New Social Emotional Learning Standards

New Standards Strengthen Lakota’s Commitment to Social Emotional Learning
Posted on 08/26/2019
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Student holding a "Make a Difference" stickerOhio schools are working from a new set of social and emotional learning standards - and three Lakota educators actually helped write them. 

Lakota behavior specialist Tina Pratt, personal health teacher Lori Jones and special education teacher Po Reffitt applied for the voluntary task. Each was ultimately selected to represent a different grade band level, which for Pratt equated to eight in-person meetings in Columbus and countless other exchanges with the rest of her committee over the last year.

The final product of their labors - about 60 standards per grade band level - made it all worthwhile.

"It really reinforces that we as a state are focused on the whole child," said Jones, noting that there weren't a lot of other such standards to model Ohio's after.

“Any teacher will tell you the huge needs they see for social and emotional learning,” said Pratt, who has noticed a stark difference in students’ abilities to cope, problem-solve and reason over her 14 years in education. “So much research proves that your EQ (Emotional Quotient) is a bigger indicator for job success than your IQ. Knowing that, teachers have to focus on their students’ social and emotional well-being before they can tackle the academic piece.” 

The new standards provide a continuum of development in five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. Each standard indicates an expectation for mastery by the end of each grade band level (K-3, 3-5, middle grades and high school). 

For example, while a second-grader is expected to “identify personal behaviors or reactions when experiencing basic emotions,” the same standard for a high-schooler reads, “Utilize self-management strategies to regulate thoughts, emotions and behaviors within the context of the situation."

Lakota’s director of student services, Lori Brown, emphasizes that the new standards will only enhance Lakota’s approach to social and emotional learning and help educators be more intentional about it. Current models like Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) and E+R=O, for example, will continue to guide Lakota educators. They do, however, give teachers a framework for how to embed such skills in their curricular learning standards. 

“Mental health can be so nebulous to teachers. It’s not always clear how they can affect it or change it,” Brown said. “Any teacher can look at the new standards and incorporate into their lesson an element to support it.” 

Pratt offers up this example: In a language arts class, rather than just talking about what a character did, a teacher might dig deeper and challenge her students to talk about how the character felt or what they could have done differently to problem-solve. Jones points out that group projects, in any classroom, have the potential to reinforce social skills like appreciating different opinions and managing conflict. 

Lakota’s District Culture Team is taking the lead on sharing and promoting the standards among all staff. Further demonstration of Lakota’s commitment to district-wide adoption is a new trauma training that will be rolled out to all teachers this year, equipping them with the skills to build resiliency among students facing difficult situations. 

Student paper displays "To Build Friendship" as the title with a person saying "Do you want to play?" “To be effective, social and emotional learning cannot be isolated to just our counselors or MindPeace partners,” Brown said. “It has to be embedded in the daily work of anyone who works with a Lakota student, regardless of their subject area.” 

“It’s also important to remember that social and emotional learning is a home, community and school responsibility,” Pratt adds. “These types of skills have to start at home and our schools build upon that foundation.” 

Top Photo: The new social emotional and learning standards are put into action through Positive Behavior Intervention Supports such as this one at Freedom Elementary, which recognized a sixth-grader for "Making a Difference" and helping a new student feel welcome. A new student last year, he demonstrated mastery of one of the standards when he said, "I know how he feels. I've been there myself." 

Bottom Photo: A creative exercise in Ellen Miller's second grade class at Hopewell ECS demonstrates how the new social emotional learning standards can be embedded into other standards-based lessons.