The city of Philadelphia plans to spend $1.2 million to hire full-time social workers for 22 Philadelphia schools as part of a pilot program this fall, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer — though the plan still has to be approved by the School Reform Commission, which oversees the district.
While the city hopes to receive some Medicaid funding to reimburse costs, officials say they will implement the plan regardless, the article says.
Shortly after he took office in 2016, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney began meeting with principals about their concerns, and the 22 schools were chosen based on students’ needs.
The city’s plan reflects a growing focus nationally on students’ social-emotional growth and on the factors outside of the classroom that keep students from being successful. According to the article, the city would like to see the program go district-wide. And some of the initial 22 schools include those that have been designated as community schools, meaning that they work in partnership with other organizations to provide services and programs for students and families. The New York City Department of Education is also contracting with multiple community-based agencies in its drive to expand community schools across the city and improve student attendance.
Some districts in recent years have added district-level positions to address students’ nonacademic needs. Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang, for example, appointed an assistant superintendent for social emotional learning and wellness. And over the past few years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has trained 300 school workers to implement a resiliency-building program developed at the University of California Los Angeles.
Some skeptics consider social-emotional learning a rebranding of the self-esteem movement, but many are currently hoping to learn lessons from the eight states involved in the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, which “will explore how to fully integrate social, emotional, and academic development in school design and culture as well as teaching and learning.”