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Success Stories Social-Emotional Learning

The Dream Team Program That Increased the Promotion Rate to 10th Grade at D.C.’s Anacostia High

DCPS

At DC Public Schools, my job as Assistant Director of Redesign is to help school leaders redesign the educational experience through a whole child approach.

The students at Anacostia High School were telling us loud and clear that they needed to feel cared for and connected to adults in the building. 

"The students at Anacostia High School were telling us loud and clear that they needed to feel cared for and connected to adults in the building."

Dr. William Blake, DCPS–Dr. William Blake, Assistant Director of Redesign, DC Public Schools

In response to this need, our redesign at Anacostia High has included piloting a Dream Team program that takes action on data from Panorama’s MTSS and SEL platform

Our approach increased student sense of belonging by 11% from Spring to Fall 2021, coupled with improved attendance, and the highest promotion rate to 10th grade yet.

I hope sharing about our program will inspire and help similar schools.

 

Our Students' Need for Belonging

Anacostia High is embedded in a marginalized community living with generational poverty and historical violence. 

Within that context, our redesign model seeks to make school a safe hub where our students can access resources such as free groceries and other basic needs. 

We use Panorama’s social-emotional learning survey to capture the voices of students, teachers, and families to understand what is working, what is not working, and how we can get better. 

Through this listening, we heard that our students wanted to feel more connected at school to caring adults with their best interests at heart.

Anacostia High School website

Source: Anacostia High School

Piloting the Dream Team Program

To address the need for adult connection and a sense of belonging, we piloted a Dream Team program in the 2020-2021 school year with our ninth grade students.

Here’s how the program works. We paired each student with an adult in our building – our adults as the “captains” and our students as the “CEOs.” Because our school was operating virtually due to the pandemic, students received support from an adult virtually.

Our Dream Team captains focus on building authentic relationships with our students and helping students reach their goals. Captains ask the students open-ended questions like: 

  • How was your night last night? 
  • How can we be helpful? 
  • What do you need to be successful? 

When they uncover unmet needs, they connect students with relevant resources.

For our Dream Team captains to feel confident supporting students, we’ve made sure to focus on building adult capacity. Our adults participate in monthly professional development where they learn foundational practices around skills such as:

  • How to build relationships 
  • How to connect with adolescents 
  • How to be responsive to student trauma

How the Dream Team Uses the Panorama MTSS Dashboard

Our Dream Team captains use the Panorama MTSS dashboard on a weekly basis to identify which students need intentional attention based on what the data says. 

"Our Dream team captains use the Panorama MTSS dashboard on a weekly basis to identify which students need intentional attention based on what the data says."

Dr. William Blake, DCPS–Dr. William Blake, Assistant Director of Redesign, DC Public Schools

Panorama combines our student information across academics, behavior, attendance, and social-emotional learning. That way, we can see students’ progress across all four buckets.

If we see a red in any of these areas, the Dream Team captain makes an action plan to move the student toward being on track.

Panorama MTSS dashboard

This demo Panorama MTSS dashboard shows mock student information across coursework, attendance, behavior, and SEL

 

After the Pilot, Panorama Data Shows More Students Feeling Connected and Getting Promoted to 10th Grade

The Dream Team pilot created an environment where every student believes they have somebody in the building who cares about their success. Now, our students feel more connected than ever before.

"The Dream Team pilot created an environment where every student believes they have somebody in the building who cares about their success. Now, our students feel more connected than ever before."

Dr. William Blake, DCPSDr. William Blake, Assistant Director of Redesign, DC Public Schools

Increased sense of belonging and its cascading positive effects shine through in our Panorama data. Here’s what the data revealed:  

1. Increased sense of belonging

Our surveys showed that between Spring 2021 and Fall 2021, student sense of belonging increased by 11%.

When we disaggregated the data, we saw that—overwhelmingly—students who’d been in the initial ninth grade pilot program accounted for the change. So we attribute the increase in feeling loved and connected to the redesign program.


2. Increased rate of promotion to the next grade

Improved sense of belonging translated to academic improvements. 87% of students in the ninth grade were promoted to the 10th grade – our highest promotion rate yet.


3. High rate of feeling loved

55% of our students feel loved, and 50% feel loved, challenged, and prepared. That 55% is the highest number for a comprehensive high school across the whole district, so we believe that we are doing the right work.


4. Doubled rate of survey completion

Over 80% of our student population filled out the survey—an increase over the 40 to 50% we’ve had in the past. We are thankful that they completed the survey, and even more thankful that they gave us their honest opinions. 


Tweeting Anacostia High Survey ResultsI was excited to share on Twitter the 80% student response rate and 11% increase in student sense of belonging

Our Plans to Use Panorama to Continue to Improve In 2022

Based on the positive results from the Dream Team pilot, this school year we expanded the Dream Team model from a single grade to our entire school. Now, every student at Anacostia High has access to a Dream Team captain. 

Being back in the building presents new challenges. In some ways, connecting with students virtually was easier than in the busy school halls. However, our Dream Team captains have been intentionally finding opportunities to connect with students, such as during class transitions or lunch bunches.

Now, we’re using our Fall 2021 Panorama survey data as a baseline and we’ll use Spring 2022 survey data as a measuring stick for the expanded program. We’re hoping to see the same success we saw in the ninth grade mirrored across the entire school, in what we’re calling pilot 2.0. 

 

Dr. William Blake is the Assistant Director of Redesign at District of Columbia Public Schools. The views expressed in this article are his own and use of a product does not reflect an endorsement.

Interested in measuring your students' SEL skills? Download the open-source Panorama Social-Emotional Learning Survey.

Topic(s): Success Stories , Social-Emotional Learning

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