News

Committee takes 'first step' on social-emotional learning curriculum

Group recommends framework, next steps but not specific program

While the Palo Alto school district is nationally known for its academic rigor, it is "less clear" that its students are well prepared in another area research has shown is key to future success and well-being: social-emotional learning.

This is according to a district committee charged with researching and recommending a K-12 social-emotional learning curriculum for the school district to adopt. The Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Committee wrote in its final report, which members will present to the school board on Tuesday night, that there is ample evidence of the need for and benefits of bringing such a curriculum to Palo Alto Unified's 17 schools.

"Effective SEL programs improve academic achievement, help students form deeper connections to schools, and encourage positive student behaviors," the report reads. "Both academic success and success in life require the integration of cognitive, social and emotional skills."

The group quotes a national collaborative to define social-emotional learning, an increasingly popular buzzword in the education world: "Social and emotional learning involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions."

The committee is not yet recommending a specific curriculum for the district to adopt, but rather the creation of several new committees that could tackle that task with more sufficient time. The group's final report and its recommendations should be seen as not the end product, but "the first stage of a multi-year process" for the district, the report states.

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The 23-member group, made up of teachers, staff, administrators, students, parents and community members, has, however recommended a "framework" to use to guide this work. After reviewing existing frameworks across the country, consulting with local experts and other school districts, the committee settled on a statewide approach developed by a group of experts in Washington in October. The framework outlines "guiding principles, standards, and benchmarks" for an effective social-emotional learning curriculum, a report from the Washington group reads.

Their guiding principles are professional learning, school-family-community partnership, cultural responsiveness and competence and inclusion of social-emotional learning across all schools. Standards are broken into two categories — self and social — with goals for students to achieve both self-awareness and social awareness, for example.

The social-emotional learning committee felt this framework "best merged fundamental elements" from two others identified as top contenders for Palo Alto.

This framework should not only be used to implement a specific curriculum, but also to transform culture, the committee wrote in its report.

"Transformative and sustainable SEL must be cultural and systemic," the report reads. "Student progress in SEL requires the development and modeling of caregiver capacity and competency (teachers, staff, and families), which in turn requires the development and modeling of leadership capacity and competency (site & district administration and community leaders). Efficacious SEL is reflected not just in the people but the systems (policies, practices, and culture) that support students, staff, and families."

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Currently, social-emotional learning is sprinkled throughout the districts in pockets, the committee found; a new K-12 curriculum would take a more unified, systematic approach.

Examples of existing efforts include a "life skills" program at Duveneck Elementary School, a "social kindness" program at Terman Middle School, Palo Alto High School's teacher-adviser program, a positive psychology class at Gunn High School, anti-bullying efforts throughout the district and mindfulness lessons, among others identified in the report.

The committee has spent the last eight months reviewing research, literature and data; meeting with experts and other schools who have implemented social-emotional curriculum; reviewing potential curricula as well as existing social-emotional programs in the district; and conducting focus groups with principal, teachers, middle schoolers and high schoolers, among other work.

The group is now recommending that the district convene three new committees take the baton for next steps that should be tackled in phases over the next three to five years. A proposed pre-K through 12th grade advisory committee of parents, students, teachers, administrators and community members would meet four times per year to develop a rollout plan and budget, as well as oversee implementation, per the group's recommendation. Teacher-leaders and administrators on two elementary- and secondary-level steering committees would meet once a month to research curricula, develop a rubric for evaluation and ensure daily schedules at their schools provide the time necessary to teach social-emotional learning. Individual sites would also form social-emotional learning teams — teachers, administrators and students — to meet twice a month on community partnerships, professional development, implementation and budget planning.

The committee also suggests that the board develop and adopt a specific policy focused on social-emotional learning, allocate yearly funds to this effort and weave social-emotional learning into all professional development.

While the group's report was initially listed as an action item on the board's agenda, it was later amended to a discussion item.

In other business Tuesday, the school board will also vote on a proposed resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights and the proposed repeal of a resolution challenging the agency; hear an interim financial report; and vote to accept a donation from Stanford University to build a new modular building for a childcare program at Escondido Elementary School, among other items.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.

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Committee takes 'first step' on social-emotional learning curriculum

Group recommends framework, next steps but not specific program

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Feb 28, 2017, 9:00 am

While the Palo Alto school district is nationally known for its academic rigor, it is "less clear" that its students are well prepared in another area research has shown is key to future success and well-being: social-emotional learning.

This is according to a district committee charged with researching and recommending a K-12 social-emotional learning curriculum for the school district to adopt. The Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Committee wrote in its final report, which members will present to the school board on Tuesday night, that there is ample evidence of the need for and benefits of bringing such a curriculum to Palo Alto Unified's 17 schools.

"Effective SEL programs improve academic achievement, help students form deeper connections to schools, and encourage positive student behaviors," the report reads. "Both academic success and success in life require the integration of cognitive, social and emotional skills."

The group quotes a national collaborative to define social-emotional learning, an increasingly popular buzzword in the education world: "Social and emotional learning involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions."

The committee is not yet recommending a specific curriculum for the district to adopt, but rather the creation of several new committees that could tackle that task with more sufficient time. The group's final report and its recommendations should be seen as not the end product, but "the first stage of a multi-year process" for the district, the report states.

The 23-member group, made up of teachers, staff, administrators, students, parents and community members, has, however recommended a "framework" to use to guide this work. After reviewing existing frameworks across the country, consulting with local experts and other school districts, the committee settled on a statewide approach developed by a group of experts in Washington in October. The framework outlines "guiding principles, standards, and benchmarks" for an effective social-emotional learning curriculum, a report from the Washington group reads.

Their guiding principles are professional learning, school-family-community partnership, cultural responsiveness and competence and inclusion of social-emotional learning across all schools. Standards are broken into two categories — self and social — with goals for students to achieve both self-awareness and social awareness, for example.

The social-emotional learning committee felt this framework "best merged fundamental elements" from two others identified as top contenders for Palo Alto.

This framework should not only be used to implement a specific curriculum, but also to transform culture, the committee wrote in its report.

"Transformative and sustainable SEL must be cultural and systemic," the report reads. "Student progress in SEL requires the development and modeling of caregiver capacity and competency (teachers, staff, and families), which in turn requires the development and modeling of leadership capacity and competency (site & district administration and community leaders). Efficacious SEL is reflected not just in the people but the systems (policies, practices, and culture) that support students, staff, and families."

Currently, social-emotional learning is sprinkled throughout the districts in pockets, the committee found; a new K-12 curriculum would take a more unified, systematic approach.

Examples of existing efforts include a "life skills" program at Duveneck Elementary School, a "social kindness" program at Terman Middle School, Palo Alto High School's teacher-adviser program, a positive psychology class at Gunn High School, anti-bullying efforts throughout the district and mindfulness lessons, among others identified in the report.

The committee has spent the last eight months reviewing research, literature and data; meeting with experts and other schools who have implemented social-emotional curriculum; reviewing potential curricula as well as existing social-emotional programs in the district; and conducting focus groups with principal, teachers, middle schoolers and high schoolers, among other work.

The group is now recommending that the district convene three new committees take the baton for next steps that should be tackled in phases over the next three to five years. A proposed pre-K through 12th grade advisory committee of parents, students, teachers, administrators and community members would meet four times per year to develop a rollout plan and budget, as well as oversee implementation, per the group's recommendation. Teacher-leaders and administrators on two elementary- and secondary-level steering committees would meet once a month to research curricula, develop a rubric for evaluation and ensure daily schedules at their schools provide the time necessary to teach social-emotional learning. Individual sites would also form social-emotional learning teams — teachers, administrators and students — to meet twice a month on community partnerships, professional development, implementation and budget planning.

The committee also suggests that the board develop and adopt a specific policy focused on social-emotional learning, allocate yearly funds to this effort and weave social-emotional learning into all professional development.

While the group's report was initially listed as an action item on the board's agenda, it was later amended to a discussion item.

In other business Tuesday, the school board will also vote on a proposed resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights and the proposed repeal of a resolution challenging the agency; hear an interim financial report; and vote to accept a donation from Stanford University to build a new modular building for a childcare program at Escondido Elementary School, among other items.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.

Comments

Laurie Leventhal-Belfer
Greenmeadow
on Feb 28, 2017 at 11:49 am
Laurie Leventhal-Belfer, Greenmeadow
on Feb 28, 2017 at 11:49 am

While Social Emotional Learning should be a part of any grounded academic curriculum I caution the committees to be attentive to our diverse student population. Far too often these programs are not attentive to the needs of children with different learning strengths and challenges. A quality program must have built in different ways to apply the program to meet the needs of children who do best with different teaching strategies.


Marc Vincenti
Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2017 at 5:45 pm
Marc Vincenti, Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2017 at 5:45 pm

I'm, like: whoa.

In addition to giving our kids even more to do--more curriculum to study, more skills to work on, more books and handouts to read, more classrooms and teachers to adjust to, more exhortations to be their brother's and sister's keeper, increasing implication that they are broken and need fixing, more "adult" coping skills when they are in fact only teenagers, with one foot still in childhood, and more "adult wisdom" when they're in the midst of a life passage that has a great deal to do with learning to view adults with skepticism and to question authority--I hope we will also find it in our hearts to give them a break.

Why not simply make their high schools healthier places?

I'm not talking about our wonderful arrays of classes, our dedicated teachers, or our scores of great clubs and music and drama ensembles.

I'm just talking about the daily high-school grind.

I find it strange that we keep asking and telling our teenagers to do more, learn more, study more, yet refuse to ease the school conditions--overcrowded classes, demoralizing rates of academic fraud, little voice in nightly homework amounts, scant guidance conversations about the realities of multiple APs, relentless grade-reporting, all-day dependence on social media just to get the emotional support they need to survive this whole grind--that wear them down every single school-day for four years.

If we want to give our kids social-emotional curriculum, shouldn't we at least do them the honor of making their schools into socially and emotionally healthy places?

For anyone who may feel the same, please visit savethe2008.com and see if you'd like to add your voice to our chorus for change.

We're a community alliance comprised of hundreds of parents and teachers, professors and doctors, engineers and realtors, faith leaders, Gunn and Paly alums, and many, many more.

So far, neither the board nor superintendent has expressed any interest in implementing our six simple proposals, but we continue to grow our "strength in numbers" and are now at a membership of 554.

Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Chairman, Save the 2,008


SEL Alliance for Massachusetts
another community
on Mar 1, 2017 at 3:31 am
SEL Alliance for Massachusetts, another community
on Mar 1, 2017 at 3:31 am

As I see the spread of educators awareness and knowledge of social-emotional learning (SEL), I also see the public's misperceptions about it.

SEL is not a program. While there are many "programs", both nationally and locally, SEL is an educational process that informs children at a very early age (the earlier the better) about how to recognize, understand, and regulate their emotions.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, famously said words to the effect, "we perceive ourselves as thinking creatures who feel, but in biology, we are actually feeling creatures who think." In order to learn and develop skills that would have us achieve, we must learn about our emotions.

Emotions are just one part of SEL. It also teaches empathy and how to form long lasting relationships, among many other things.

In Boston, where this process is in the beginning stages, they formed an Office of Social Emotional Learning and Wellness. Under that is the Office of Safe and Welcoming Schools to improve the climate of each school Cultural awareness and responsiveness is a huge part of SEL and must be take into consideration.

Please read more about SEL from the national resource in Chicago at www.CASEL.org or learn about the grassroots support it is receiving in Massachusetts at www.SEL4MA.org


Laurie Leventhal-Belfer
Greenmeadow
on Mar 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm
Laurie Leventhal-Belfer, Greenmeadow
on Mar 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm

That is great news. But I have observed at many schools in the Bay Area that are using a set program on this topic not creating it to fit he evolving needs of their students or the education climate.


@massachusetts
Community Center
on Mar 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm
@massachusetts, Community Center
on Mar 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm

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