Plano ISD staff revealed on Dec. 11 new plans to expand its existing social and emotional learning program districtwide over a three-year span.
The district first began researching social and emotional learning in April 2016, said Sharon Bradley, the PISD director of family and social services.
“Social emotional learning is an educational process through which skill for life effectiveness are intentionally taught and modeled in a safe, supportive, and culturally responsive environment,” Bradley said.
PISD Superintendent Sara Bonser named the expansion of the district’s social emotional services as one of her top priorities shortly after she assumed her role in March.
The district began working in June to add a social and emotional learning facilitator at all of the campuses in grades 6-12, Bradley said. Those facilitators work with the principals of their respective campuses to lead ongoing training efforts throughout the district, and part of the expansion of social and emotional services includes training more staff members.
“This upcoming end of January, not only are we trying to build capacity and the support of our teachers, but also our para-professionals, our teaching assistants, our bus drivers … finance department, our librarians,” Bradley said. “We are trying to make sure that we have a professional development plan for all staff members who work directly with the students.”
Mark Allen, the PISD executive director for student and family services, pointed to an analysis of a 2011 study from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as the primary metric used for measuring the impact of providing social emotional learning programs to students.
“According to a 2011 meta-analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students, those who participated in evidence-based SEL programs showed an 11 percentile-point gain in academic achievement compared to students who did not participate in SEL programs,” the CASEL analysis said.
Referring to a 2015 study published by the American Journal of Public Health, CASEL also found “statistically significant associations between SEL skills in kindergarten and key outcomes for young adults years later in education, employment, criminal activity, substance use and mental health.”
Anticipating future funding needs, trustee Tammy Richards said the district must remain willing to address all identified needs students may have.
“As we put together budgets, we have to make sure that it is given the priority that it needs,” Richards said. “So now as we look at doing wraparound services, we identify needs that our children have, we just can’t kind of pat them on the head and send them back to class.”