The Research Institute for Learning and Development (ResearchILD) was granted $205,000 in 2016 to build a robust, school-wide approach to implementing an Executive Function (EF) curriculum in Saugus, Massachusetts at the Belmonte Middle School.
ResearchILD is a nonprofit located just outside of Essex County in Lexington, that designs, implements, and evaluates programs that strengthen EF skills in students with learning disabilities. This is the first grant that we have given to this organization. Their curriculum, called SMARTS (Strategies, Motivation, Awareness, Resilience, Talents, Success), was launched a few years ago and has been met with some very positive student outcomes as well as high accolades from teachers.
Through this grant (SMARTS-T), ResearchILD is building capacity within Belmonte Middle School so that the school may own the curriculum adoption and fully embrace EF strategies for all students, and especially students with learning disabilities. This work will serve as a model for ResearchILD as they build out the technical assistance they offer to schools in Massachusetts and beyond.
Since launching their program last year, an impressive and excited group of teachers, counselors, and administrators have worked together, with extensive technical assistance from ResearchILD, as a leadership team, to design the best way to implement SMARTS school-wide in Saugus.
Their early successes have been many. They have carved out half-day trainings for teachers to fully submerge themselves in the EF curriculum, building on their understanding and skillsets. Teachers have also been assigned groups of students from other grade levels that they will work with on EF materials throughout the duration of their middle school careers. ResearchILD and members of the leadership team have bent over backwards to support teachers with this launch – including observing classes being taught, sharing videos, and hearing and addressing individual concerns.
In addition to this very attentive, reflective approach to implementing the project, school buy-in has been a critical asset for the program to date. Despite having had a change in school leadership after year one of the grant, ResearchILD and the EF leadership team have been able to continue the momentum. ResearchILD’s outcome data will start coming in over the summer from their first year of implementing the program with students, and we are excited to hear what they have learned.