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District 58 Spotlighted in National Report for Social-Emotional Learning Initiatives

O’Neill Middle School teacher Meg Van Dyke is one of three Illinois finalists for this year’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Program.

Submitted by Downers Grove Grade School District 58

A District 58 school is again receiving national attention for its Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) initiatives.

El Sierra, which several years ago was the first District 58 school to implement components of Responsive Classroom, is one of just four schools nationwide to be featured as a success story in a national report about the impact of SEL on students and schools. In addition, the report’s cover photo features El Sierra students and staff.

During the past few years, all District 58 elementary schools have incorporated components of Responsive Classroom, a program that helps schools support social-emotional development in children through activities such as a daily morning meeting.     

The national report, called The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools, was created by Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm; Hart Research Associates, a public opinion and strategic research firm; and CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning). CASEL is a national organization advancing the teaching of academic, social and emotional skills, and has partnered closely with District 58 on its SEL initiatives.

The snapshot, entitled “Implementing SEL State Standards at the Local Level,” highlights El Sierra’s use of Responsive Classroom, as well as the school’s implementation of School Families. This is a program in which a group of nine to 10 students, including at least one student from each grade, meets with a school staff member once a month for 30 minutes.

“Both teachers and students are benefiting from El Sierra’s SEL standards-aligned initiatives. Stronger relationships through Morning Meeting, School Families, and other programs have resulted in both teachers and students excited and eager to attend school every day to learn and grow together,” the report says.

Additionally, the report highlights that the support of SEL “is so strong at El Sierra that two teachers were chosen to speak at a Capitol Hill briefing in September 2012 to promote awareness of SEL and its positive outcomes in school and in life.”

Last fall, El Sierra sixth-grade teachers Patricia Incrocci and Lindsay Shea visited Washington, D.C. to address lawmakers, educational advocates and national news outlets regarding the success of SEL initiatives in their classrooms. CASEL invited the two to speak after experts at the non-profit visited El Sierra and witnessed the use of Responsive Classroom.

A District 58 education focuses on the whole child, and Social-Emotional Learning is an important component.       

SEL is defined by CASEL as the process whereby children and adults develop essential social and emotional skills, knowledge and attitudes related to the core areas of social and emotional competency:

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-management

  • Social awareness

  • Relationship skills

  • Responsible decision-making

Research has shown that SEL supports and boosts academic achievement, and provides the foundation for improved social, health and behavioral outcomes. District 58 has incorporated SEL at the District, building and classroom levels, with a goal of creating a learning environment where students:

  • Show up eager to learn

  • Feel a sense of connectedness to their school and teachers

  • Feel safe from being treated poorly

  • Perform to their fullest potential

  • Treat all others with respect

  • Contribute to the well-being of the community

District 58 will continue to expand its supports and resources to help children develop the social and emotional skills they need to succeed. These efforts are being assisted by multi-year partnerships between District 58, CASEL and the DuPage Regional Office of Education to provide resources and training for staff.

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