Introducing social-emotional learning to all aspects of curriculum was critical to school culture transformation efforts aimed to address dropping enrollment numbers, increasing suspension rates and overwhelming student dissatisfaction at Langley Elementary in Washington, D.C., Principal Vanessa Drumm-Canepa writes for eSchool News.
Drumm-Canepa suggests SEL’s appeal is its focus on nurturing the whole student, specifically by helping them manage and understand their emotions so they can achieve positive goals.
Since implementing SEL at Langley, the school’s suspension rate has fallen from 65% to 23%, and student satisfaction has jumped from 70% to 86%.
Among the ways SEL has been incorporated at Langley: personalized greetings with students every morning, encouraged conversation and dialogue during lunch, and “brain breaks” throughout the day to refresh the mind and de-stress.
Not surprisingly, while SEL is student-centered, it starts with educators. In order to introduce SEL to her campus, Drumm-Canepa was adamant that teachers understand why this was important and feel supported in the process.
On that front, the broader rise of SEL highlights a larger trend in education around the impact of school culture and climate on learning. As the American Institutes for Research explains it, “Health and learning are interdependent. From early childhood through higher education, educational settings have the potential to nurture young people’s health and well-being. The climate of these settings affects whether students feel and are safe, connected, supported, and challenged.”
Among resources are a toolkit published by Minneapolis Public Schools for creating a healthy school climate. In it, the two main elements in safe and orderly schools are explained as “a school-wide system with a clear, predictable structure, age-appropriate expectations, and standards that are consistently implemented,” and positive relationships between students and adults, where there is respect for different ethnic, cultural and racial groups.
School culture's impact has also been recognized in the Every Student Succeeds Act, where states must include data on school climate and safety on their annual report cards. But as Education Week points out, the number of states actually using school climate data points in their ESSA accountability plans remains relatively low.
While ESSA asked states to pick a metric to measure school quality or student success, many submit chronic absenteeism and/or college-and-career-readiness data points to meet this obligation, according to Education Week.
Only four states are specifically incorporating “school climate” in their school ratings: Illinois, Maryland, Montana and New Mexico. Additionally, while California, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee aren’t including “school climate” per say, they are looking at discipline and/or suspension data — factors that are said to impact climate.