Data Backs Our SEL Movement!

Summer 2015 has been a good season for Social and Emotional Learning on our local district level. We’ve been busy with curriculum writing, collaborating to put on an awesome Whole Child Every Child institute, rolling out SEL for the Anderson and Lanier vertical teams, and getting ready for school year ’15-16 with 100% of AISD schools participating in Social and Emotional Learning!

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SEL is getting a lot of national attention lately as well, with new reports from on-going studies showing the deep effects and concrete benefits that intentional, integrated social and emotional learning has for students and society.  In several articles, Austin Independent School District is featured prominently as an early leader in the Academic and Social and Emotional Learning movement.

This article, “Teaching Skills to Improve Grades and Lives,” is in the “Fixes” section of the New York Times.  It was published on 7/24/15.  Here are some excerpts:

In the early 1990s, about 50 kindergarten teachers were asked to rate the social and communication skills of 753 children in their classrooms. It was part of the Fast Track Project, an intervention and study administered in Durham, N.C., Nashville, Seattle and central Pennsylvania. The goals were to understand how children develop healthy social skills, and help them do so.

[…]

This month, researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke published a study that looked at what had happened to those students in the 13 to 19 years since they left kindergarten. Their findings warrant major attention because the teachers’ rankings were extremely prescient.

They predicted the likelihood of many outcomes: whether the children would graduate from high school on time, get college degrees, have stable or full-time employment as young adults; whether they would live in public housing or receive public assistance; whether they would be held in juvenile detention or be arrested as adults. The kindergarten teachers’ scores also correlated with the number of arrests a young adult would have for severe offenses by age 25.

[…]

These studies suggest that if we want many more children to lead fulfilling and productive lives, it’s not enough for schools to focus exclusively on academics. Indeed, one of the most powerful and cost-effective interventions is to help children develop core social and emotional strengths like self-management, self-awareness and social awareness — strengths that are necessary for students to fully benefit from their education, and succeed in many other areas of life.

It goes on to cite various studies that support how critical Social and Emotional Learning is for students across the board, and does mention Austin ISD as an SEL pioneer!

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Referenced in the previous article, this PBS News story and this report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation both discuss the implications of the FastTrack study, which tracked the life events of several hundred kindergarten students who had been “scored” on their level of social and emotional competence.  Both articles point to the capacity for every student to learn and practice social and emotional skills, and how this intentional learning has strong benefits that echo through the rest of each individual’s life.

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For another perspective, the Committee for Children recently published “The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning,” which digests the findings from this study done in collaboration with Columbia University. In short, the study finds that “The average return on investment for all six SEL interventions analyzed is 11 to 1, meaning that for every dollar invested there is a return of 11 dollars. In summary, SEL is well worth the cost.”

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Basically, we’re getting lots and lots of good press because supportive data just keeps rolling in.  Let’s be #AISDproud of the intentional, innovative, valuable Social and Emotional Learning that our district is working to bring to 100% of our students!

SEL Standards Assessment: Break It Down!

What do you get when 25 teachers, counselors, administrators and SEL specialists converge on the Sanchez elementary library for 6 hours on a Saturday?  Jazz hands, of course!

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Also, intense and effective collaboration to crank out innovative Social and Emotional Learning work.  This diverse cadre of educators tapped a profound well of expertise around social and emotional learning, classroom dynamics, and visionary planning to devise and revise SEL Essential Knowledge and Skills.

Does that sound like official Texas Education Agency language?  You bet it is!  The goal of this on-going process is to create SEL standards that will eventually become official Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS–the basis of Texas public school curriculum as required by TEA.

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One example of our standards assessment dry-erase posters showing the student learning objective, supporting knowledge and skills, and our process questions. (Before the Vis-A-Vis storm!)

Small groups of teachers, administrators and counselors from across AISD convened in their grade bands to address the EKS that the SEL department has used since the beginning of the SEL roll-out three years ago.  Those standards, based on official language from the national Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning and tailored to serve Austin schools, have served us well.  But now, since SEL is widely taught throughout AISD and is poised to reach every student in all vertical teams as of academic year ’15-’16, it is time to utilize the diverse experiences and skills of Social and Emotional Learning educators to revise, update and further tailor the EKS language.  This process ensures that common vocabulary and collective vision inform these standards, so that all district SEL content is high quality, authentic, relevant and measureable.

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Wielding large laminated posters and Vis-A-Vis pens, SEL specialists facilitated the small group discussions that resulted in approving, revising or devising the standards’ language.  Each SEL student learning objective and its supporting skills were “posterized” for collective consideration, and the groups talked, wrote, doodled, marched, chewed and cheered about them until the posters were covered with changes and notes.  Participants considered six key questions while examining each student learning objective, with emphasis on the cultural relevance and appropriateness of each standard, and how it could be demonstrated or measured.

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In the next few weeks, the SEL department will compile all the thinking and vision represented on each poster into a new draft of the standards.  These will become the foundation of the high caliber SEL content, lessons and professional development that are hallmarks of Austin Independent School District.

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The aftermath! For each student objective, the groups had to decide how the supporting skill standard would be measurable: via Factual Knowledge (FK) recall, a demonstration of a Skill or Process (S/P) learned, or a demonstration of Understanding (U) the objective.

The SEL department is deeply grateful to the dedicated educators who gave a Saturday to help keep AISD SEL on the cutting edge of the national Social and Emotional Learning movement.  With this kind of innovative collaboration, Austin ISD is continuing to work toward giving each and every student the skills they need to succeed in 21st Century careers and global society.  We are #AISDproud and #SELsmart!

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New Year SEL Research Roundup!

Happy New Year, SEL Fans!

The beginning of a new swing around the sun is a great time to get back to basics. What is social and emotional learning, and why is it important to academic success? That’s the essential question, and a growing body of data from around the country shows that teaching social and emotional skills as explicitly as reading, writing, math and science improves academic achievement, reduces behavior problems, and sets students up for success as adults.

SEL Competencies WheelThis wheel graphic shows the five core competencies defined by the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), with specific behavior lists clarifying each competency.  What exactly is CASEL?  So glad you asked!  From the website:

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)[‘s]…mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school. Through research, practice and policy, CASEL collaborates to ensure all students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring and contributing members of society.

The Austin Independent School District is one of eight large urban districts participating in CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative:

Given the importance of district-level leadership and coordination, in 2011 CASEL launched a national initiative aimed at supporting districts’ capacities to promote SEL for all students. Called the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI), this effort recognizes that positive student outcomes depend on improving classrooms and schools, which in turn depends on improving districtwide capacities and conditions.

AISD is in good company with school districts from Anchorage to Reno, Oakland to Cleveland.  These and many other schools and districts across the country have adopted evidence-based, CASEL-vetted explicit SEL instruction curricula.  We also work to build a culture and climate that integrates and reinforces SEL skills, from each classroom to the whole district.  But why?

Again from CASEL:

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[Teaching SEL Skills] provide[s] a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance as reflected in more positive social behaviors and peer relationships, fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress, and improved grades and test scores.

So the next question becomes, is it working?  When students receive explicit SEL instruction and go to school in a culture and climate that promotes social and emotional well-being, do they show increased academic success?

Data points to a resounding YES.

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Two recent nprEd articles discuss social and emotional learning on a national scale, and cite large research studies showing that schools teaching SEL skills see marked increases in academic success.  In “Why Emotional Learning May be as Important as the A-B-Cs,” National Public Radio cites the FastTrack Project, a research inquiry that followed 979 kindergartners for 20 years.  These students were randomly assigned to a 10-year intervention track or a control group. The results (published in the American Journal of Psychiatry last September) showed that the children who received early social and emotional skill building and reinforcement throughout their school career had achieved higher academic success and had fewer arrests, emotional problems and substance abuse issues in their adult lives.

In nprEd’s “Teaching 4-Year-Olds to Feel Better,” the story cites research commissioned by the Federal Health and Human Services Department that looked at thousands of pre-schoolers in all regions of the country.  The study, conducted by MDRC and HeadStart, showed that when students were explicitly taught skills to self-manage and get along with others, they spent more time engaged in learning.

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Closer to home, the AISD Department of Research and Evaluation published its study of the efficacy of our own Social and Emotional Learning district-wide program.  It shows that not only do SEL schools see marked improvement in academic achievement and school climate, the longer a school has been participating in SEL instruction and integration, the more academics and climate improve.

Finally, a recent compelling study from Columbia University shows that school districts investing money and resources in social and emotional skill instruction get a significant positive return on that investment from the increased academic achievement and attendance levels of students.  In fact, because children who receive social and emotional education during their school years tend to be incarcerated less often and make better life choices, it benefits the economy on a national level.

So, in conclusion, who are we and why are we here?  We are AISD Social and Emotional Learning, and we are on the forefront of a national movement to improve the academics and lives of students everywhere! #AISDproud

SEL Highlights 2012 – 2013: Eastside Memorial Vertical Team

We are continuing with our 6 day series highlighting the different Vertical Teams each day on our blog. Please follow along to hear about all of the SEL successes this school year!

Join us today as we celebrate Eastside Memorial Vertical Team’s accomplishments.

Eastside Memorial High School’s staff has compassion!

  • Eastside has created a “culture of calm” – it is becoming cool to be smart and successful!
  • There is a sense of pride and confidence, and students here take the time to help each other with both personal and academic concerns.
  • SEL is woven into Advisory lessons, school-wide expectations for students, and character education lessons in athletics.
  • Next year’s focus:  Consistency and depth.

EastsideEastside students receive awards for succeeding and making progress in school

Martin Middle School is all about relationship building; from the Principal high fiving students in the hall to teachers using positive language to redirect misbehaviors.  Here’s an example of one way Martin encourages relationships: teachers share personal information about themselves outside of their rooms to encourage a deeper connection between staff and students.

Martin Teacher Door Sign

Allison Elementary was one of the first schools to pilot SEL campus wide.  This year, they have been focused on encouraging a positive culture and climate to reinforce the explicit instruction in the classroom.  The Principal, Mr. Velasquez, at Allison Elementary likes to start off morning assemblies with jokes, often submitted by students.  This practice builds language arts skills as well as contributing to the positive culture and climate at Allison!

“What flies around the Kindergarten room at night? Alpha-bats!”

Alpha- Bat

Allison is also excelling at integrating SEL concepts into core academic areas.

Allison integration Here’s an example of SEL Standard Goal IV Objective A: “uses positive communication and social skills to interact effectively with others,” integrated into ELA.

Blackshear Elementary does a wonderful job integrating SEL skills into other subject areas. Here’s an example of empathy skills and feeling identification integrated into a second grade English Language Arts lesson!

Blackshear 2nd grade ELA Intergration Bulletin Board

Brooke Elementary integrated SEL language into their campus wide behavior management plan so that students are practicing problem solving skills to better learn how to prevent behavior issues.

Brooke Brooke’s behavior management plan linked to SEL strategies

Govalle Elementary has been encouraging adults to model SEL skills as their students learn them. Check out their hallway expectations that include a column for adults.

Student AND Adult Expectations at Govalle Elementary

The Parent Support Specialist also took parents into classrooms for them to view peace areas. Many parents have already created their own peace areas at home!

Metz Elementary did so many awesome campus wide events this year. For No Place for Hate, Metz students lead a peace walk to Zavala Elementary to build new relationships and respect for others.

Metz Peace Walks

Metz also does an SEL focused morning assembly every Thursday where students act out skits, sing Second Step songs, and celebrate their SEL skills.

Metz assembly Second grade students leading the “Calm It Down” dance

Ortega Elementary knows how to build community and welcome new students and staff! Over the summer, teachers developed activities for the first 30 days of school to encourage team building in their classrooms as students coming from several different schools all came together at Ortega. They already have a plan for having student welcome ambassadors to help new students transition in to this caring school.

Ortega Kindergarten teachers at Ortega sharing SEL strategies for waiting during a morning assembly.

Zavala Elementary’s peace areas have really taken off (their Principal, Mr. Fox, created one for his office as well)! One third grade teacher made her own Zen Garden for students to use in the peace area. She took a small Tupperware container and added sand, marbles, and a fork. Genius!

Zavala Fox Peace AreaPrincipal Fox’s Peace Area

At the end of the year, the SEL steering committee celebrated staff for their different SEL skills they modeled during the year.  What a wonderful way to end their first year as an SEL campus!

Zavala Award Ceremony

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Let’s wrap up today’s post with a note of appreciation written by a student at Eastside Memorial.

SEL Highlights 2012 – 2013: Austin High Vertical Team

For the next week and a half we will be highlighting different campuses each day on our blog. Please follow along to hear about all of their SEL successes this school year!

Join us today as we celebrate Austin High Vertical Team’s accomplishments. Be sure to share comments, ideas, and questions with us below!

Austin High School: Austin High has been implementing a pilot class called MAPS: Methods for Academic and Personal Success to teach social and emotional learning skills to incoming Freshmen.

The three year data continues to show remarkable improvement.

The freshman class at Austin High School has had a 41% decrease in number of failures and a 38% decrease in the number of disciplinary referrals. We can’t show causality, but we believe the data does show correlation.

Students have built a strong classroom environment and learned many SEL skills over the course of the year. There have been many special events including: a student panel on SEL for CASEL Learning Event, an etiquette luncheon, and a special field trip to hear one of the freedom writers (Manny Scott) speak.

This May, students and families will gather at an area park for a Good News pot luck, where students will share highlights from the year and finish with a positive social event that includes their families.

Students are currently completing semester projects where they will present one SEL skill. They will create a lesson, poster, brochure, movie, short story, or song designed to promote positive social and emotional skills among their classmates.

O. Henry Middle School: The Second Step resource is being implemented during RODEO (advisory) time weekly. The two SEL facilitators and the principal have been supportive of the teachers and students during this time by making sure that materials are readily available to the teachers and by participating in classroom discussions. Next year, O. Henry will have an elective class that will be devoted entirely to SEL. O. Henry has welcomed many interested visitors this year specifically to look at a successful middle school model for SEL implementation. The principal is very proud of the fact that his referral rates have reduced since O. Henry became an SEL campus.

O Henry

O Henry

Barton Hills Elementary:  The teachers at Barton Hills have done a nice job of structuring supportive and nurturing classrooms that promote student learning and sharing of ideas. They experienced their first SEL Learning Walk this year and were proud of the positive feedback they received. Classrooms are implementing SEL instructional strategies in many of the academic areas.

Bryker Woods Elementary: Bryker Woods has done a great job with promoting a positive culture and climate on their campus. Every grade has participated in classroom and school wide activities that promote SEL. When walking in the halls of their campus you can see many beautiful bulletin boards that display SEL related themes.

Bryker Woods

Casis Elementary:  Casis students have enjoyed working on their “No Place for Hate” activities this school year, but especially devoted a lot of time and dedication to the “Peace Pedals” project. The culture and climate at Casis is a positive one and can be felt instantly as one enters the building. The primary classrooms are especially proud of the class promises they have made to their peers and teachers.

Casis Elementary

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Casis

Mathews Elementary:  Mathews held their SEL assemblies every Friday. Each grade level was responsible for a mini presentation that reinforced an SEL skill or concept. These assemblies also allowed for the appreciation of cultural diversity and for celebrations of staff and student accomplishments.

Mathews Elementary

Pease Elementary: Pease Elementary scheduled monthly faculty meetings that focused on SEL related topics. The principal, campus facilitator, and SEL coach met monthly to plan for these meetings. Pease has been proud of keeping their commitments to the staff and class social contracts.

Peace Elementary

Sanchez Elementary: The students and staff at Sanchez worked very hard this year on their “No Place for Hate” school wide projects. Visiting Sanchez parents eating lunch with their children have been impressed with how the cafeteria monitors have been using the “How to Calm Down” strategies and “Problem Solving Steps” in the cafeteria during lunch time.

Second Step Posters

The large Second Step posters hanging in the cafeteria as well as the mini poster lanyards the monitors have been wearing, have served as good visual reminders for using these strategies.

Sanchez Elementary

Zilker Elementary:  The students in the primary grades at Zilker Elementary have been consistent with their use of the Peace Areas and Peace Paths. The principal reported a drop in the referral rate, which correlates with the implementation of these processes.

This year the students in the “No Place for Hate” coalition produced, directed, and edited an SEL infomercial. The video was posted on Vimeo and received many favorable reviews!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/62585085″>Zilker Elementary No Place For Hate Video</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/btothehill”>Brian Hill</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Small Middle School: Elective teachers from grades 6-8 have been teaching the Second Step resource during TRACK time once a week at Small. Activities that promote a positive school culture and climate have emerged this school year. Students have been receiving Cougar Kudos for using SEL skills. This year staff members submitted fellow colleagues’ names in a box in the office for demonstrating exceptional team work and collaboration. During faculty meetings, there were drawings for recognizing these teachers.  The teachers whose names were drawn received gift cards!

Small Middle School

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 Oak Hill Elementary:  Oak Hill has enjoyed celebrating cultural diversity by displaying international flags representing countries from all over the world in their cafeteria. The Oak Hill PTA has organized social gatherings periodically for the school staff, parents, and other members of the community to meet and have international food tastings on the weekends at Oak Hill.  More Peace Areas have been seen in classrooms this year! Oak Hill

Oak Hill Elementary

Patton Elementary:  Patton has been especially proud of their “Bully Blockers” initiative. Students in grades K-5 sign a pledge to not be bullies and to be allies to those who may be targets. They also receive bracelets after signing the pledge. Squad leaders are selected from each grade level to lead a squad that helps to empower other students that may be experiencing bullying. Each squad can earn points for modeling “ally” behaviors.

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Patton Elementary

Cross District Learning Event Hosted in Austin

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) recently hosted a Cross District Learning Event in Austin!

Cross District Event

“In early November, representatives from our eight collaborating districts joined CASEL board members, CASEL staff and consultants, and NoVo Foundation partners for CASEL’s annual Cross-Districts Learning Event in Austin, Texas. For the benefit of our entire learning community, this page includes all of the videos, slide shows and handouts we shared at the meeting.

Over three days, nearly 100 participants shared their commitment to social and emotional learning, exchanging ideas for implementation and instruction, communication strategies and their plans for future work together. They also heard from a panel of Austin students whose lives had been directly impacted by their district’s commitment to SEL.”

Source: http://casel.org/about-us/news-and-events/cross-districts-learning-event/

Photos from CASEL’s Cross District Learning Event.

Click here to learn more about the visit and learning that took place.

Have any ideas? Dying to share a recent success, creative project, bulletin board, or lesson related to Social and Emotional Learning?  We would love to hear from you and we welcome your contributions!

We can be contacted at: selaustin@gmail.com

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”  -Aristotle