Archive for the ‘Social Emotional Learning’ Category

A Big Step Forward for the Rodel Teacher Council

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It was a banner year for the Rodel Teacher Council (RTC). In previous years, we conducted some pretty serious research on personalized learning, and then took our knowledge and turned it into informative briefs, reports, and even workshops for our fellow teachers.

This year was different. We wanted to turn our expertise into action; good ideas and best practices into concrete policy. And that’s just what we did. We started by asking some critical questions: How should I respond to a student demonstrating effects of trauma? Where can I access professional development that’s more engaging and relevant to my classroom needs? Will our school’s internet crash during our state testing tomorrow? Then we went about tackling concrete answers.

Read on below for recaps of the four RTC working groups. We did our best to summarize the teachers’ incredible work, but we still didn’t fully capture all the time, energy, and focus our colleagues  poured into every meeting, every strategy session, every important decision. In short, the RTC changed the game this year. Teachers impacted policy decisions in a more direct way than we ever imagined. Our teachers exemplified the belief that collective voices can lead to meaningful action and significant results.

Broadband Connectivity
Social and Emotional Learning
Personalized Professional Development
Competency-Based Learning

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Delaware Teachers Lead the Way on SEL: A Q&A with CASEL’s Linda Dusenbury

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As a teacher, social and emotional learning is part of my daily life. Inside my classroom, we focus on developing students’ academic skills alongside holistic approaches to SEL.


This year, I was a member of the Rodel Teacher Council’s advocacy group that focused on social and emotional learning. Our goal: To kickstart a process for Delaware to develop SEL competencies—a common language for what students should know and be able to do when it comes to their social and emotional development.


Through our research (which we turned into Creating A Common Language for Social and Emotional Learning in Delaware) we connected with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). In April, the RTC and Capital School District hosted Linda Dusenbury, the consulting senior scientist and director of the Collaborating States Initiative at CASEL, to visit Delaware. She shared with interested districts, charters, and other partners about the free technical assistance that CASEL offers to other states that are a part of the Collaborating States Initiative (CSI).


As the RTC moves forward with its Delaware partners in collaborating together to formally join CASEL’s CSI and develop a common language for SEL in Delaware, I spoke with Linda to get her take on how Delaware is doing.



What is your role at CASEL? Why are you passionate about this work?


In 2016, Roger Weissberg and I worked together to launch the CASEL Collaborative States Initiative to work with states and school districts to help ensure that, from preschool to high school, students are fully prepared—academically, socially, and emotionally—to succeed in school, at work, and in life. The purpose of the CSI is to help states that want to develop policies or guidelines to support implementation of high-quality, systemic, evidence-based social and emotional learning. Our recent report captures our initial insights from the CSI, which has grown dramatically in the past years. In February 2018, teams from 25 separate states attended the national CSI meeting.

My background is as a psychologist and a research scientist. We know from research that there are intentional strategies that parents and educators can use to help equip kids for success in school and in their lives in the future. When we as educators and parents are intentional and conscious about what we do to create optimal environments for growth and development, it is possible to optimize child development—to have students be better equipped as students today and in the future as adults in the workforce and society.


What did you learn about Delaware when you were here?


So many good things! I already knew that you were being very thoughtful about SEL. It’s clear the Rodel Teacher Council members are already super informed about SEL from listening to educators across the state, and you also have amazing groundwork with the Rodel Foundation’s new SEL landscape analysis (A Broader Vision of Student Success: Insights and Opportunities for Social and Emotional Learning in Delaware). That’s a tremendous and very important step forward—a real strength from my perspective.


You’ve also got a real emphasis that I saw—including from your Secretary of Education—on the importance of districts and charters being engaged and even leading this process. It’s so important to ground this work around local community priorities and perspectives on SEL.


CASEL is interested in supporting collaboration between districts, charters, and their state leaders. The local leaders, with support of the state,  are the ones who will leading the way, and becoming an example for other districts who may want to get into the work.


We’re already learning tremendously from Delaware. The state education agency clearly has enormous respect for the districts and charters, and wants to support local leadership and goals. If Delaware becomes part of the CSI, I’m sure we will be pointing to your example a lot.



Speaking of educators, what should their role be in developing SEL competencies?


It’s critical that educators be involved with articulating what students should know and be able to do with regard to SEL.


SEL isn’t a new concept. It’s something that’s always happening in human development, across the lifespan. We are social and emotional creatures. Whether we’re thinking about it or not, kids are developing socially and emotionally throughout their lives, every waking moment. We all are.


What SEL as an approach is trying to do in partnership with educators, is to become intentional and strategic in creating optimal conditions for social and emotional development.


Depending on the circumstances in their school environment, kids can feel safe and encouraged to take risks in their classroom environment, or they may feel anxious—and may withdraw or act out. SEL works to answer the questions:  What are the components of an optimal classroom experience, and how can we promote those systemically so that all students feel safe and engaged, and have an opportunity to learn collaboration skills with other students, so that students engage in positive ways with each other and their teacher? SEL helps develop a climate that is safe and encouraging, where learning can be optimized.


Do you have any feedback on our next steps as we work with an emerging Delaware SEL collaborative (comprised of K-12—including leading districts and charters—government, higher education, and community groups) to formally join CASEL’s CSI?


In every case we encourage a working group like the one that’s emerging in Delaware to agree on a common vision—which, in a way, you all have—around SEL. But then, what would your goals be for advancing that vision?


Our process is to ask a state team to tell us their goals for advancing SEL over the next year and a half, based on the unique context of each state. Some states decide to articulate SEL competencies.Some focus on how to support professional development. Some develop different types of guidance around implementation or assessment, or linking SEL to equity. Some do a combination of these things.


We see you as the experts in Delaware. We’re happy to support you in your work so that what you develop is fully supported by evidence-based practice in SEL. As you develop policy, we can work with you to identify and develop resources. We also offer to review and comment on the guidance you may develop. But we see you as the team that will best decide your priorities and goals. We are committed to supporting you (by sharing examples that may be helpful from other states, and by sharing information about evidence-based practices, for example) in achieving your goals for SEL.


Is there anything else we haven’t covered that you want to say about Delaware, the teacher council, and our SEL work?


Just to reinforce that I am so impressed with the thoughtful approach you’ve taken, and with the multiple constituents that have come together around this work. The partnership that the Rodel Teacher Council and Rodel Foundation have are a tremendous strength. The number of organizations that are represented are also a tremendous strength.


You see yourself at the beginning. I see you as so far ahead in terms of all of the resources and thinking that you’ve already done–including the thoughtful framing you’ve done and the resources you’ve created. I see you as ready for this work and we at CASEL are really excited to see the plan that you develop.


Lindsay Hudson-Hubbs is a REACH (Restoring Educational Achievement through Collaborative Health Services) classroom teacher in Woodbridge School District, and a member of the Rodel Teacher Council.

Digging Deeper: Options Slim for Student Mental Health Supports

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As young people in Delaware report more and more signs of mental health issues, their options for dedicated help and support remain slim.


Rodel and a team of researchers just conducted a statewide landscape analysis of social and emotional learning (SEL) in Delaware. The report highlights promising practices and areas for potential growth as state leaders and educators look to serve all Delaware students in a more holistic way, with greater emphasis on their mental and emotional wellbeing to ensure they grow into  healthy, productive, citizens.


One area that emerged as an area for continued development was around collaboration between education and other sectors that serve students and families. The report states, “Students are typically in school for six to eight hours a day and spend the remainder of their time at home or in their communities. Schools operate within a broad system of supports that are part of students’ lives, and connecting those supports can magnify their collective impact. Delaware educators crave opportunities to collaborate with their peers, district and school leaders, and SEL partners.”


A clear area for improvement: supporting students’ mental health needs.


The need is particularly acute for students with severe mental health needs, who often require specialized care. Delaware has only one mental health facility statewide—MeadowWood—that admits adolescents for residential treatment. And whenever the facility is at capacity, new patients need to find another provider for their treatment, meaning families occasionally must make the difficult choice to send their child out-of-state for treatment.


This type of decision makes a stressful situation even more challenging for families, students, and educators. If a family chooses to keep their student at home rather than send him or her out-of-state, local schools may not be prepared to provide the specialized care that the student needs and deserves. As one Delaware district leader told researchers, “The concern is what happens to the students who exceed the parameters of what our programs can provide to them. We’ve lost out by not having day treatment centers. It’s analogous to a serious physical issue.”


Students who don’t feel safe at school often experience challenges with attendance, academics and mental health. Safe, supportive school environments, where students have positive relationships with peers and adults and feel a true sense of belonging, strengthen student engagement.


In Delaware around 85 percent of elementary school students report feeling happy at school, while only 61 percent of high schoolers did, according to the Delaware School Climate Survey. Meanwhile, 23 percent of Delaware children have experienced two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs) that include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect, substance misuse or violence in the household, parental divorce, among others.

But these statistics are counterbalanced by promising emerging evidence that indicates students with stronger SEL skills are more likely to have positive long-term life outcomes, including staying out of jail, avoiding substance abuse, and having stronger mental health.


So, how can Delaware ensure that all our kids have access to the supports they need to develop their SEL skills? There are many partners in Delaware already working to support this work, but one finding of our research study found that addressing these issues will require deeper collaboration between schools and other community partners. Thankfully, there are some strong examples of school and community partnership underway in Delaware.


Some social service and healthcare partnerships provide services to students school campuses. The Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children (deaeyc) is currently implementing a grant from the Kellogg Foundation to place Family Service Advocates in early learning centers to connect families to social services and other community assets. The Compassionate Schools Learning Collaborative has trained over 2,000 Delaware educators on SEL and trauma-informed care. Children and Families First of Delaware partners with social services and healthcare to address student needs on school campuses. Freire Charter School and Christiana Care have partnered to provide family therapy services to students and families as needed, at no cost to families. There also are several initiatives underway in cities and states nationwide where rich, strategic partnerships between schools and community organizations support students and families with necessary social service and healthcare, which could point to possible next steps for Delaware. For example:


  • The Partnership for Resilience, a collaborative of education and healthcare partners in Illinois, aims to integrate health, education, and community partners to support the whole child. They build sustainable community partnerships; create resources, trainings, and education programs; and advocate for research-based policies that further their mission.
  • Every student in kindergarten through eighth grade in Salem, Massachusetts has an individual success plan, which weaves in-school and out-of-school strategies to support the needs and goals of each student.
  • A partnership between DC Prep and Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. has set up a mental health center directly within two schools, bringing a multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals to provide a wide range of services.


These examples and promising practices from across Delaware and the country offer insights into how to best serve students and families and how our community partners and schools can continue to work together.

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