The Critical Need for Social & Emotional Learning Programs

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The Critical Need for Social & Emotional Learning Programs

MaryAnn2016
MaryAnn Jobe
Director, Leadership Development
AASA, The School Superintendents Association

In March 2018, The Wallace Foundation released a report on the effects of social and emotional learning programs in 25 elementary schools across the country. The Wallace-funded research brief, Preparing for Effective SEL Implementation, was completed by Stephanie Jones, Rebecca Bailey, Katharine Brush and Jennifer Kahn at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and published by Harvard.

Today, more than ever, we need to be attentive to students’ needs in the public-school environment because they are bringing more and more issues into the classroom. We worry now about nutrition and if students eat well. We try to help with dysfunctional families, and violence at home and in the neighborhood. We also try to educate these young minds so they can be college and career ready in the future. What are we finding out about social and emotional learning programs in elementary schools?

This is what the researchers have to say:

COMMON FEATURES OF EFFECTIVE PROGRAMS

Research indicates that the most effective SEL programs incorporate four elements represented by the acronym SAFE: (1) sequenced activities that lead in a coordinated and connected way to skill development; (2) active forms of learning that enable children to practice and master new skills; (3) focused time spent developing one or more social and emotional skills; and (4) explicit defining and targeting of specific skills. But SEL is about more than just targeting and building skills. Our own research builds upon the SAFE elements to add that SEL efforts are most successful when they also:

1. Occur within supportive contexts. School and classroom contexts that are supportive of children’s social and emotional development include (a) adult and child practices and activities that build skills and establish prosocial norms, and (b) a climate that actively promotes healthy relationships, instructional support and positive classroom management. For this reason, efforts to build social and emotional skills and to improve school culture and climate are mutually reinforcing and may enhance benefits when the two are pursued in a simultaneous and coordinated fashion.

2. Build adult competencies. This includes promoting teachers’ own social and emotional competence and supporting the ongoing integration of SEL-informed pedagogical skills into everyday practice.

3. Partner with family and community. This includes taking into consideration the environments and contexts in which children learn, live and grow by building family-school-community partnerships that can support children at home and in other out-of-school settings, fostering culturally competent and responsive practices, and considering how specific educational policies may influence children.

4. Target key behaviors and skills. This includes pursuing, in a developmentally appropriate way, skills across multiple domains of development, including: (a) emotional processes; (b) social/interpersonal skills; and (c) cognitive regulation or executive function skills.

5. Set reasonable goals. This includes articulating a series of short- and long-term outcomes that are reasonable goals or expectations for the specific SEL effort. These include (a) short-term indicators of children’s growth and progress in areas proximal to the specific SEL activities and (b) longer-term indicators of more distal, future impacts.

(excerpt from Preparing for Effective SEL Implementation.: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/Preparing-for-Effective-SEL-Implementation.pdf )

As a leader in your school district, what are you doing to provide a school culture that embraces the uniqueness of every child? Have you developed an SEL program? If so, have you looked at the data? Is it making a difference?

(This blog is made possible through the generous support of The Wallace Foundation)

MaryAnn P. Jobe, Ed.D. is the director of education and leadership development at AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

Districts Benefit from Leader Tracking Systems

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Districts Benefit from Leader Tracking Systems

MaryAnn2016
MaryAnn Jobe
Director, Leadership Development
AASA, The School Superintendents Association 

AASA is proud to produce the Ed Leadership Blog that will provide relevant school district leadership information and research, as well as commentaries. This blog is supported by The Wallace Foundation.

Struggling schools need effective principals to turn them around, but little is known about how districts can develop such principals. Supported by The Wallace Foundation, the Principal Pipeline Initiative (PPI) helped six urban school districts improve how they train, place and support principals.

According to one key research finding, most of the districts were interested in boosting the number of strong principal candidates in part because they had seen a decrease in the size and quality of the applicant pool. (PSA Report, 2013)

The six urban school districts that looked at how they could increase their bench of leaders to find qualified principals for their schools are: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools, N.C.; Denver Public Schools, Colo.; Gwinnett County Public Schools, Ga.; Hillsborough County Public Schools, Fla.; New York City Public Schools, N.Y.; and Prince George’s County Public Schools, Md.

I have been to Gwinnett County Schools and what it is doing is amazing. The staff involved in the PPI work have built a technology dashboard and data system where Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent and CEO of the district, can search district candidates for openings that occur in leadership positions. This did not come easily. Gwinnett had to look at the internal practices and the leader standards it used for developing, nurturing and keeping great leaders. It worked on developing leader standards that tie into the Georgia state requirements and built an observation and evaluation system around the new standards.

Today, Gwinnett is among one of the leading districts across the country that is using state-of-the-art technology and data decision-making to ensure that the right person can do the job. Does your district look at your talent and is your ‘principal bench’ deep enough?

This work is being emulated in another Wallace initiative, The University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI).

MaryAnn Jobe is the director of leadership development with AASA and serves as project lead of AASA’s Principal Pipeline Initiative.