Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Teaching Love Over Hate: A Response to the Charlottesville Incident

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by Karen Niemi, President and CEO, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning)

Dear CASEL friends:

Like so many of you, I’ve been shaken and horrified by the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Va. The prospect of overt and violent hatred and bigotry once again entering the American public square of ideas is abhorrent, and again, a very real threat.

I couldn’t help being struck that so many of the participants in the violence were so young, like 20-year-old white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr., who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. So much tragedy. . . a life cut short, and the living are left with pain, heartache, loss, and, for some, the inspiration for violence yet to come.

How could a society capable of nurturing so much beauty and compassion have also produced Mr. Fields? What forces stoked his fears of diversity and emboldened him with hate? How could his life have been different — not to mention the lives of hundreds of KKK members, alt-right supporters, white nationalists, and violent extremists — if he possessed the skills to understand and manage his emotions, feel empathy, and build positive relationships? We will never know.

I’m more convinced than ever that the work we do here at CASEL is part of the solution to this type of bigotry and fear. We believe in the power of education to teach nonviolence, promote understanding, endow children with purpose and meaning, and provide the skills and behaviors that can create a more inclusive, healthy, and positive future.

Our board chairman, Timothy Shriver, perfectly summed up what we must do to succeed when he said, “I want to change the cycle of stigma and prejudice that destroys lives all over the world every day. Until we can get in front of people and awaken them to the idea that this is not acceptable, it’s very difficult for people to appreciate what we do and change the way we act as a society.”

We are the educators who teach love over hate, the helpers who run toward disaster to comfort the afflicted, and the change agents who will help destroy prejudice and stigmatization.

I ask each of you not to disengage after the tragedy of this past weekend but instead to see it as a call to redouble our efforts because this work is vital, perhaps now more than ever. And we must succeed. Our children are counting on us. Our communities are counting on us. Our country is counting on us.

Together we will build a better tomorrow!

Karen Niemi

President and CEO

CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

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Promoting Student Independence & Successful Inclusion through Systematic Use and Fading of Supports

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By Amy Golden, Behavior Therapy Associates (


Being able to be as independent as possible often substantially impacts future success in all aspects of life (Causton-Theoharis, 2009; Hume, Loftin, & Lantz, 2009). Therefore, as a student moves through adolescence, it is essential for the educational team and family to place increasing emphasis on promoting student independence. This should be carefully considered when developing the individualized educational plan (IEP) for the student.

IEPs often focus on short-term goals and objectives projected for the year ahead, with supports and services to help the student achieve those skills. However, it is suggested that the IEP should be developed as a plan emphasizing independence, with long-term goals always on the forefront of the discussion. With this framework in mind, the team should focus on supports the student needs now to ultimately require less intrusive supports in the future. Goals for independent functional skills should be included in addition to those that are academically oriented. A variety of accommodations and modifications should center on promoting both student progress and independence (Asher, Gordon, Selbst & Cooperberg, 2010; Twachtman-Cullen, 2000). Areas of independence may include behaviors such as initiating tasks, transitioning between activities or locations, organizing materials, caring for one’s own daily needs, and more.

Paraprofessionals are routinely assigned to support students with autism spectrum disorders in the school environment (Giangreco, Halvorsen, Doyle, & Broer, 2004).  There are many clear advantages and disadvantages to this approach.  Paraprofessionals often provide the assistance students require to access less restrictive settings.  Some of their responsibilities may include taking the lead for implementing behavior plans, gathering important information about the student’s skills and deficits, promoting social interactions with peers, and collecting data (Twachtman-Cullen, 2000).  

A key advantage of the use of paraprofessional supports includes the ability to promote generalization for the student across environments. Having detailed knowledge of the student’s abilities and challenges allows them to plan ahead as well as prepare to assist the student in new situations and settings. While these are all reasonable tasks and often necessary benefits, providing 1:1 adult assistance can also be considered most restrictive and significantly impact the student’s autonomy. Peers may be less likely to approach and interact with the student due to an adult’s presence (Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997). The student may engage in spontaneous conversation more readily with the adult, creating an unnatural division from the student’s classmates. The potential for prompt dependency is also heightened when an adult is always present (Causton-Theoharis, 2009). Best intentions to provide support for the individual may result in too much being done for the student or the use of intrusive prompts without a careful fading plan.

Therefore, prior to establishing the need for 1:1 staffing, a thorough assessment of the specific areas for support should be completed. Teams should convene to determine what they anticipate achieving by using 1:1 supports and review if these needs can be met more effectively in other ways to promote student independence (Causton-Theoharis, 2009). For example, students may benefit from using communication devices, technology, additional visual cues, peer modeling, and environmental adaptations. Additionally, providing teachers and paraprofessionals with more advanced training can encourage the use of alternative and creative ways to assist the student (Stockall, 2014; Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997). Instructing staff on the principles of applied behavior analysis, such as content included in the training for Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT), can improve upon educators’ utilization of effective prompting and fading strategies (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2013).

Once 1:1 support is in place for a student, collecting data on the paraprofessional’s role can provide great insight into the student’s ongoing needs.  While it is customary to collect data focusing on student behavior, it is suggested that staff also self-monitor their own involvement with the student throughout the day.  Sample content may include the types of prompts being used, the number of prompts required, and the proximity of the paraprofessional to the student.  This information can be used to describe how the services are being used to support the student and point to areas in which the student requires further assistance.  For example, if a student has consistent difficulty with unpacking and organizing his belongings each day, a visual list or schedule can be implemented to orient the student to the required tasks with the goal of gradually removing the adult from the prompt. The visual prompt can remain in place long-term and allow the student to work independent of adult assistance. Continuous documentation indicating the need for verbal prompting can signal a potential concern, thus leading to the development of new intervention strategies specific to promoting self-sufficiency for the student.

Ongoing assessment should also help to determine if the 1:1 support is needed throughout the entire day or just for specific subjects or activities.  By reviewing the student’s schedule and targeted needs across environments, the paraprofessional can be scheduled for support only when necessary.  Thus, student independence can be promoted by fading the adult support from specific activities or subjects.  Fading may be done gradually, with the paraprofessional taking increasingly greater steps away from supporting the individual in each setting.  For example, a student may be accustomed to being escorted to the bathroom, between classes, or to the bus at the end of the day.  A plan for promoting the student’s independence would consider whether the student could learn to navigate these transitions on their own or perhaps with a peer.  Rather than relying on the adult to prompt the student, alternate strategies should be investigated.

As educational teams plan how to support students, focusing on long-term goals for greater independence will serve a student well by preparing him/her for the future.  Collecting data throughout the fading process can help to pinpoint any new concerns, allowing the team to consider novel strategies for helping the student and maximizing opportunities for self-sufficiency.


Asher, M. J., Gordon, S. B., Selbst, M.C., Cooperberg, M. (2010). The Behavior Problems Resource Kit: Forms and Procedures for Identification, Measurement, and Intervention. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2013). Registered Behavior Technician Task List

Causton-Theoharis, J.N. (2009). The golden rule of providing support in inclusive classrooms: Support others as you would wish to be supported.  Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(2), 36-43.

Doyle, M. B. (2008). The paraprofessional’s guide to the inclusive classroom: Working as a team (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes

Giangreco, M.F. & Broer, S.M. (2007). School-based screening to determine overreliance on paraprofessionals.  Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(3).

Giangreco, M.F., Edelman, S., Luiselli, T.E., & MacFarland, S.Z. (1997). Helping or hovering? Effects of instructional assistant proximity on students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 64, 7–18.

Giangreco, M.F., Halvorsen, A.T., Doyle, M.B. & Broer, S.M. (2004). Alternatives to overreliance on paraprofessionals in inclusive schools.  Journal of Special Education Leadership, 17(2), 82-90.

Hume, K., Loftin, R. & Lantz, J. (2009).  Increasing independence in autism spectrum disorders: A review of three focused interventions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1329-1338.

Stockall, N. S. (2014). When an aide really becomes an aid: Providing professional development for special education paraprofessionals. Teaching exceptional children46(6), 197-205.

Twachtman-Cullen, D. (2000). How to be a para pro: A comprehensive training manual for paraprofessionals. Higganum, CT: Starfish Specialty.

About the Author

Amy Golden, M.S., BCBA is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduate degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at St. Cloud State University.


Teacher Talking To Students In College Class

Implementing Systematic SEL Practices (CASEL’s Cross District Initiative)

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By Karen Niemi, President and CEO, CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning

As we have all experienced, the “how-to” of implementation is in high demand.  One of our efforts to respond to this demand, is the sharing of the experience and knowledge gained from districts in the Cross District Initiative (CDI) to bring SEL to many more students.

CASEL just launched a social and emotional learning (SEL) District Resource Center, a vast set of online guidance and practical tools to help districts and schools systemically implement practices that promote SEL. The District Resource Center’s collection of district curated resources may be extremely helpful for any educator, community leader, or policymaker interested in implementing SEL systemically in their schools.

The District Resource Center allows you to:

  1. Take the Priority Setting Questionnaire to help determine areas of focus for systemic SEL implementation.
  2. Explore the District Framework for the 10 essential areas for systemically implementing SEL throughout a district.
  3. Browse the Resource Library for 500+ tools and resources on a variety of implementation topics.


Click Here for a copy of the CDI Insights Report from CASEL.

Karen Niemi is President and CEO of CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.  She may be reached at


6 Soft Skills You Need to Thrive At Work Right Now – And How To Build Them

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By Sara Potler LaHayne

For a long time we’ve bucketed the coping mechanisms that get us through life as “soft skills,” “non-cognitive skills,” or “non-IQ competencies.” They’re the skills that we cultivate or prioritize last, after Excel, PowerPoint, or project management systems. But despite crushing it at “hard skills” like writing, math or coding, it’s our ability to ride the waves of disappointment and rejection, pump others up, and stay constantly attuned to feedback in real, meaningful ways that help us rise above. We see it from colleagues who are so stressed and overwhelmed that they can’t compartmentalize projects or move them forward. We see it from friends who are going through a rough time and can’t find it in them to feel happiness for others’ successes. And we see it in ourselves, when we’re tired,losing perspective, and running on creative fumes. Research links the effects of stress on our performance and the value these traditionally classified “soft skills” hold in making or breaking our success. According to the Stress Response Curve, “when stress is perceived as uncontrollable or unmanageable, the person begins to experience a gradual to drastic decrease in performance levels, causing a decline in productivity and enthusiasm to respond to the stress.” Not to mention that without “soft skills” like communication and conflict transformation, teamwork can suffer from poor collaboration and a lack of critical thinking.

We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but studies show you actually can. Here’s how:

1. Active listening.

In order to respond to others and give them what they need to be empowered to succeed, they must feel heard and validated. We all are guilty of listening to a colleague ramble while drifting off to our pending to-do list. Active listening enables you to perceive both the words in an exchange and the feelings behind them, allowing for much greater understanding and empathy. We need to lean in with our ears and our bodies to show others we are truly present to what they are saying. Not only will the conversation be more productive, but our relationships will be built on respect. One way you can do this is by having each person on your team share their name and how they are feeling in that moment, along with a movement. Then have everyone repeat that back.This practice takes active listening to a new level, using imitation and synchronous movement to develop awareness and understanding through our bodies. By associating a thought or emotion with a movement, you are fostering kinesthetic empathy, or the idea that bodily experiences provide a type of knowledge that cannot be conveyed through words alone, allowing others to better connect with you and how you are feeling in that moment.

2. Self awareness.

In order to excel, we must be aware of what we need, and either give ourselves that, or seek it out. We have to be honest with where we’re falling short. We can’t listen to ourselves if we don’t give ourselves the space and time to go inward, to sit in silence, and reflect. Before we can express our emotions, we first need to name them. Studies show that a healthy sense of self awareness fosters improved communication skills, reduced stress and anxiety, increased empathy and resilience along with the ability to positively diffuse conflict. One tool you can use to cultivate mindfulness is to pay attention to your breath, noticing where you’re carrying weight or tension in your body and allowing yourself a few seconds at the beginning and end of every meeting to collect yourself.

3. Expressing emotions.

Once we’ve named and been able to identify how we’re feeling, we can move on to expressing those feelings in a healthy way. Research shows that suppressing or avoiding your emotions can make them stronger, causing them to bubble up and explode in an unproductive way. At the beginning or end of a meeting, try allowing each person to practice a healthy expression of emotions by sharing how they’re currently feeling in that moment and how they want to feel by the end of the day.

4. But then managing those emotions.

Now that we can identify and express our emotions, we have to manage them so that they don’t rule our lives. Managing stress and emotions allows us to watch those emotions come and go and not feel overpowered by them. Research shows that when left unregulated, chronic stress can result in physical health issues such as: stroke, asthma, stomach ulcers and heart disease. To practice managing your emotions, and supporting your colleagues to do the same, try naming one challenge you’re currently facing on a scale of 1-5 and one thing you need help with in working through that challenge. By containing this expression to a structured time in a meeting or workday, we’re holding one another accountable to working through and managing those stressors.

5. Discovering differences.

When we acknowledge diverse perspectives and backgrounds, we create an environment for healthy self expression and creativity. We understand that one person’s struggle is another person’s strength, and that our differences make us stronger. Cultivating resilience gives us the confidence to take big risks and support one another toward a common goal. Resilient individuals are proven to be more engaged, have improved communication, and are better team players.To create the space for this discovery, build in a few minutes at the beginning of a meeting for each team member to share what they’re most proud of that day, or one offering they would like to contribute to the group. The structured space for this sharing may illuminate gifts you did not know existed among your team.

6. Empathetic leadership.

Strengthening our soft skills and doing the self work is a lifelong journey that we will never complete, and if we don’t commit to the work ourselves, we can never expect our colleagues to do the same. We must continue to evolve and grow in how we make meaningful, authentic connections with ourselves and others. We must prioritize it and champion it, throughout the day and for all levels of our organization, because we know that soft skills are the coping mechanisms that allow us to navigate what work and life throw our way, and ideally thrive while doing it.

Want to learn more about cultivating “soft skills” and other ways to crush it at your 9-5? Subscribe to the Move This World blog today for weekly tips & stories.

Sara Potler LaHayne,, Founder & CEO of Move This World at


Pickeral Graphic

Creating the Conditions in Support of Collective Wisdom

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by Terry Pickeral

My colleague, Dr. Maurice Elias authored a recent blog titled The Power of Collective Wisdom (link: He discusses successful strategies to effectively implement education programs in high-risk environments.

According to Elias, “We increase our chances of success by tapping collective wisdom. That refers to the wisdom of our own school community, of other implementers of the same program, and of the wider implementation world.”

“Collective wisdom—referred to by such names as professional learning communities (PLCs), communities of practice, and networked improvement communities—allows each of us to benefit from the experience of many of us. Success is in the ongoing process, in being able to adjust to the inevitable and numerous deviations from the plan that will befall any school-based intervention attempt, even with the best evidence-based program,” continues Elias.

I believe that engaging others in our implementation strategies is a critical element to deepen and broaden an education program and corresponding practices.  However from my experiences there are inherent challenges to creating and sustaining effective collective wisdom communities in schools.

First, schools are not consistently organized to support school wide collaboration often structured on grade level and/or academic subject partnerships.

Second, teachers, staff and administrators are not always aware of the range of attributes of their colleagues and thus less able to maximize their contributions to collaborative strategies.

Third, schools may not create and sustain a safe environment for teachers, staff and administrators to share their experiences, ideas, strategies and resources.

Fourth, as we focus on the wisdom of our school community we do not always consider students, parents and community partners as potential members of our communities of practice.

Overcoming these challenges is not impossible as evidenced by the increasing number of schools committed to and trained for sustaining professional learning communities.  I believe schools can make creating and sustaining collective wisdom networks a priority if they:

  1. Focus on all school constituents;
  2. Ensure each is supported to contribute to the network;
  3. Understand the many attributes of colleagues and constituents and maximize their diverse knowledge, skills and dispositions;
  4. Measure and improve the school’s climate (quality and character) to provide a safe, equitable and engaging environment for each member of the network to effectively contribute; and
  5. Frequently monitor the progress and success of the network to continuously improve each participant’s attributes and the positive impact on students.

Maximizing the collective wisdom in schools can and should become a normal part of engagement, implementation and sustainability strategies ensuring each member of the school community contributes and benefits from these formal networks.


Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.

Link to Terry Pickeral’s Blog…



Social-Emotional Learning as a Pathway to Student Well-being, Confidence, and Success

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By Connie Sanchez, Executive Director, Unity Charter School, Morristown, NJ

Building a positive climate to reinforce a student’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has been part of Unity Charter School’s culture and climate since its inception in 1998. Unity Charter School is located in Morristown, New Jersey and is a K-8 school. As a Positive Discipline school, we strive to ensure all of our students thrive academically, while developing the social-emotional skill set to be successful well beyond their Unity years.

At Unity Charter School, we understand the importance of social and emotional learning for the student’s wellbeing and as an important factor in contributing to a student’s confidence and success as a learner and as an active member of the school community. We strive to create relationships that allow our students to form positive attachments with each other and with adults, and to thrive. In addition, we are equally committed to maintaining a positive climate in which all stakeholders are supported. Teachers are supported with Positive Discipline professional development throughout the year and regularly scheduled sessions in which teachers help teachers to resolve problems with individual students in the classroom, self reflect, and expand their own skills. Parents are offered free workshops and ongoing opportunities to bring SEL concepts into the home environment.

We teach self-awareness, self-regulation, conflict resolution and reflective decision making skills throughout the school day by taking the time with students to model behaviors, use self and other affirming language, and make positive choices. Experiential integration is an important factor in supporting internalization of what we teach and practice during more structured class time, and during whole school meetings. We value our students’ competencies as learners and provide instructional opportunities that reinforce self-efficacy through collaboration, exploratory learning, questioning, and discovery. This instructional approach invites teachers to facilitate the learning process while students are trusted to construct meaning independently or collectively.

Unity Charter School does have more formal, structured times for students to learn, explore and practice social-emotional skills through daily 30 minute class meetings and whole school meetings.   Younger students in the lower school begin each day with a community meeting. During this time students compliment and acknowledge each other. They are introduced to visitors in the school, and celebrate special occasions in each other’s lives (e.g., birthdays, a sports victory, or a community service project). Class meetings provide daily opportunities for students and teachers to form relationships, to be seen as individuals, to understand cultural differences and to learn and practice new social skills in a supportive environment.

At Unity, we provide students many opportunities to develop their voices and to be heard. Students participate in Democratic Governance, make suggestions for improving campus life, and have their own Climate and Culture team. The administration and faculty has an open door policy where students are ecouraged to present ideas, voice concerns, or talk about challenges they face at home or at school.

We are aware that students come through our doors with histories and life challenges that may impede their abilities to learn these skills and we have developed a system of supports to help build trust and feelings of safety. One prevalent reason children struggle seems to be exposure to childhood trauma. Trauma -related experiences (particularly in childhood), undermine attachments, thereby creating a cycle of further trauma, intra psychic distress and alienation from sources of support.

To address this, we adopted a no suspension policy. Students who are struggling with secure attachment in school don’t benefit from being home suspended. Research indicates the contrary. At Unity students receive an alternative learning space assignment. They may spend the day with the Dean of Students, the Director of Curriculum or the Executive Director. This depends on who has an established relationship with the child. The day is spent doing classwork. This prevents a child from getting further behind and provides an opportunity to have heartfelt conversations with an adult they trust in school and to reflect on what has happened. The reflection continues that evening at home with the parent. In more extreme situations, Unity Charter School has established relationships with community resources. Support outside of school is coordinated with our Dean of Students, a member of our Special Education department and our School Counselor, whose primary job is counseling students.

Mutual respect, self-advocacy, and a sense of trust in the adults that surround them instills a willingness in our students to dare to be themselves in an atmosphere of acceptance while developing empathy and awareness for others. This frees them to delve into their passions and set a course for the future that reflects who they are as individuals who also have the ability to work collaboratively with others towards a common goal.

Connie Sanchez, Executive Director



Presentation of idea

How to Lead a School Toward SECD

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Joan Duffell is the Executive Director of the Committee for Children

The process principals use to lead SECD across the school community matters a lot. The community of people who will be doing the work each day (teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals) need to OWN the work. No matter how invested a district (or even a principal) is, when the classroom door shuts, the teachers will do what they believe is best for themselves and their students. Teachers and classified staff need to believe in this work if they are going to sustain it.

The steps below are consistently critical steps in the process from our experience at Committee for Children, working with thousands of schools. These steps are considered through an elementary school perspective. High school will be a completely different scenario and should be thought about very differently.

Step 1

Ask faculty’s opinion about bringing on an SECD program (the principal’s job is to get them to say YES—there are many ways to do this)—or if the district has already determined SECD needs to be happening, go straight to #2. If the principal goes straight to #2, they will share good reasons why SECD is needed in the district. This is a great time to ask if teachers in the school have implemented SECD programs before, and if so have them share their experience.

Step 2

Invite school staff to participate in a decision-making process in order to:

– Set up a site-based support team for SEL/SECD.

– Select a program(s) –from a list of evidence-based programs (or, if a program was already selected by the district, appoint a team to dive into the program and make a report back to their peers at a subsequent faculty meeting. Program providers should also be helpful in this process). Consider local/cultural needs of students, faculty, parents in the selection.

– Pilot selected program to get feedback from end users (teachers, counselor) –determine time frame for selecting a school-wide program (or, if district has already chosen, ask the district to share what they learned when they presumably piloted—important to share this so that people know that there has been some locally/culturally-based validation for the program).

– Select a program for school-wide implementation; establish the training, implementation, and assessment schedule for the whole school.Establish a framework describing how the SECD program integrates with and mutually supports other school-wide initiatives such as Restorative Practices, PBIS (some providers have these resources available).  Discuss ways to build in and integrate culturally-based content.

– Establish roles for SEL implementation: 

Principal: Visible, daily SECD leadership across the school:  Integrating SECD into school assemblies, morning announcements, faculty meetings, parent meetings, discipline referral practices (for students whose behavior lands them in the principal or asst. principal’s office). Principal and SECD coordinator should have training focused on SECD leadership and support.

SECD coordinator: Oversee, champion, coach, and support the work school-wide (riding shotgun with the principal, pardoning the term!)—this is not a new staff member (most schools cannot afford to hire someone additional) but someone the principal appoints from among the faculty—often the counselor or someone keen on SECD who also has the leadership skills to build momentum across the school community.

SECD measurement coordinator: Might be the SECD coordinator, might be the counselor—but someone should be focused on working with teachers to measure student SECD competencies.

Classroom teachers: Attend training, teach lessons with fidelity to program design or in the case of a program like Ripple Effects, be the wise guide on the side J; model SECD competencies in teaching practice (this will require some training too); integrate SECD into academic areas, PBIS, Restorative Practices, etc.; cue, coach & reinforce students’ use of skills in real life; communicate with parents.

Certified staff/specialists (music, art, computers, etc., if a school is lucky enough to have these folks): Provide training and ask them to develop ways to integrate SECD into their subject areas (some programs include these subject integration activities/ideas)—and at a minimum, cue and coach students to use SECD skills when issues arise in their classrooms.

Classified staff (lunchroom, playground supervisors, secretaries, bus drivers, etc.): provide training and simple tools that help them cue and coach students to use SECD skills when issues arise in their areas.

District level trainers/coaches: These can be very helpful supports to school-wide SECD, IF the school has put the foregoing into place.  We sometimes see districts with trainers who are good—but the school sites have not done their job of developing a process and structure for quality and sustained implementation so enthusiasm dies off when the trainer leaves (a la Alice’s example).

Program providers, trainers/implementation assistance staff and resources will be involved (often, providers’ implementation support teams work with district trainers and principals/site coordinators).

– Principal and SECD coordinator need to consistently and visibly lead from the SECD perspective. Faculty meetings can include check-ins on how SECD is going in classrooms, on the playground, with parent connections, etc. Principal should be asking teachers about SECD lesson activities in the course of their supervision, checking in with bus drivers and playground supervisors on a regular basis to see how the process is working for them (people rarely ask these folks their opinions—and they are often very keenly aware of what is and is not working)

– Assessment—best case, measures are implemented in the mid-fall, winter (teachers/counselors can use these data formatively), and in the spring (this interval is helpful to see how SECD is having an impact on students across the school from fall to spring).  Assessment can be a terrific motivational tool if used well—when teachers see that they are in fact moving the needle, they tend to be more motivated to keep the work going.  

Joan Duffell is the Executive Director of the Committee for Children. She can be reached at

Dark brick wall - LGBT rights

Montville Township (NJ) High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance

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By Catherine Lomauro, Student Assistance Counselor, Montville Township (NJ) High School

Montville Township (New Jersey) High School’s Gay Straight Alliance was the subject of the School Spotlight presentation at the November School Support Network meeting at the College of Saint. Elizabeth ( The Gay-Straight Alliance provides a supportive, inclusive environment for students, and a safe space to ask questions and share experiences. Topics of discussion at Gay-Straight Alliance meetings have included practicing means of self-advocacy at school, at home, and in the world, sharing experiences of encountering bias and lack of understanding, discussing current events relevant to students’ experiences as part of the LGBT+ community, and sponsoring observances (including Ally Week and Day of Silence). Overall, the Gay-Straight Alliance provides students with a sense of belonging and connectedness – both to each other, and to the school community.

LGBT+ youth need support from faculty, staff, students, and administration as a foundational piece of their future success, both academically and personally. Being a part of the Gay-Straight Alliance helps students to combat internalized homophobia and transphobia, helping to create a more positive self-image. The Gay-Straight Alliance contributes to creating positive school climate, showing that schools can be a part of social change by ensuring that LGBT+ students’ feeling safe and protected is a critical priority for all facets of the school community. This is because doing so models for other students that LGBT+ classmates are their peers, worthy of respect and acceptance.

Words from students themselves illustrate the value of their involvement in the GSA . One student shared that, “GSA is important to me because we can learn from each other about what it means to be happy about ourselves.” Another student said that, “GSA means a lot to me because it is important to recognize the anxiety and fear that LGBT kids live with.” Other responses include that time spent with the GSA felt like a “relief” and that it can serve as a means to “bring important issues to light.”

Protecting LGBT+ students is a way to protect all students because it gives us an opportunity to model humanity, empathy, fairness, and tolerance to the community as a whole – a mission that the Gay-Straight Alliance shares and promotes at Montville Township High School. Now, more than ever, schools and communities must reaffirm their commitment to tolerance and inclusion, especially for LGBT+ students.

Catherine Lomauro is Faculty Advisor for the Gay Straight Alliance. For more information about Montville Township High Schools Gay Straight Alliance, please go to the webpage:


School Teacher Teaching Students Learning Concept

SEL Academy Recognized by CASEL as an Exemplary Program!

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CASEL, working with teacher educators at the University of British Columbia, has published a report summarizing findings from their national scan of programs engaged in teacher preparation for SEL.  The Academy for SEL is named as an “exemplary program” in the report!  Exemplary programs are described on pages 58-59 of the report.  You can jump to the appropriate page from the Table of Contents.

Please find the full report at the link below…


The World Has Changed, Why Haven’t Our Schools?

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By Tara Laughlin, Ed.D., Director of Curriculum at Pairin

Academic knowledge is so last century. It is widely recognized that students need more than this to be successful later in life, especially in our diverse, ever-changing global landscape. Many additional skills are necessary to build well-rounded individuals prepared for college and careers. Social and emotional skills make up one category of these essential skills, including attributes such as resiliency, stress management, empathy, social awareness, and self-confidence.

Incorporating social and emotional skills into the classroom is essential for many reasons. First, these skills provide a foundation on which academic success is built. Students trained in social and emotional skills had academic achievement scores which were an average of 11 percentile points higher than those who did not, according to a meta-analysis of 213 studies (Weissberg, et al., 2015). These students also tend to have better attitudes toward school and more positive relationships with peers and adults. In addition, there are numerous personal benefits such as lower instances of depression and stress along with reduced risk-taking and criminal behaviors. This is coupled with increased prosocial behavior as well as increased confidence, persistence, empathy, and more engaged citizenship.

There are also far-reaching implications of social and emotional learning for the changing workforce and the economy of the future. Originally, the U.S. system of education was designed to prepare students for a life of repetitive, industrialized work. Over time, the number of manual and routine jobs has steadily declined within the United States in favor of more complex, non-routine forms of employment, jobs which will require effective social and emotional skills. The following graph illustrates this trend.

Graph 1
(Image source: Pairin, 2015)


So given these massive global shifts and the significant benefits for students, why haven’t schools kept up? According to a recent study by the Education Week Research Center, only 34 percent of teachers are integrating social emotional learning into their classrooms, even minimally, even though 99 percent agree that social emotional learning increases student achievement, improves the school climate, and reduces school discipline problems.


(Image source: Pairin, 2015)


Educators understand that social and emotional skills are important for students. However, some resist making changes because they are worried these skills may not be teachable, measurable or possible to incorporate in a time-efficient manner. In addition, while the large majority of teachers want to integrate social and emotional skills into their curricula, many simply do not have the resources, training, or leeway from their superiors to do so. The fact that 84% of teachers surveyed want training on how to teach these skills indicates that they feel unprepared to make this shift. A systemic change in educational priorities is needed—one which affirms the reality that the world is different; one which grants social and emotional skills equal importance to traditional academic content; in other words, one which gives all students a real shot at success.


Autor, D., & Price, B. (2013). The changing task composition of the US labor market: An update of Autor, Levy, and Murnane (2003). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from

Education Week Research Center. (2015). Social and emotional learning: Perspectives from America’s schools. Retrieved from

Pairin. (2015, November 2). The methodology behind integrating essential college and career skills into everyday curricula. Retrieved from

Weissberg, R., Durlak, J.A., Domitrovich, C.E., & Gullotta, T.P. (2015, February 15). Why social and emotional learning is essential for students [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

World Economic Forum. (2016). New vision for education: Fostering social and emotional learning through technology. Retrieved from


Dr. Tara Laughlin is the Director of Curriculum at Pairin ( and a former teacher of 10 years.  She can be reached at