For those of you familiar with our work, you may know that TransformEd serves as the lead strategic advisor on social-emotional learning (SEL) to the CORE Districts in California. The CORE districts have committed to measuring students’ social-emotional skills alongside academic achievement and school culture and climate in their shared continuous improvement system. In addition, TransformEd facilitates the Boston Charter Research Collaborative, a researcher-practitioner partnership focused on rapid-cycle research projects that support student growth in both the cognitive and social-emotional skills that contribute to academic and life success. However, these aren’t the only schools focused on measuring students’ social-emotional skills and using data to inform instruction. Our colleagues at CASEL work closely with eight districts to implement SEL district-wide, and here’s a look at five other districts around the country that are independently designing systems to assess students’ social-emotional skills in innovative ways.
Sanborn Regional School District (SRSD) is a suburban school district that serves just under 2,000 students. SRSD is a part of the newly formed Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) Pilot initiative, a group of four New Hampshire school districts. Under the New Hampshire Department of Education, PACE districts have received a federal NCLB waiver to implement locally-designed, competency-based assessments rather than traditional state assessments. SRSD not only measures academic competencies but also social-emotional competencies. These competencies are being built into locally-designed performance assessments that use complex tasks to measure students’ “skills and dispositions,” including self-management and perseverance.
The elementary schools in SRSD use the CARES model, which measures “cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-regulation/control.” The middle school measures General Learning Outcomes (GLOs), or a student’s ability to be a “self-directed learner, community contributor, complex thinker, quality producer, effective communicator, and effective and ethical user of technology.” These skills are reported by the teachers on students’ progress reports throughout the year.
2 Lawrence Public Schools, MA
The Lawrence Public Schools serve 13,900 students. As a Gateway City, Lawrence is striving to improve student access to engaging academics and extracurricular activities as well as social-emotional and critical thinking skills from a very young age. The district is also part of the Massachusetts Kindergarten Early Assessment system and uses the Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment, through which teachers observe and track kindergarteners’ social, emotional, academic, and cognitive development over the course of the year.
In the social-emotional arena, teachers assess kindergarteners’ self-regulation and interpersonal skills. Lawrence was part of the first cohort of schools to implement the Massachusetts Kindergarten Early Assessment system and measure these skills in 2012-2013.
Serving over 3,000 students, District 44 is comprised of six elementary schools and a single middle school. Their mission? To “educate the whole child.” Using the Illinois Learning Standards for Social-Emotional Learning, District 44 aims to close the achievement gap and improve students’ social-emotional skills.
So how does District 44 ensure that it is meeting those standards and goals? It uses the DESSA and DECA, tests developed by the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, to measure specific competencies including self-management, relationship skills, and decision-making skills for students in pre-K through grade 8. District 44 is hoping to have 90% of its students scoring in the two highest ranges of the assessments by the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
Katy Independent School District (KISD) serves over 67,000 students living in the Houston area. The district strives to promote student growth and success using their Instructional Cornerstone Skills, which include “collaboration, communication, creative thinking, critical thinking, information literacy, problem solving, and social contribution.” To that end, Katy created an initiative, BEAM (Because Everyone’s Attitude Matters) Initiative to cultivate a positive school culture and climate among students, teachers, and staff. The district also participates in the Core Essentials program, which provides opportunities for students to learn about a different social-emotional skill each month.
To measure students’ social-emotional skills, the district administered the Gallup Student Poll to students in grades 5-12 during the fall of 2014. The poll measures students’ “hope, engagement, and well-being” using 20 different questions. The data were returned to the schools and principals earlier this year and are being analyzed to determine next steps.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is the largest school district in Maryland, serving more than 150,000 students. In 2012-2013, MCPS implemented Curriculum 2.0 for kindergarten through grade 5, which aims to prepare students for the Common Core State Standards by building students’ academic success, critical thinking, and creative thinking. MCPS also incorporated social-emotional learning as one of the areas for development in its strategic plan, crafting goals that include developing and teaching responsibility, growth mindset, persistence, and interpersonal skills.
The development of these skills is being measured through both the Gallup Student Poll and student report cards. MCPS set a goal to have students leave grades 5, 8, and 12 with high levels of hope, engagement, and well-being, as measured by the Gallup survey. New standards-based report cards assess specific skills in academic subjects (rather than students receiving a singular grade for the class), in addition to work habits and social-emotional skills such as persistence and collaboration.
While the measurement approaches featured here vary from teachers’ ratings on student report cards to competency-based assessments and district-wide student surveys, the message is clear: school districts across the country, of varying types and sizes, recognize that measuring students’ social-emotional skills is a critical step towards building students’ competencies. Having consistent and uniform measures across a district enables schools to determine which instructional strategies are most effective in helping students build social-emotional skills.
-  http://education.nh.gov/accountability-system/documents/concept-paper.pdf
-  http://web.sau17.org/images/stories/Administration/curriculum/HHPDFs/cares.pdf
-  http://web.sau17.org/images/stories/Administration/curriculum/HHPDFs/glos%20.pdf
-  http://www.katyisd.org/Pages/About-KatyISD.aspx