 100% and nearly 100% staff turnover rates.In the 2021-2022 school year there were no returning members of the TLC Team to the program. During the prior school year (2020-2021) it was reported that only one staff remained in the program for the following school year. Significant staff turnover in the program has resulted in an unstable and inconsistent program that lacks leadership and replicable systems. This is evidenced through the current
staff belief that they have to “start from zero” to get the program operating successfully for students. The findings from the Lippitt-Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change shows vision, consensus and action plan as missing components of the current program design. These missing elements create confusion among staff and leave staff to unintentionally sabotage the intent of the model. Consideration of these large scale needs while systematically approaching an action plan will guide the District to overhaul the program. All staff reported that they feel supported through the district’s Professional Development opportunities and that they are provided sessions that are pertinent to the specific needs of a Therapeutic program.In alignment with that, the District will want to ensure that the carryover or generalization of the learned skills are transferred to the classroom setting. A program with high needs students requires a honed set of skills by the teachers and paraprofessionals. This creates a need for even more highly focused professional development, on-the-job training and feedback (i.e., Behavior Skills Training), and continued access to professional learning. Based on current observations, the professional development focus will need to be on developing a therapeutic setting with behavior systems and social-emotional approaches to learning.
Overarching Finding #4:
Needed focus on Assessment, Transition Planning, & IEP Development
Through access to a sampling of IEPs from the TLC program and through discussion with staff, the assessment process for students in the TLC program appears very linear in its focus and lacks a differentiated approach to each student’s need. The School Psychologist solely conducts the psychological (cognitive) assessment and the educational evaluation for each student who requires testing for their three-year re evaluation. This seems to be a limited and pre-packaged approach to evaluating students. There was no evidence of transition planning or goals that align to the outcomes of a transition plan. Transition planning, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, states that “Secondary Transition is a time that begins when they turn 14 (or earlier, if the IEP team agrees)”. Furthermore, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that secondary transition services are a "coordinated set of activities... within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement” of students with disabilities. Given the profile and needs of the student population in TLC, it would be imperative that the IEP Team begin Transition planning as early as possible. Additionally, it will be important to enhance the transition planning process with consultation, training, and/or support from a Transition Specialist who brings a different lens and focus on how to develop appropriate services targeting long term, functional outcomes. When working with students with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) or Trauma, there is a strong therapeutic benefit to knowing your evaluator and, through staff reporting, the evaluator is mostly unfamiliar to the students only serving the role of test administrator. Consideration of a more sensitive approach to testing and moving toward including portfolio assessments or informal assessments to supplement formal testing would help create a stronger picture of each students’ learning profile. The lack of Social-Emotional Learning measures within the program carry over to the IEP process that has limited or no focus on the student growth in the primary area that directs students to a Therapeutic setting, social-emotional and behavioral needs. Lastly, it was noteworthy that the shared IEPs were lacking goals in the area of SEL or behavior skill development.In essence, the two areas work in tandem and should be represented as such on student IEPs. Students’ maladaptive behaviors reduce when they are taught more socially appropriate ways (regulation) to meet their needs. The creation and implementation of an Individualized Education Plan for a student in a sub-separate Therapeutic Learning program should identify student-specific goals in the social and/or emotional realm and oftentimes behavioral goals that support their placement away from the general education setting where all students can access Tier 1 or Tier 2 supports.
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 Recommendationsfor Curriculum and Instruction. The district 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. Within this tiered support system, additional recommendations to improve the District’s Trauma-Sensitive and Culturally Sensitive practices were outlined.
Specific recommendations for the TLC Program Model and Structure include developing a clear vision for the TLC program across all grade levels/buildings as is also noted in the Elementary TLC evaluation. As noted within this evaluation, substantive differences in the TLC model were noted at the elementary and 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. As previously mentioned, the middle school TLC program receives students from the Elementary TLC program, an intended model of a therapeutic classroom, and then graduates students into the high school AIM Academy whose philosophical approach is to serve the “at-risk” population through an Alternative Education approach. This marked difference intensifies the confusion for the expected model at the middle school level.
The collaboration between the SAC and the BCBA plays a pivotal role in developing the successful school-based therapeutic model. PBIS provides guidance on developing interconnected systems for behavioral support and mental health support to effectively coexist. The district is encouraged to refer to the Midwest PBIS Network for guidance on developing interconnected systems called The Advancing Education Effectiveness: Interconnecting School Mental Health and School-Wide PBIS. This is an implementation guide of the Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) that will support the complementary nature of managing behavior while simultaneously providing therapeutic support.
A programmatic emphasis should be made on maximizing the availability of inclusion opportunities across the TLC continuum so that students with emotional and behavioral disorders have equitable access to instruction within the general education environment, as deemed appropriate by the Team. The district will want to ensure that, prior to entrance into the TLC sub-separate program, interventions at Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 are exhausted in the general education setting.
The District should also consider adopting a consistent practice across all programs in the use of specific assessment tools geared towards determining the presence of Emotional Impairment. Furthermore, conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) should be part of the fabric of any program model that supports students with behavioral needs. The District should consider implementing a clear process for conducting FBAs for students who exhibit challenging behaviors with differentiated practices geared towards this specific student profile, including the implementation of trauma-informed FBAs, as well as identifying the roles of specific professionals that are typically involved in this process (e.g. BCBA, Psychologist, Adjustment Counselor, Special Education Teacher, etc.). A student’s right to an FBA or review of a Behavior Intervention plan is outlined in IDEA 2004.
All TLC teachers and related service providers would benefit from training and sample IEP models that reflect streamlined best practices for documenting services across the TLC continuum while staying steadfast to the guidance on Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
In an effort to increase the effectiveness and impact of paraprofessional support, the District would benefit from creating clarity with regards to expectations for paraprofessionals that support students in the TLC program. Specific staff training on how to facilitate generalization of targeted social-emotional skills, how to effectively prompt students during whole-group instruction, how to implement positive behavioral supports, and how to support students’ academic needs without creating prompt-dependence or hindering instruction from the teacher would be beneficial to ensure that this role is utilized more effectively.
An integral component of a Therapeutic setting is the understanding of how to utilize de-escalation strategies as educators and how to assist students with developing a tool box of social-emotional, behavioral support strategies.
The TLC program at the middle school level would benefit from scheduling an interdisciplinary team model that encourages increased collaboration among various service providers and focuses on embedding social-emotional strategies, behavioral regulation skills, and consistent use of the Flex room across the entire day. directors.
Recommendations in the area of Curriculumand Instruction were considered first and foremost with the framework of Universal Design for Learning. The premise of all curriculum and instruction should fall under the umbrella of Universal Design for Learning with a focus on enhancing the three elements: Multiple Means of Engagement (why), Multiple Means of Representation (what), and Multiple Means of Action/Expression (how). Specifically, within the TLC program, the students' varying social-emotional needs, and academic needs impact traditional learning and teachers will want to focus on more high impact accommodations.
Three areas were highlighted for the District to expand on: Social Emotional Curriculum, Math and Science Curriculum, and improved use of instructional and/or assistive technologies to support UDL and equitable access to learning.