In 2019-2020, the Essex Westford School District (EWSD) began to emphasize the ‘growing hearts’ piece of our mission with a strong commitment to social and emotional learning (SEL). We understand that schools play an important role in teaching the skills that individuals need to be successful in all facets of life, and we perceive SEL as inextricably linked to our work around equity.
By fostering the development of SEL skills, we are ensuring that all students have the foundation required to learn and grow. SEL improves our students’ attitudes about their learning and their personal power. We know that by supporting social and emotional learning, we have the ability to improve behavioral, academic, and long-term outcomes for students.
In fact, a significant amount of research has demonstrated that when schools partner with homes and communities to support the social and emotional learning of students, the benefits can include:
• Improved student attitudes about self, school, and others
• Improved social-emotional skills
• Improved academic performance
• Increase in positive classroom behaviors
• Reduction in conduct problems
• Reduction in student feelings of distress
• Reduction in substance use
• Improved graduation rates and vocational success
• Improved school climate and staff retention
• Equitable and inclusive support that ensures all students have what they need to succeed
To help further our efforts within the EWSD, we have hired five social and emotional learning coaches for our schools. We have also focused the work of behavioral interventionists to support students and staff on an individual basis. Our goal is to strengthen our approaches to teach and support all students with such skills as self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
Within a short period of time, we have already begun to see improvements in regards to student behavior and school climate in several of our schools. We are energized and committed to continue this work.
For more information regarding our work, including “tips and resources” in promoting SEL in youth, we invite you to review the information we have on our web page at: www.ewsd.org/SEL