Independent School District 728
Expanding capacity for highly effective mental health supports — without the burden of overwork or implementation fatigue.
School counselors in Independent School District 728 (MN) knew some students needed extra support, but they also knew counselors didn’t have the capacity to provide the 1:1 coaching their students needed to make transformational change. And with teacher exhaustion and implementation fatigue, the student services team knew they needed to invest at a district level to support their teams and reach even more students.
In a district encompassing a large geographic footprint of rural and suburban areas, including four unique high schools, the program’s success depended on staff buy-in. That meant conducting a pilot, measuring results, and demonstrating impact before asking more staff to jump on board.
ISD 728 piloted a program for at-risk seniors in May 2019. Following its success — seeing some very at-risk students make it to graduation — the pilot was expanded. Then, when the pandemic hit, the district was prepared to scale.
In ISD 728, a large rural/suburban district, staff saw a connection between mental health, self-regulation and positive behavior choices throughout their high school classrooms. While the district had a strong multi-tier system of support, a district MTSS leader Rachel Hilyar recognized that another layer of intervention support would benefit extremely disengaged students at their four high schools and and six middle schools to help them get back on track. The District partnered with EmpowerU and enrolled disengaged students in a personalized online course with daily motivational coaching. Seeing previously disengaged students graduate provided compelling data to continue the partnership.
At ISD 728, addressing mental health and whole child well-being has been a school board goal since 2019. The district folded EmpowerU resources into its existing multi-tier system of supports.
As pandemic isolation exposed growing needs among younger students, ISD 728 asked to pilot EmpowerU’s curriculum over the summer for at-risk K-8 students. Using summer programming for the pilot, teachers experienced first-hand the truly turnkey curriculum that required minimal training and almost no teacher prep time. Students enjoyed learning to “take charge” of their thoughts and feelings and practiced calming exercises when big feelings were racing through their bodies.
Today, the team at ISD 728 staff members uses the EmpowerU modules for their K-8 students and EmpowerU is part of the MTSS Tier 2 Level of Support for both high school and middle school students.
With EmpowerU doing most of the heavy lifting, teachers see the benefits of the targeted services. Once students with non-academic needs (anxiety, AdHD, depression, avoidance, behavior challenges) are identified, coaches in the program begin to build relationships with students. By building positive behaviors and self-regulation through a multi-tier system of supports, students begin to make progress and increase their investment in learning.
ISD 728 has also taken advantage of EmpowerU’s Educator PD, covering the cost of the course and the teacher’s time to improve staff wellbeing and effectiveness in social-emotional learning. The pandemic took a toll on educators; it was emotionally exhausting and blurred workplace boundaries. The educator course reconnects teachers with their why, reteaches self-regulation and provides stress-coping and calming exercises that support wellbeing. Providing this reset opportunity for teachers is the first step to resetting an entire school climate.
Through the multi-touchpoints to deliver support to students with Tier 2 needs, teachers and school counselors saw changes in classroom habits and behaviors. Students reported increased personal well-being and academic success followed.
Students and teachers share positive feedback in the data collected for each lesson. And with 98% of students making significant progress and 100% reporting the program was critical to their personal success, ISD 728 plans to continue growing its partnership with EmpowerU.
ISD728 Student Outcomes
Through a combination of summer and school-year programming in 2021, over 1,000 ISD 728 students participated in EmpowerU as a Tier 2 Intervention:
of students made progress towards their goal
rated EmpowerU Daily Coaching as a factor of their progress/success
would recommend the course to a friend
SOURCE: EducationWeek Webinar
TESTIMONIALS FROM ISD 728
I LEARNED TO QUIET MY INNER CRITIC
“I learned to quiet my inner critic and use my inner coach…I get things done and finished now and before I was just stuck. When I was extremely behind in school, I learned to tell myself “one assignment at a time is all it takes for me to stay on track.” That helped me so much!“
High School Student
EMPOWERU GIVES STUDENTS A PLACE TO GO
“We see this in our district as an intervention we can apply. Our counselors are highly skilled and trained but have a lot on their plate. EmpowerU gives them a place to go for students who have a few extra higher needs over Tier 1.”
ISD 728 Director Prevention, Safety & Grants
EmpowerU’s revolutionary approach to student success helps students increase resilience, persistence, motivation and success. As active participants in their wellness journey, students complete engaging, online lessons supported by daily 1:1 motivational coaching that fuel improved emotional wellbeing, school attendance, and grades. EmpowerU offers site-based licenses to schools and colleges, as well as access to the credit-bearing course through third-party online schools or direct from the company.