Opinion
Education Opinion

More Grads, Happier Teachers, Fewer Referrals (Part 1)

By Learning Is Social & Emotional Contributor — September 12, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Damonte Ranch High School (Nev.) was recently featured in a case study from the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development for its approach to improving school climate by integrating social-emotional learning throughout its curriculum and school day. We spoke about the school’s efforts with Darvel Bell, principal; Freeman Holbrook, assistant principal and director of the school’s SEL program; and Sabrina Adkins, English teacher and SEL coordinator. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

This is part 1 of a two-part interview.

In the case study, Caring Communities: Linking School Culture and Student Development, we heard about how Damonte Ranch High School really started concentrating on your kids’ social and emotional skills in an effort to increase graduation rates. How did you decide this was what your students needed?

DB: Several years ago, we saw from our data that our students were struggling to attain credit as freshmen and were rarely on track to graduate. So initially our focus was on developing our freshman seminars to focus on getting them acclimated and better prepared. This quickly evolved into introducing them to our social and emotional learning standards, along with the new School-Connect Curriculum.

We realized this was really effective, beyond what we had even anticipated - why not expand it to more of our students? We were no longer focusing on freshman, but freshmen and sophomores; then freshmen all the way through juniors; and now the focus is on getting 100 percent of our students this social and emotional support throughout their time here.

How did students and teachers first react to the changes you were making in your school?

DB: As a staff, we’ve always used data to drive our decision-making, in particular the data from our school climate survey, which gives us feedback not only from students and teachers but from parents and staff. And as we were beginning this work, we were looking at that survey data and seeing a disconnect between our students’ perception of the climate and culture at Damonte Ranch and what our staff perceived, as well as a disconnect between how engaged students felt in class versus their teachers’ perceptions. When our staff saw those numbers, there was a big jump in buy-in: we need to close that gap.

SA: I came to Damonte Ranch after they began to roll out this program, and the biggest thing that brought me here was the school climate. I remember thinking, “There’s something about this school that is so welcoming. This is the kind of place I want to work at.” This change that they had underway was a major draw for me as an educator.

DB: I will never forget a moment at an early all-staff meeting where the theme was building school community. We were talking about how to build community in our classrooms and other programs with our students when a veteran teacher stood up and said “It’s great that we’re figuring out how to build community for our students. But what are we doing with our own staff? I look across this room and I don’t know half the people in here.” That resonated with me and I’ll never forget it. I thought if we’re going to do this for kids, we have to do this with our teachers. So we began building community among our staff, and we now model SEL practices regularly during monthly staff professional development.

And how did you communicate these efforts to families and connect them with the work of your community partners?

DB: Honestly, our parent group has been the most receptive. We’ve helped them realize that there’s still a strong focus on academics while making sure they understand that without the social-emotional skills, the academics don’t come.

SA: As a teacher, the only pushback I experienced was really just questions - just like any other curriculum change, parents have questions about anything new. But what helped was that I was armed with that information and could answer just about any question.

FH: One thing that was important was to practice what we preach. One example is a program we called Drop Everything And Call. Each week we asked teachers to make a positive phone call home about an SEL topic. Those are the kinds of small touches that get parents and teachers both invested.

Photo: Students look for their name on the wall welcoming them back to school. (Courtesy of Damonte Ranch HS)

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Learning Is Social & Emotional are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP