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Special Services

The MCSD Special Services Department is responsible for a wide range of school services, including special education and social-emotional learning.

Bobcat Parent Wellbeing presentation series 2022-23

The Marshalltown CSD is excited to partner with on a monthly series of webinar presentations, each centered on student mental and emotional health. The presentations are developed by licensed therapists and will cover important student mental and emotional health topics, including anxiety, depression, emotional management, social media challenges, and more. All presentations will be available in both English and Spanish. The presentations are provided virtually, so you can enjoy them wherever you are!

The schedule for all of our Bobcat Parent Wellbeing presentations can be seen below. We hope you can join us for each of these informative and helpful presentations! For questions about our webinar series with, please email Director of Special Services Matt Cretsinger at also provides free lessons, guides, and resources to support parents in addressing their child's mental and emotional health needs – to access those features, create a free account today!

Previous webinar recordings

If you weren't able to join us live for our previous presentations, or if you just want to watch again, you can find those recordings below!



Social-Emotional Learning


What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) helps children learn and understand how to manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals in socially appropriate ways, learn about empathy, learn how to develop positive healthy relationships with adults and children, and learn to make responsible decisions.

The Iowa Department of Education has developed competencies for social and emotional learning. Iowa's SEL Competencies are developed by grade bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) and focus on four overarching ideas; (1) SEL is a learning process of acquiring and applying knowledge, attitudes and skills through life, in predictable and unpredictable situations, (2) SEL involves all adults, as teachers and life-long learners, (3) SEL helps to create safe, healthy, and supportive environments that extend beyond the classroom to the whole school, home, and community, and (4) SEL promotes learner voice and provides opportunities to encourage, engage, and empower learners to direct their choices, interests, and experiences in multiple contexts. If you want to learn more specifics about Iowa's SEL Competencies, please click here to go to the Iowa Department of Education website.  

Why is Social-Emotional Learning Important? 

More than two decades of research by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) shows that social-emotional learning leads to

Proactively supporting the social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs of our students as part of their daily learning routines is also an important preventive measure.  Here is a facts sheet from the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) that talks about why it's so important for schools should incorporate social and emotional learning.  

What is the Marshalltown Community School District doing to teach and support Social-Emotional Learning?

To meet Iowa's SEL Competencies, the District provides a layered systematic approach, specifically designed to support our students' social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. It begins with ensuring all students understand what's expected of them in every area of the school (e.g., classrooms, lunchroom, recess, hallways) and with our commitment to positively acknowledge them when they are meeting our expectations. Your schools refer to this process as Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports or PBIS. If your children attend Miller Middle School, Marshalltown High School, or Marshalltown Learning Academy then you may also hear them talk about Capturing Kids Hearts. Capturing Kids Hearts (CKH) is an evidence-based approach that enhances our PBIS efforts with older students by allowing educators to build a positive community within their constantly changing classroom of students.   

Another layer of support is added through our Professional School Counselors. These professionals provide social-emotional learning to students regularly while using an evidence-based curriculum called Positive Action. Positive Action's philosophy is "You feel good about yourself when you do positive actions, and there's a positive way to do everything. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions which lead to positive feelings about yourself." The Positive Action lessons focus on nine primary skill areas and give our students an opportunity to practice the skills they're learning in real-time. 

The District uses additional tools, like the Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (SAEBRS) to proactively look for students who may need additional social-emotional support. SAEBRS is a teacher survey used several times each year to commonly evaluate students' overall general behavior, as well as their risk for social-behavior-, academic-behavior-, and emotional-behavior difficulties. Tools like SAEBRS allow us to be proactive in supporting our students rather than being reactive.

The Marshalltown Community School District is very fortunate to have specialty positions in place, created to support the social and emotional needs of our students. Our School Resource Specialists provide comprehensive services to students, staff, and parents, focused on removing barriers that limit a student from receiving the full benefit from their educational experience. For our students with educational disabilities, the district has two highly-trained Behavior Strategists who have completed advanced degrees in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Our Behavior Strategists are available to assist our teachers and paraeducators in better understanding the relationship between the factors that influence a child's behavior and how to best work through those factors with a student.  

Learning does not end when students leave the classroom and we believe it's important that our students receive consistent social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health supports both during and also beyond the school day. Through partnering with other organizations and agencies within the community, we are able to collaborate and work together to provide more consistency throughout a child's day. We are very fortunate to have a number of great community partners to work with, some specifically listed further down on this web page.

Supporting Our Students Through The Collaborative Problem Solving Approach

During the 2017-18 school year, the Marshalltown Community School District began a process to closely look at our comprehensive system of supporting your child's social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. We worked closely with our community partners and Central Rivers Area Education Agency to examine what was going well for our students, as well as where we needed to strengthen our skills. We wanted to be in a better position to support the wide range of needs our students present every day at school, at home, and in the community. Through many hours of research and study, the District identified an approach we found to be well suited to strengthening our skills and enhancing our ability to support a wide range of student needs - Collaborative Problem Solving. Since the 2017-18 school year, the Marshalltown Community School District has been diligently working to incorporate this approach into our comprehensive system of supports. 

Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) is an evidence-based approach developed within the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. It has been successfully implemented to support both young children through teens in schools, homes, clinical settings, foster care agencies, therapeutic programs, and residential treatment centers across the country for more than a decade. This approach emphasizes two primary beliefs. First, challenging behaviors are best understood as a side effect of a child's lagging thinking skills. They struggle to meet the expectations placed on them in the immediate moment. Second, the best way to address challenging behaviors is through teaching children the skills they lack so they can meet the expectations placed on them. The five areas of skills this approach focuses on teaching are (1) Language & Communication Skills, (2) Attention & Working Memory Skills, (3) Emotion & Self-Regulation Skills, (4) Cognitive Flexibility Skills, and (5) Social Thinking Skills. If you'd like to learn more about the Collaborative Problem Solving approach, you can find additional information on their website:

Here is a brief video that offers an overview of this approach:  

If you have any questions about supports for you or your child's social, emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs, please contact

Matt Cretsinger, Director of Special Services or the Professional School Counselor at your child's school.

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