School & District Management

Why One Chicago School Won’t Close: Social-Emotional Learning

By Nirvi Shah — May 23, 2013 1 min read
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One of the four schools Chicago that won’t be closing—the district said Wednesday it will shutter a staggering 49 schools—was saved in part because it is considered a model for social-emotional learning.

More than 50 schools were recommended for closure because of declining enrollment districtwide and other factors. But Marcus Garvey Elementary, a preK-8 school, was taken off that list because of its strong community support and its work on social and emotional learning.

Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the Chicago Sun-Times that Garvey is recognized for helping children develop empathy and problem-solving skills.

In this video, which debuted this week, you can get a taste of what some of the lessons at the school look like. Teachers note fewer referrals in recent years.

“Students have learned how to deal with conflict in a different way,” Vice Principal Sabrina Anderson said.

Marcus Garvey and other Chicago schools were recognized this week by the Seattle-based Committee for Children for their commitment to teaching social and emotional skills. Chicago has joined forces with Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning—CASEL—and also uses the Committee for Children’s Second Step program.

Nine years ago, Illinois became the first state to incorporate social-emotional learning into its academic standards. Committee for Children says only two others have done the same thing since then.

A recent study found that students who are taught social and emotional skills improve an average of 11 percentage points on academic tests.

While the news about Marcus Garvey may be a bright spot at a dark time for the nation’s third-largest school district, the 11th-hour rescue of a few schools may do little to ease the anger and hurt families at other schools are experiencing as Chicago’s plans move forward. Students who will shift schools, neighborhoods, and routes to school in the fall may need extra social and emotional support of their own.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.