MCPS Learning Lab History
The Learning Lab opened over twenty years ago, in order to provide educational services for students at the Shirley Miller Attention Home while they awaited new residences and schools. Originally housed at the A-home, the program has moved over the years and has fuctioned at various locations including a church, Willard High School, and the basement of the administration building. Funded by a grant for neglected and delinquent children, the program involved a six hour day with instruction in multiple subjects.
In January 2016, Dr. Ted Fuller moved the program over to Sentinel High School and moved Sentinel students in ISS into the Learning Lab so that they would be in an inclusive environment. In Ted Fuller’s Spartan Principal Blog, he published “Not to be Further Deprived Redux” (April 25, 2016). Ted explained how traumatic experiences impact the brain and functioning of young people, which often looks like misbehavior. He wrote:
In a trauma-informed setting, these behaviors are understood as very real symptoms of a deeper disorder rather than regarded as willful defiance, disobedience, or bad behavior. This is a powerful shift. Such an understanding can also help educators avoid triggers. As a Dean of Students, I often used to frame things for students in terms of “making a choice,” but as I began to really understand the impact of trauma, I realized how unfair this was for traumatized kids. The ability to “make the right choice” simply wasn’t available during times of conflict. It was akin to suggesting a paraplegic simply “run away” in the presence of danger.
In 2016-2017, the Learning Lab began accepting students from other youth homes and from Sentinel High School. The program offered its first credit bearing opportunity through MTDA. In 2017-2018, the Learning Lab added another credit bearing option using ALEKs math and purchased Read 180 for struggling readers. Students began taking the Star 360 test in reading and math for placement in appropriate academic programs. The Lab expanded to serve qualified MCPS students in need of respite, through an application process and transition meeting with the referring school.
In 2018-2019, the district finalized the procedure for referral and enrollment of district students. Consisting of six periods of instruction in multiple subjects, the program offers students the opportunity to earn 1/2 credit by engaging for a semester’s worth of classroom time. An exit form with data and observations was improved and shared with schools. In the fall of 2018, the Learning Lab served an average of five students per day, with an average stay of four weeks. 73% of students had IEPs or 504s. An average of 1.1 students in ISS/ Refocus attended daily. For the 2019-2020 school year, the Learning Lab moved into a university owned building adjacent to the Sentinel Campus.