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The 14 most innovative SEL districts, part 2

Here's a quick look at how districts are creating safe learning environments that empower students

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the Move This World blog on November 1, 2018.]

Make sure you read “The 14 most innovative SEL districts, part 1.”

In this article, we will be highlighting districts that have shown tremendous commitment to the well being of their students and staff. These 14 districts are being recognized for their efforts in social emotional learning (SEL) and their dedication to creating safe learning environments where individuals feel empowered to express themselves, and where effective teaching and learning can occur.

8. Atlanta (GA) Public Schools
Number of Students: 52,000
Number of Schools: 89

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 52,000 students across 89 schools. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 61 neighborhood schools, five partner schools, 18 charter schools, two city-wide single-gender academies, three alternative schools and four alternative programs. APS continues to support the social emotional learning (SEL) needs of its students. The District first launched social emotional learning initiatives during the 2015 – 2016 school year with an SEL cohort of 26 campuses. This initiative is now district wide. The vision for SEL within APS includes incorporation of the following: common standards and culture, core curriculum beginning in Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, staff professional development, and family/home connection. To ensure successful implementation of SEL in its classrooms, APS has a district SEL department that supports building adult SEL capacity at the school level and a partnership with the Collaborative of Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). At each APS school, SEL teams are working with district level SEL coordinators to ensure its programs are being implemented thoughtfully and with fidelity.

For more information about APS, visit Atlanta Public Schools or follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @apsupdate.

Learn more about APS’s social emotional learning initiatives here.

9. Denver (CO) Public Schools
Number of Students: 92,300
Number of Schools: 207

Denver Public Schools is committed to educating the whole child, ensuring students are healthy, supported, engaged, and socially and emotionally intelligent. DPS developed The Whole Child Supports team which provides services to schools through a variety of programs including Social Emotional Learning, Healthy Schools, Social Workers, School Psychologists, Nursing Services, Health Centers and community partnerships. The team also focuses on generating proposals and developing strategic plans to set ambitious goals for upcoming school years . In the spring of 2017, seven schools were awarded funding to support the social and emotional development of their students. The district has been focused on increased support in elementary schools, restorative practices, community partnerships, personal success factors, and trauma-informed practices. They began a partnership with the Collaborative of Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in 2017.

Learn more about DPS’s social emotional learning initiatives here.

10. Oakland (CA) Unified School District
Number of Students: 37,075
Number of Schools: 118

In 2015, Oakland Unified School District created the Department of Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. The creation of this office deepened the districts commitment to social emotional learning, which they began prioritizing in 2011. A framework was developed identifying PreK to Adult SEL standards. In order to build the five core SEL competencies, OUSD believes in integrating direct SEL instruction, teaching practices that support social and emotional school development, integrating SEL skills into the core academic curriculum, and developing school-wide strategies and structure that support SEL. At particular “learning hub schools” there is an SEL point person and leadership team prioritizing SEL. Teachers and staff participate in both formal and informal SEL professional learning and and students receive explicit SEL instruction through one of three evidence-based SEL programs: Caring School Community, Expeditionary Learning and Engaging Schools. OUSD is also a member of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Collaborating Districts Initiative. OUSD hope to take school-wide SEL support models district wide for the 2018-2019 school year.

Learn more about OUSD’s social emotional learning initiatives here.

11. McComb (MS) School District
Number of Students: 2657
Number of Schools: 6

McComb School District believes in putting the needs of their students first. The educational plan for upcoming years aims to implement personalized, student-centered teaching and learning. McComb’s Personalized Learning Model, Six Pillars of Student-Centered Learning, encourages students to take control of their own learning and highlights the importance of social emotional learning skills so students can become independent learners. The district is shifting attention to developmental growth as well as academic growth and believes social emotional learning can only be taught through reinforcing these skills throughout the school day. Programs, such as Move This World and The Leader In Me, have been selected to support teachers and students in social emotional skill development. Superintendent Dr. Ellis explains: “Without social emotional learning, we aren’t really personalizing learning.”

Learn more about McComb School District here.

12. Metro Nashville (TN) Public Schools
Number of Students: 86,000
Number of Schools: 168

Metro Nashville Public Schools began prioritizing social emotional learning in 2011, when they started their partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). The goal was to help them confront obstacles such as student discipline and stress. Since that time, MNPS has adopted evidence-based trauma-informed programs and the district is committed to implementing an integrated, multi-tiered system of support. Every school is using one or more approaches such as social emotional learning programs, restorative practices or positive behavioral interventions.

With teacher buy in being a challenge for many districts, MNPS created a “walkthrough rubric” to support implementation of social emotional learning practices.The rubric evaluates the school wide environment, classroom instruction, as well as classroom environment, management and discipline. Additionally, every school has access to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) training in order to support teachers in communicating with all students in a trauma-informed manner, especially those who have experienced trauma. An integral part of building healthy relationships and addressing the wellness needs of MNPS staff and students is ritualized social emotional learning. Dr. Crnobori, MNPS Coordinator of Trauma-Informed Schools, reports, “Peace Corners and Move This World have been such an important element of our trauma-informed schools SEL work, helping to promote skill building and low stress school environments. SEL strategies such as these have increased teacher capacity to co-regulate students as needed, and teach students skills to self-regulate and build self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship skills.”

Learn more about MNPS’s social emotional learning initiatives here.

13. Austin (TX) Independent School District
Number of Students: 81,391
Number of Schools: 130

Austin Independent School District has been recognized as one of the first districts to incorporate social emotional learning and commit to the development of the whole child. Social emotional learning reached all schools in the districts during the 2015-2016 school year. As part of implementation, a district SEL specialist provides professional development, provides feedback, and supports the schools in developing their own SEL plans. Additionally, each school develops a steering committee and has a designated SEL facilitator who communicates with the SEL district department. The district also selected programming for schools to utilize. Each school year, districts are invited to apply to be apart of an SEL Seed Campus Cohort. Schools must outlines areas for growth and show progress in the following four categories: empowering campus leadership, coordination with family and community partners, coordination with climate and pedagogy, and explicit SEL instruction. Schools that demonstrate growth within these four areas are designated as SEL Model Campuses.

Learn more about AISD’s social emotional learning initiatives here.

14. Chicago (IL) Public Schools
Numbers of Students: 371, 382
Number of Schools: 646

Chicago Public School’s Office of Social Emotional Learning (OSEL) consists of thirty four staff members. OSEL’s mission is to provide physically and emotionally safe and supportive learning environments to students. In order to accomplish this, they have developed robust multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) that strive to meet the social and emotional needs of all students. In order to fully implement social emotional learning, every school was tasked with developing a plan to integrate social emotional learning skills across all subject areas, positive and collaborative relationships throughout the school community. CPS partners with the Collaborative of Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Through this partnership, they have been able to empower 269 schools to implement evidence-based SEL programs. They have also adopted a progressive disciplinary policy that limits the use of exclusionary discipline practices and instead encourages schools to respond to behavior incidents using restorative practices. As a result, there was an increase in average GPA, reading and math scores. Since 2012, out of school suspensions have declined 76 percent, attendance rates rose significantly and graduation rates have soared to 73.5 percent.

Learn more about CPS’s social emotional learning initiatives here.

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