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Social-emotional learning in action in schools across country

Districts increase training of teachers and community partners
NAVIGATING REFERRALS—Chris Walker, principal of Central High at Muncie Community Schools, works with Samantha Ivy, a family navigator at the school. Navigators in part handle referrals and intakes for students and families who may need behavioral health services, based on an assessment from a local mental health agency.
NAVIGATING REFERRALS—Chris Walker, principal of Central High at Muncie Community Schools, works with Samantha Ivy, a family navigator at the school. Navigators in part handle referrals and intakes for students and families who may need behavioral health services, based on an assessment from a local mental health agency.

Here are three approaches to social-emotional learning

Washoe County Schools, Nevada

District social-emotional learning standards address five crucial competencies—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making.

The district has defined indicators for development in each area, such as “demonstrates knowledge of personal strengths, challenges and potential.”

Each school in the district has a social-emotional learning leadership team, comprised of an administrator and six to eight staff members, including teachers, psychologists and speech language pathologists. The teams undergo a three-day training, and then train other staff members.

Extensive analysis revealed that a significant number of students ranked themselves as having perfect communication, collaboration and self-regulation skills on a third-party social-emotional assessment. Subsequently, the district conducted focus groups with students and used the feedback to create its own assessment.

Washoe County’s online survey includes the same set of questions for elementary, middle and high school students and is administered at the end of the school year. Administrators believe their assessment provides a much more realistic and accurate picture of students’ social-emotional competencies.

Muncie Community Schools, Indiana

Like many districts, Muncie Community Schools uses Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS), an approach to discipline that awards and teaches desired behavior to students, such as walking (not running) in the halls and keeping hands to themselves.

But unlike many schools, the district offers PBIS training to partner organizations and local community centers so students receive the same positive behavior reinforcement outside of school, Superintendent Steve Baule says.

The district has also partnered with two local health services to provide family navigator services.

The United Way trains such family navigators, who meet weekly with school principals to address students’ needs and to connect families with counseling, housing services and other community resources.

“We’re providing these wraparound services to make sure kids get the additional resources they need to be well-balanced from a social-emotional perspective,” Baule says.

Buncombe County Schools, North Carolina

Buncombe County uses a short skills assessment to screen the social-emotional development of all K5 students.

A problem-solving team—which includes an administrator, school counselor or social worker plus school nurses—at each school meets weekly and uses this data to develop targeted plans to help students who rank low on social emotional skill development.

Interventions, which are personalized for each student, include reteaching social-emotional skills, small group time, school counselor-led sessions and referrals to community mental health therapists who work on cognitive behavior therapy with students in school.

The district also uses a social-emotional curriculum to guide teachers in delivering lessons to all K8 students.

And educators now teach mindfulness techniques—awareness of thoughts and feelings at a particular moment—as a way to help students better control their emotions.