SPED Program Spotlight: Multicultural Learning Center in Canoga Park

January 6, 2017

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In October 2016, CCSA was proud to release the special education report, Meeting the Needs of Every Student Through Inclusion, detailing special education best practices at 10 California charter schools that allowed these schools to meet all students' needs, regardless of ability level.

Within the report, three schools were featured for their incredible best practices, one of which was Multicultural Learning Center (MLC) in Canoga Park.

Here's their story:

Four years ago, Multi-Cultural Learning Center (MLC) began implementing positive behavior supports (PBS) school-wide. MLC leadership engaged parents, provided applied behavior analysis training to their staff, and, as a school community, developed a system of positive rewards and new strategies to address student behaviors. One of these new strategies was to hold community circles when an issue arose that affected students.

At MLC a community circle could involve a whole class or just a few students. At the outset, the individual running the community circle establishes rules for that session. Students typically aren't required to speak but are encouraged to share their feelings. Sometimes the students themselves address how an issue is affecting them, other times an MLC staff member acts as an advocate for a student who feels misunderstood.

The school leader recalled an instance while implementing PBS when she was tempted to suspend students for bullying. Instead, she spoke to the students individually and then held a community circle with all the students involved. Together, the group created a plan to repair the harm, and, a year later, the former bullies and the former victim had grown to be such good friends that when the previously bullied student ran the LA Marathon, the other students were there cheering him on at the finish line.

More recently, MLC used a community circle when a group of students were caught with prohibited materials on campus. A community circle discussion between the students, their parents, and staff resulted in the decision that the students would spend a day researching why the materials were prohibited and creating a PowerPoint presentation to give to middle school classes on the dangers of the banned items.

MLC also uses community circles outside of the discipline arena. MLC holds circles to discuss behavior issues in class and how one student's behavior impacts everyone, or for traumatic events that affect the school community. Community circles are also not limited to issues solely between students; they can also be conducted between students and their teacher. School leader notes that after holding this type of a community circle, classroom dynamics improved and the teacher gained valuable insight into his students.

Congratulations, MLC! Help CCSA spread the great work of our colleagues at MLC on social media.

To learn more about the report findings, methodology, and more, check out the following resources: