The partnership between Joliet Public Schools District 86 and the Menta Group began in 1995 in response to District needs for special education programming as well as staff training and consultation. Initially, the program was housed in the Carl Sandburg Elementary School building and focused on providing services for special education students with significant behavioral needs, In 2002, the program moved to its present location at Thompson Instructional Center. At the same time, the Supported Program was developed to provide special education services for a growing population of students with emotional needs as well as an increasing number of younger elementary students who required intensive special education services. In 2003, the “Better Me’ program was developed to provide educational services to the general education at-risk students. Thompson Instructional Center also provides alternative-to-suspension programming for both special education and general education students through the External CIBS (Crisis Intervention Behavior Stabilization) Program.
The Directed Program
The Directed Program at Thompson Instructional Center is designed to meet the specific needs of moderate to severely behaviorally disturbed children by utilizing an integrated educational-clinical model that emphasizes clear and consistent adult responses to student behavior. The program provides students with a safe and highly structured learning environment, designed to encourage and reinforce appropriate school behavior.
The Directed Program is intended for special education students who exhibit disruptive behaviors such as fighting, intimidation, bullying, defiance, aggression, and noncompliance that escalate to the point at which the student becomes a danger to self or others.
The Supported Program
The Supported Program at Thompson Instructional Center is designed to meet the specific needs of moderate to severe emotionally disturbed children by utilizing an integrated educational-clinical model that emphasizes skill development. The program provides students with the opportunity to learn and practice a variety of new skills in a supportive and enriched learning environment that focuses on the positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors.
The Supported Program is intended for special education students whose behavior is characterized by impaired peer relationships, poor social skills, difficulties with emotional regulation, low level of self-efficacy, symptoms of depression, symptoms of anxiety, poor problem-solving skills, and/or difficulties seen as an attempt to cope with stress or frustration resulting from skill deficits in problem-solving and/or interpersonal interactions.
All special education students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 are placed in the Supported Program.
The Better Me Program
“A Better Me” is an alternative program that was developed to provide structure, support, and proactive interventions to general education at-risk students in grades 5 through 8. The program is intended for those students who have engaged in serious and/or multiple violations of school rules, who have been suspended from school, who are being considered for expulsion, or have been expelled. Placement in the program provides students with a safe and structured environment in which to develop the anger management, social, and coping skills necessary for success in a regular school setting.
Types of placements in the alternative program include a 10-day placement (in lieu of out-of-school suspension), a 45-day placement (in lieu of expulsion), an expulsion placement for the term of the expulsion, or a disruptive student referral for students who have been dropped from another alternative program. All placements are facilitated through the Coordinator of Student Services, who works with the Thompson staff members to develop an appropriate Alternative Education Plan for each referred student.
Thompson Instructional Center uses the District 86 curriculum, which is aligned to the Illinois State Learning Standards. The texts are the same ones used within the District. Curriculum for each grade area is adapted to meet individual needs and maintain grade appropriate expectations. As as organization, The Menta Group began transitioning to the Common Core State Standards in 2011-12 and will fully implement in the 2014-15 school year, when the state assessment will also be aligned to assess CCSS.
In order to best meet the needs of the student population we serve, Thompson Instructional Center utilizes instructional delivery strategies that actively engage students in the educational process, focus on literacy development, and provide intensive academic interventions to students who require them. A more detailed description of our educational model is included in the Curriculum and Instruction section. Instructional decision-making is described in more detail in the Problem-Solving and MSIS section.
Focus on Transition and 3C Readiness
The educational program at Thompson Instructional Center is designed to produce students who are college ready, career ready, and citizenship ready upon high school graduation. Throughout the year, students and teachers work together to plan for the future, with a focus on building awareness of the world and exploring career and college options. It is critical that awareness and exploration activities begin in elementary school if students are successfully develop 3C readiness skills by the time they graduate from high school.
This year, Thompson students had the opportunity to visit four area colleges: Joliet Junior College, Waubonsee Community College, Governor’s State College and University of St. Francis. These types of visits help students experience a collge campus and begin to think about their own post-secondary goals.
Thompson also hosted a Community Resource Fair for students and their families. Participating community agencies included: Joliet Public Library, Boy Scouts of America, Girls Scouts, Big Brother/Sisters of America, Aunt Martha’s, Joliet YMCA, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army/Daybreak Shelter, Joliet Park District, Joliet Junior College, and Child Family Connection. These types of events expose students to the variety of resources available in their own community for recreation, education, and support.
Each year, Thompson students also participate in organization-wide Menta events that challenge and celebrate student skills and abilities in a variety of areas. These events include: Chess Club, Menta Math Bowl, Spelling Bee, Science Fair, Art Fair, Menta’s Got Talent, Cultural Fair, and Menta’s Literacy Awards.
Focus on Re-Integration
The Menta Group strongly believes that all children should be educated in the least restrictive environment that meets their needs. To that end, we work collaboratively, with District 86 to support the reintegration of students back into their home schools and/or less restrictive settings. Rather than abruptly moving students directly from the intensive program at Thompson to a less restrictive setting in the district, students are initially transitioned to their new program for a portion of the day. The transition is evaluated after six weeks and, if it has been successful, it is gradually extended until the student returns full time to the new program.