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Tag Archive: social emotional learning

  1. Social-Emotional Learning for Children & Youth in Schools

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    The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) describes Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as the process through which children and adults acquire and apply the 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. Extensive research demonstrates that school-based SEL programs can promote and enhance students’ connection to school, positive behavior and academic achievement.

    During the 2020 General Assembly Session, Delegate Sam Rasoul introduced House Bill 753 that requires the Virginia Department of Education to establish a uniformed definition of SEL and to develop standards and guidance for SEL for all public students in kindergarten through grade twelve. These standards must be made available to each local school division no later than July 1, 2021 with a report to be issued no later than November 1, 2021 on the resources needed in order to successfully support local divisions in the statewide implementation of a SEL program.

    Virginia’s Proposed SEL Standards

    The Virginia K-12 SEL Standards currently consist of five overarching competencies that provide clarity on the desired outcomes for SEL: self awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making. Concepts related to each competency include critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, citizenship and communication.

    As with academic Standards of Learning, the proposed SEL Standards outline the skills identified for each grade band to demonstrate the desired outcome under each overarching concept. The proposed Standards are intended to be developmentally appropriate based on grade-level and to build on concepts mastered in previous grades.

    As an example of the language in the standards, the proposed standards for those in 11th & 12th grades include:

    • Self-Management: I can demonstrate the ability to reframe challenging situations from a strengths-based and/or growth mindset perspective.
    • Social Awareness: I can recognize, describe and distinguish inequity and injustice at different levels of society.
    • Relationship Skills: I can identify ways to navigate unhealthy relationships.
    • Decision Making: I can make constructive choices by considering the personal, interpersonal, and community impacts of my choices.

    These Standards are intended to help educators and school personnel better support children’s social and emotional development at all ages. They include opportunities to address unconscious bias, mental health and conflict in age-appropriate ways. These standards represent important steps to make social-emotional competencies as important as academic competencies and to help all students succeed in the real world. However, this shift will take some additional resources to help prepare teachers, to provide the appropriate staff levels to support teachers in implementing these standards and to help schools create a climate where these standards are in concert with school practices.

    To further implement these standards, local school divisions should consider:

    • Funding for teacher training and preparation to implement standards
    • Hiring specialized support staff with additional state funds to meet new staff levels
    • Implementing school-wide practices such as multi-tiered supports and restorative justice.

    Earlier in May, the standards were posted for review and public comment on the Virginia Town Hall Comment Forum

    TAKE ACTION: Review the standards, provide any comments by May 26, 2021 and start discussions with local school leaders about what steps are needed to implement these standards.

    If you are having conversations with local school division leaders for how to use American Rescue Plan funds or additional state funds, encourage them to consider the necessary investments that should be made to implement the proposed SEL standards and how school climates can best support students.

  2. Troubling Times Call for Advocates to Step Up: Focus on Childhood Trauma

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    For us as children’s advocates it’s been a rough year. We’ve encountered challenges to children’s policy at the federal level, such as threats to children’s health insurance coverage. Our heads have been spinning as plans for immigrant families change with the swift action of an Executive Order, or in the courts, with a bang of a gavel. Our hearts have been broken watching violence play out in our communities—neighborhood violence in Richmond, racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, and mass shootings. We can’t turn on the news without hearing more threats of hurricanes and wildfires. For us as children’s advocates, these events change how we do our jobs. But for the children we serve, and advocate for, these events can shape their experience and, potentially, their future health and development.

    Voices has focused on how childhood trauma can shape a child’s long-term health and development and their experiences in the mental health system, foster care system, or juvenile justice system. Last year we helped to introduce the topic of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how communities are responding through Trauma-informed Community Networks (TICNs) to state policymakers. Momentum and interest have been building as the Commission on Youth hosted a Family Impact Seminar in May on Adverse Childhood Experiences for policy makers. Voices has developed talking points and questions for candidates on childhood trauma. We’ve also researched how other states approach trauma-informed policy for children.

    While it’s heartbreaking to work with children who have experienced trauma, we know there are great examples of how we can advance better policy and practice. Over the next year, Voices will incorporate more trauma-informed policy into our work and will launch an advocacy campaign and strategy around trauma-informed state policy. If you are interested in learning more and being involved in this work there are a couple of ways to start….

    1. Learn more about trauma and building resilience through the excellent documentary Resilience or from the *just-launched* Sesame Workshop resources for working with young children who have experienced trauma.
    2. Show your support for recommendations to bring a state-level policy focus and local innovation to trauma-informed practice to Virginia. The legislative Commission on Youth will vote to consider several recommendations related to childhood trauma at their Nov. 8th meeting. You can show that you, or your organization, supports these recommendations by sending a letter to COY members. A sample letter and instructions are available here.
    3. Let us know if you are interested in staying up to speed on advocacy opportunities and legislative proposals on trauma-informed practice. Share your contact information, as well as any thoughts and questions with our Policy Director, Emily Griffey.

    Once you get started you will probably want to know more about the policies and practices that can build resilient families and can help mitigate the impact of trauma. We are excited that many areas of children’s services, from Head Start directors to Juvenile Detention Center staff, are being trained in trauma-informed approached this year. Some other examples of policy and practice change and innovation that interests us includes:

    These examples, as well as the many exciting things happening at the community level, give us hope when we encounter troubling times. We hope you will join us in advocating for children who have experienced trauma.