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Research Report

Benchmarking Large Districts’ Student Support Services

Measuring Five Large Districts’ Approaches to Student Behavioral and Mental Health Supports

This report explores large districts’ (60,000-300,000 students) strategies for supporting their students’ mental and behavioral health needs. It measures the level to which each district has implemented various supports and provides actionable strategies to scale interventions across large districts. The brief discusses structural components such as staffing and reporting structures, as well as specific interventions used by profiled districts across Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III.

All profiled districts recently implemented universal screeners

All profiled school districts recently began using universal screeners to evaluate students’ social emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. Universal screeners for psychological and behavioral health consist of a series of questions answered by the student (if old enough), their parent(s), and their teacher(s).

These screeners benefit both students and school districts by promoting a proactive approach to identification, which improves outcomes for students while ultimately reducing costs and resource constraints for the district. In EAB’s Guide for Meeting the Rising Demand for Mental Health Care in Schools, we recommend district leaders select and implement the universal screener that best meets the needs of their district.

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    of educators say they are far along in implementing a tiered support network.

Two profiled districts encourage school autonomy to scale Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS)

To scale PBIS across their districts, both District A and District D encourage a great deal of individual school autonomy. School-based PBIS Leadership Teams at District D solicit and gather feedback from staff, students, families, and community groups to create 3-5 behavioral expectations that act as the school’s core values. The team then creates a matrix describing what each expectation looks like, sounds like, and feels like in all non-classroom spaces. PBIS Coordinators in the district’s Office of Student Supports gather data and information from the school-based PBIS Leadership Teams, ensuring a district-wide commitment to implementation fidelity.

Some profiled districts employ intensive SEL programs to support students at Tier II

In addition to group interventions, several profiled districts use SEL platforms and frameworks to provide intensive instruction and guidance to students at Tier II. Counselors at District C, for example, use the “Zones of Regulation” framework to teach students about emotional regulation. Both District A and District E, meanwhile, use the “WhyTry Program” to improve student engagement, increase academic achievement, and raise retention rates.

All profiled districts partner with community-based behavioral health practitioners to provide clinical care for students at Tier II

All profiled districts partner with community-based behavioral and mental health practitioners to provide clinical care for students who require intensive support. Two profiled districts make these supports available to students on school grounds. For example, District C partners with a community-based mental health provider that operates three clinics across the county. As part of this partnership, the provider places licensed therapists at each school in the district. The district provides each therapist with materials (e.g., laptops) so they may conduct therapy sessions both in-person and virtually. The therapists still officially work for the community provider.

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