Social Emotional Learning, A letter from the Superintendent

Dear Community,

I am writing this short newsletter to explain the purpose and success of our Social Emotional Learning Program. Today’s schools are increasingly multicultural and multilingual and full of students from diverse social and economic backgrounds.  Marcola School District is not experiencing the advantage of having an increase of multicultural and multilingual students, however, we are experiencing an increase of students with diverse social and economic backgrounds. It is our responsibility (educators and community) to serve students with different motivations for engaging in learning, behaving positively, and performing academically.  Every student we serve is different in their Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social (PIES) strengths and weaknesses.  When we identify students who have intellectual or physical needs we provide the necessary resources and supports to help close the gap for the purpose of providing them with an equitable education.  The same must be true for students who have gaps in their social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning (SEL) provides the foundation for safe and positive learning and enhances students’ ability to succeed in school, careers, and life.

Our schools are currently seeing a dramatic increase in students of all ages carrying anxiety, adversity, and trauma from a variety of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  Social and emotional learning programs are critical for addressing these emotional and mental challenges, but we must also rethink our discipline procedures and policies. We need to understand that traditional discipline works best with the children who need it the least, and works least with the children who need it the most.  Discipline ideally is not something we do to students, it should be a quality we want to develop within them.

Traditional punishments for students with ACEs, can unintentionally retraumatize and reactivate their stress response systems.  Recent research in school discipline is grounded in the neuroscience of attachment, which emphasizes the significance of relationships.  Those relationships begin with an adult in a regulated, calm brain state.  It takes a calm brain to calm another brain – this co-regulation is something that students with ACEs may have missed out on.  Our schools can and must be an environment where students feel safe and connected even when they make poor choices.

The Five Keys to Successful SEL programs are Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.  Marcola School District provides resources to support all 5 of the keys to successful SEL programs. Research shows that SEL not only improves academic achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases prosocial behaviors (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students (Durlak et al., 2011).  Effective social and emotional learning programming involves coordinated classroom, schoolwide, family, and community practices that help students develop the skills necessary to be successful in school, careers and life.

Marcola School District’s SEL program is putting policies and procedures in place that support an effective social and emotional learning to support all students who may have physical, intellectual, emotional and social gaps. The research is very clear – schools that implement SEL programs and provide resources to support students with Social/Emotional needs have a higher graduation rate and a lower drop out rate.  Marcola School District’s graduation rate this past year was 91% and drop out rate was 1.4%. Our SEL program is and has been working very well. It’s all about developing positive relationships with our most important asset – YOUTH.

I highly recommend our teachers, students and community watch this video about a school that put solutions in place to help all students achieve success.  Paper Tigers

Please know that our Admin team and our Social Emotional Learning team are always available to answer any questions in regards to the policies and procedures we put in place to support all students.  Our policies and procedures are in place to support the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social needs of all students.

In closing, we thank our community for your ongoing support as Marcola School District continues to grow and improve our graduation rate, dropout rate, Freshman on track for graduation rate and 3rd grade reading and math proficiencies.  We have made tremendous progress because we believe all students deserve the right for a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

Thank you!

Bill Watkins