At Collier County Public Schools (CCPS), we are fully committed to the social-emotional learning (SEL) and wellbeing of our 48,000 students in the Naples, Florida area. Our three-year strategic plan focuses on ensuring that students are college, career, and life ready -- and SEL is a critical set of priorities in that plan.
As associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, I work to keep every student on the path to achievement through access to rigorous instruction. In many ways, CCPS is a high-performing district. We've earned an "A" rating for three consecutive years based on the state accountability system -- a distinction earned by only 36 percent of districts in Florida.
That's why, when disaggregating our achievement data, we really focus on how to ensure that every student is achieving their best. How can we remove barriers for students and families? How can we continue to build a positive school culture, and how can we improve student perceptions of school and self? How can we measure the effectiveness of our five social-emotional learning priorities and supports for each and every student?
To drive student achievement and SEL growth, we knew we needed more than just anecdotal data. Panorama gives us the quantitative SEL data that we need. By using Panorama to anonymously measure student perceptions of school and self, we're now able to look at the complete picture of our students to guide strategic support planning.
CCPS's Five Social-Emotional Learning Priorities
As mentioned above, CCPS has defined five social-emotional learning priorities and mental health supports in our strategic plan. These five priorities include:
- New Student 30/60 Day Check-in: Focuses on the successful acclimation of students for all grade levels. Counselors meet with each student to ensure that they are making connections with teachers and peers.
- Handle with Care: Focuses on student safety and mental wellbeing, triggering an "alert" to school staff in the student information system regarding a student who has experienced a recent traumatic event. Once a designated staff member, such as a principal or school psychologist, places an "alert" for a student, school teams meet to develop trauma-sensitive strategies that can support the student.
- Buddy Bench / We Dine Together: These two strategies help students who feel isolated or alone. We've installed Buddy Benches at all 29 CCPS elementary schools to foster social awareness and friendship on playgrounds. Students can sit on a Buddy Bench when they feel lonely at recess, and friendship ambassadors will invite the classmate to play. We Dine Together is a program for our middle schools and high schools to ensure that no one is sitting alone at lunch time -- fostering social awareness, advocacy, acts of kindness, and inclusivity.
- Principal-led SEL Videos: Focuses on building social-emotional learning competencies with our school staff and students. Twice a month, the principal introduces a SEL concept on the morning announcements, including a video and simple ideas for how to apply the concept during the school day.
- Panorama Education SEL: Student voice surveys give students in grades 3-12 the opportunity to tell us what they think about their experiences at school and what we can do better to support them. Administered twice a year, these anonymous surveys allow us to identify and address overall school-wide trends. We measure the following topics: Sense of Belonging, Growth Mindset, Teacher-Student Relationships, Emotional Regulation, and Grit.
Addressing Chronic Absenteeism with SEL Data
It's been exciting to see our schools build SEL data into the data dialogue process. Today, schools are having meaningful, actionable conversations about building sense of belonging, grit, and resilience in students.
We're also using SEL data to address chronic absenteeism, which is a main focus for our district. We have a key performance indicator (KPI) to increase the percentage of students in attendance 90 percent or more by 10 percent through social-emotional learning and mental wellness initiatives.
In response to Panorama data, we've expanded the "New Student 30/60 Day Check-in" priority to include chronically absent students, not just new students. These students receive an adult Connection Coach, who checks in with the student in a non-evaluative way -- asking how the student is doing and how things are going. We also ensure that families are engaged in this process.
These check-ins are an important touchpoint to build relationships with students who appear to be disengaged with the learning process. We've already seen a decrease in chronic absence and an increase in daily attendance.
"To drive student achievement and SEL growth, we knew we needed more than just anecdotal data. Panorama gives us the quantitative SEL data that we need. By using Panorama to anonymously measure student perceptions of school and self, we're now able to look at the complete picture of our students to guide strategic support planning."
Building Community Buy-in and Investment for SEL
To make social-emotional learning work, one of the most important steps that we've taken at CCPS is working closely with community organizations and our school board. We've had several strategic conversations with our district community to build an understanding of what we're trying to achieve, why we need to measure the "whole self" for students, and how we continue to honor the integrity of the district's data procedures with this work.
In addition, we openly share school- and district-wide SEL priorities defined by our student voice survey results from Panorama with our 60+ community partners. We encourage these organizations to emphasize the same SEL skills and mindsets that students are learning about in the classroom. For example, CCPS holds virtual town halls and symposiums in which expert panelists -- such as the head of counseling from the regional university or a pediatrician -- speak on the importance of SEL in college, career, and life. These symposiums help students and educators think beyond the context of the classroom.
We also partner with parents and families to reinforce social-emotional learning concepts at home. When we send home report cards or other parent communications, we include low-lift SEL strategies from Panorama's Playbook to help families support their children out of school. I can speak to the efficacy of these strategies as a parent myself; even though I work with these materials every day, it's been invaluable to read the Playbook "moves" through the lens of a parent. It's an easy way to open up conversations with our children and strengthen relationships at home.
Dr. Peggy Aune is the Associate Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction at Collier County Public Schools in Florida. Dr. Aune’s comments are drawn from her presentation during the SEL 101 to SEL 360 Webinar on March 25, 2020, which was sponsored by FloridaSEL.org. She has granted Panorama permission to publish the comments.