Here’s how teachers think SEL can truly help students

A new survey analyzes how social and emotional learning contributes to a positive school culture

A resounding majority of administrators, teachers, and parents say they believe social and emotional learning (SEL) is just as important as academic learning.

SEL is the process that helps students understand and regulate their emotions, understand different points of view and show empathy toward others, and develop intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies. Many believe these skills contribute to safer and more positive schools and communities.

Of the more than 1,000 people surveyed in McGraw-Hill Education’s 2018 Social and Emotional Learning Report, 96 percent of administrators, 93 percent of teachers, and 81 percent of parents overwhelmingly say SEL is as necessary as core academic subjects.

Seventy-nine percent of teachers believe SEL should be explicitly included as a part of state academic standards, and 65 percent of teachers want even more class time to devote to teaching these skills.

Most administrators (88 percent) and teachers (74 percent) say SEL skills are being taught at their school, but only 32 percent of parents say they are aware of these skills being taught at their children’s schools.


8 easy ways to improve your public relations efforts

Do your families know about all the great stuff your district does?

Families and community members want to know what’s happening in your district, and they want to know right now. There’s a huge need to educate the public about security, data privacy, curriculum, and all the rest, but you have to do it the right way.

We spoke Justin Martin, president and chief executive officer of Martin & Associates, a K-12 communications management consultancy, to see what districts can do to spread their good word.

1. Present information in the best format.
“You need to dole the information out in small, digestible pieces—don’t just attach a six-page report and ask people to read the PDF,” says Martin. “Put the important parts in the body of the email and, if there are supporting details, include those in an attachment.”

2. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
“We hear superintendents say, ‘We’ve been talking about this for five months and no one’s paying attention,’ says Martin. “You have to send the information several times, repurpose it, and continuously share it to keep people aware.”

3. Do not rely on one distribution channel.
Martin says that less than 10 percent of people get information from their local daily or weekly newspaper, yet district leaders assume that if they saw it in a paper, their families did too. Instead, post information everywhere you can: Twitter, Facebook, your website, the radio, on the PTO site, in blogs and emails from school leaders.


Early intervention: How a tech-based approach is keeping our students in school

This 3-step plan is helping teachers access data quickly and act on it

Imagine: Jimmy starts high school and has difficulty with math. Although he does well in other subjects, he has low motivation in class and forgets when homework is due. Despite the teacher’s best efforts to encourage him and give him extra help, the student continues to struggle. As the semester continues, the teacher runs out of ideas for helping Jimmy and he falls farther and farther behind his classmates.

With the right plan and technology in place, this scenario might never have played out.
Simply put, early intervention is key to identifying struggling students. But, early intervention can only be successful if schools have a solid structure in place to access relevant data and act on it quickly.

Take my school, Battle Creek Central High School in Michigan, for example. We struggled with inconsistent intervention processes that didn’t produce dependable results and left some students feeling behind. Before long, we discovered the value of a set intervention plan paired with technology. Ever since, our teachers and staff are more connected to students and finding personalized solutions that get them back on the right path earlier. If your school is attempting to improve its student intervention strategies, I encourage you to consider the following lessons we learned.

1. Establish a plan
Having a vision before using technology is paramount. I’ve worked with districts who started using intervention modules, iPads, 1:1 initiatives, and other technology before having a vision and implementation plan in place. When that’s the case, things fall apart fast. It’s easy to focus on the benefits of technology, but the foundation my school built beforehand has sustained our intervention model.

If your staff doesn’t understand what intervention looks like without technology, they are going to struggle recognizing technology’s added value. That’s why our first step was to map out what interventions looked like using pen and paper.

Our high school administration team and I started by determining what interventions were offered, what entrance and exit criteria existed, and much more. Next, we worked with interventionists and teachers to understand how and when to enter intervention referrals and actions. After you have a good outline in place, visualize the process and finalize it in a document that is shareable for staff. My high school’s leadership team illustrated our intervention process in a chart, detailing the separate tiers, behavior infractions, and response strategies. This kept staff on the same page and ensured consistent responses throughout our school.

Overall, our foundation helped us identify what we needed our future intervention software to do. For example, we knew that Google Sheets helped us capture the right data, but identifying trends was proving difficult. Therefore, we identified the need, set a vision, and implemented the solution that fit us best, which brings me to my next point…


5 things to help move us closer to competency-based education

Competency-based education has tons of benefits for students, but old educational models block its progress

Despite educators’ genuine enthusiasm, competency-based education may be slow to spread to U.S. schools due to sizable barriers, according to a report published Oct. 22.

The report, “Show What You Know: A Landscape Analysis of Competency-Based Education,” features an overview of the current status of competency-based education in the U.S. produced by Getting Smart and reflections from XQ on some of the more complex transition issues. The report was commissioned by XQ.

Educators are trying to meet students’ unique learning needs with competency-based models, which let students advance based on skill mastery rather than seat time.

The old and outdated education model that sorts students based on age, and that gauges achievement based on course completion and seat time, is getting in the way of educational innovation, the report argues.

So, why move to a competency-based model? In a nutshell, “the payoff includes ensuring quality preparation and readiness for all students, realizing the benefits of learning science, working toward gap-closing equity, fostering student agency, educating for broader aims, and aligning with the world of work.”


Cult of Pedagogy

This week's highlighted blog has something for educators at every level

This week’s highlighted blog is Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzalez, a former middle school teacher and a National Board Certified Teacher who now works full-time supporting teachers with her blog and other resources.

Cult of Pedagogy really does have something for every educator at every level. You name the topic and there is a quality post relating to that topic on Cult of Pedagogy. I find myself sharing Jennifer’s posts multiple times a week. In addition, Jenn does a regular Cult of Pedagogy podcast that is also packed with valuable information for educators.

Jennifer breaks down the topics she covers on her blog into the following three areas:

  • The Craft (fine-tuning our practice)
  • Go Deep (exploring theory and reaching beyond the classroom)
  • Teacher Soul (the things we don’t talk about often enough, but should)

You can also follow Cult of Pedagogy on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Take some time to “Go Deep” on this blog! It will give you more than enough valuable information to keep you busy until next week’s Blogger Mondays featured blog.

[Editor’s Note: eSchool News will be highlighting a different blog every Monday. Send your favorites to]


10 technology trends that will revolutionize 2019

Gartner's annual list of forthcoming tech trends promises innovation and immersive experiences

The next year will focus on technologies that influence how users interact with the world, according to Gartner in its list of top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019.

A strategic technology trend is “one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.”

The IT research and analyst firm announced the upcoming trends at its annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in October.

2019’s trends will be all about building the “Intelligent Digital Mesh,” which David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, says has been a consistent theme in recent years

That intelligent digital mesh focuses on three things:
1. Intelligence: AI drives everything we do across many systems going into the future
2. Digital: The digital world brings the virtual and real worlds together in a new digital reality
3. Mesh: Connecting people, processes, and things together in new and interesting ways

The convergence of these three things supports a continuous innovation process, outlined in detail in this video


Here’s a must-do for E-rate applicants

A little work now can make the 2019 filing process much easier for E-rate applicants

Calling all E-rate coordinators–there is one important step you can take now to ensure a smooth process when the E-rate filing window opens in 2019.

The FY2019 application filing window for the E-rate Program doesn’t open until January, but schools and libraries must ensure their data in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) is current.

The FY2019 Administrative Window opened on October 1, 2018 and is anticipated to close in early January 2019.

During the Administrative Window, applicants can review their profile data in EPC for accuracy, and should update student enrollment as well as the number of students eligible for free/reduced lunch. The administrative window is anticipated to close in early January 2019.


How our district is becoming “Digital from Day One”

Two district tech leaders share the steps they’ve taken to give every student access to the digital resources they need

Four years ago, our schools in Pickens County, South Carolina had funding approved for a 1:1 initiative that we called Tech It Home. We started with Chromebooks for 9th graders, then added tablets and at-home internet access for 6th and 7th graders.

Now in our fourth year of Tech It Home, students in grades 4-12 have devices, but we’re still working to be “digital from day one,” meaning that all of our systems and applications are interoperable so that students have access to every resource they need, starting on the first day of school. Here are the steps we’ve taken to get us this far.

1. Start with a vision.
Over the last four years, we have dedicated the time and effort to really understand what interoperability means. Interoperability can encompass a wide variety of facets, including account provisioning, class rostering, single sign-on, and shared learning data, all of which play a role in providing students and teachers the right tools, all in one place, at any moment.

A big part of our research process was looking at districts that had made interoperability work. We’re the first district in our state to pursue digital from day one, so we had to find inspiration from others. We looked at Orange County (FL) Public Schools, Gwinnett County (GA) Public School District, and Houston (TX) Independent School District, three districts that were about five years ahead of us in that department. These schools helped us develop our blueprint.

2. Research platforms that will work for your school.
When studying other districts, we paid close attention to what they were using. We interviewed people around the country and found ClassLink could provide our teachers with a single sign-on that could link to our asset repository, SAFARI Montage, and to all the applications we were using or planned to use. For a learning management system to allow our teachers to build lessons, we landed on Schoology.

Once we found the tools that worked, we developed a master textbook and digital resource list of what we were using so that we could plan how to make them all work in harmony with each other and provide ease of use for our educators.


Using technology to embrace the “un-faculty” meeting

A principal shares how he started a PLC movement and empowered his faculty

I’m not sure if teachers dreaded faculty meetings more than I did, but while standing in an auditorium filled with tired-looking faculty after a long day of teaching, I sometimes had this thought: If I did a dance or paused unsuspectingly, would that gain their attention, even if only for a moment?

We ask teachers to sit and focus at their lowest energy cycle of the day. It’s no wonder—as with kids—we see distractibility, disinterest, and frustration. Absenteeism rose by 10 percent on faculty meeting Mondays. That’s 12 faculty members absent, more than double the average absentee rate.

Something had to be done to change faculty meetings. Otherwise, students lose: Absent teachers make learning harder and kids are in greater need of a positive and present adult influence in school more than ever.

So, what could we do? Drawing on research on effective professional learning communities (PLCs), I developed a PLC model, wrapped around a focus on learning, results, and timely and relevant information. How do you do this with a faculty of 100+?

A model for any school, department, or level
Breaking the process into parts is the key factor in executing the roadmap. Here’s how it works at our middle school:

Four administrators oversee eight departments: language arts, math, social studies, science, world languages, arts, technology, and physical ed/health. You can facilitate with a lead teacher, specialists, or coaches and/or supervisor. Each facilitator takes a core subject in the first and a non-core subject in the second category. For instance, I was assigned to math and world languages. These two departments meet (separately) in nearby rooms.

Next, you need to set the stage to execute a successful faculty PLC. Google Forms are nifty, free, and accessible. They let you gather information easily, quickly, and efficiently. Before a meeting, we email faculty members the Google Form.



How creative learning spaces lead to greater innovation

We need to offer creative learning spaces to expand students’ minds and skills

As technology and innovation become first priority for school districts, it’s important that students are offered creative learning spaces to expand and challenge their knowledge and ability to create. Technology can help students boost their concentration, retain information, and encourage individualized learning programs. Students can also begin to advance their collaboration skills through online projects.

In the 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, former U.S. Secretary of Education John King stated, “One of the most important aspects of technology in education is its ability to level the field of opportunity for students.” With technology in tow, creative learning spaces help to expand students’ minds to imagination and freedom of expression. These unique, educational spaces breed continued motivation for students that allow children to fully engage in their schooling and become excited about learning.

So, with the right aesthetics, a creative learning space can not only impact brain function, but positively influence how students feel at school and cultivate an environment that will support students’ success.

Top tech tools for students to think critically
Creative learning spaces house advanced technology such as interactive whiteboards, 3D printers, audio/visual production, and programming labs that help students develop better problem-solving and design-thinking skills.