School district’s seclusion numbers down, proficiency up

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

The school board heard reports on restraint and seclusion, STAR reading and math proficiency numbers, and enrollment concerns at its Feb. 16 meeting.

Special Education Director Steve Woodcock gave a report on restraint and seclusion. The Lebanon Community School District uses a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) to address individual students’ academic and behavioral needs. The tiers refer to levels of need, but even with those supports in place, the use of restraint and/or seclusion is sometimes needed to prevent injury.

When there are high numbers of seclusion tactics used – particularly if it’s a trend with a particular individual – case managers and Woodcock communicate with parents to problem-solve the situation so they can “change the educational experiences for these kids,” he said.

Sometimes situations arise for particular reasons, such as medication change or school transitioning, that prompt a student’s behavior, Woodcock said. The District uses a crisis response intervention system called Safety-Care that provides training for staff to respond to these situations.

Woodcock provided a chart that indicated, for example, 10 restraint and 29 seclusion counts for the 2013/14 school year, and two restraint, two seclusion counts for the 2021/22 school year. The highest data count provided was during the 2017/18 school year with 51 restraint and 19 seclusion counts.

Board member Richard Bolen pointed out a proportionately high number of the counts come from students who are developmentally disabled. Woodcock responded by explaining those students might have multiple issues going on in their lives (medication change, school transition), “but it might also be compounded by if the student is nonverbal.”

If there is a health issue or other personal problem at home, how do they communicate that?, he asked.

“That expression might come through behavior because they can’t verbalize how they’re feeling,” Woodcock said.

In such a case, staff will increase their communication with the parents to troubleshoot what’s going on.

Interim Supt. Meckley provided an overview on the K-8 fall to winter proficiency growth STAR report.

“Our student proficiency rate is lower than we want it to be, but we do see growth,” Meckley said.

As an example, she said, last year Green Acres Elementary started the school year (Fall 2021) with 23 points in reading proficiency. This year they started with 29 points, followed by a growth of six points in the winter. So although the numbers are still below district goals, Meckley is happy to see maintenance and growth in some areas.

When the District looks at the data, they look at what’s happening at grade levels, at schools, in the curriculum and other possible reasons for perhaps why the numbers are where they are, Meckley said. The schools are processing not only academic data, but also attendance, social-emotional and behavior data.

Schools use the data on the MTSS chart with tiers one through three. All students receive tier one “interventions” in their behavior, social-emotional and academic learning, and those who need more intervention and support move up the tiers.

In an example shared by Meckley of one unidentified elementary school, 35% of the students are in tier three (red zone) for needing academic help, 9% in tier three placed low on the social-emotional (DESSA) assessment, and there were six tier three referrals for social-emotional learning intervention. She said the typical chart should look more like 5% in tier three and 80% in tier one (with the rest sitting in tier two or “on watch” for tier two).

Meckley said this particular school is a pretty typical glimpse of what all the schools look like, though tier three’s academic percentage at that school is a little high. She noted the district has a high special education rate and this particular school has 35 students in the special education program plus an additional 28 in speech and language services.

More data point examples were shown to provide the board an idea of all the different kinds of data break-downs the schools perform.

Board member Tammy Schilling said it’s good information to provide insight on behavioral issues being dealt with at the schools. She asked if the data is available for the public to view.

“Tracking it is a lot to do, and if you have it to track, what are you using it for,” Schilling said. “I think some parents would be interested in how all of the other buildings are doing.”

In other business, the board:

♦ Approved a motion to draw up a contract for Interim Supt. Jennifer Meckley to run her term as interim through the end of the 2023/24 school year;

♦ Approved the Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District service plan;

♦ Heard from Businesses Services Director William Lewis III who reported on enrollment forecasts, which affect funding in the district. Enrollment for the 2017 to 2019 school years remained at about 4,200 and the district saw a drop in 2020/21 of 438 students to 3,802 due to the pandemic. The next year, the number bumped back up by 270 students.

“As we graduate out more seniors than we bring in as kindergarten, our enrollment from a mathematical perspective is going lower,” Lewis said. “The ‘art’ side of this is figuring out what kind of growth potential the community has based on all of the new construction that’s going on around town.”

He also pointed out birth rates in Linn County flattened out at a lower level, which is a main driving factor as to why the kindergarten enrollment is lower than usual. Based on the “average daily membership” calculated by the state to determine funding, the district has lost $2,262,080,80 since 2018.