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Success Stories

Building Resilience: Social-Emotional Learning for Military-Connected Students

Jenna Buckle
Jenna Buckle
Building Resilience: Social-Emotional Learning for Military-Connected Students



Lackland ISDAt Lackland Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, students face unique challenges in the classroom and at home. Most of the district’s students (95 percent) are military-connected, which means that school transitions, deployed parents, and family stress are a daily reality.

That's why developing students’ resilience and other social-emotional learning (SEL) skills is top-of-mind for district and school leaders at Lackland ISD. A needs assessment conducted by the district found that 95 percent of teachers believe that SEL impacts military-connected students’ ability to learn, and research shows that SEL skills are critical to student success.

Yet, 74 percent of Lackland teachers said that they wanted more support around helping students socially and emotionally. Educators felt that SEL could support students during transitions and better prepare them for college and careers—but they didn’t yet have the appropriate tools and resources.

Supporting Military-Connected and High-Mobility Students: Lackland ISD's Approach  

Over the last few years, Lackland ISD has been on a journey to develop military-connected students’ resilience and social-emotional skills. Driven by this mission, Lackland ISD has used social-emotional learning surveys to identify students’ SEL strengths and needs, to compare their data to national norms, and to determine how and where to allocate SEL resources.

Measuring Social-Emotional Learning to Build Students’ Resilience

For Lackland ISD, social-emotional learning assessments have been instrumental to equipping educators with actionable data to drive improvement. The district administers Panorama’s research-backed SEL survey twice a year to measure students’ perceptions of their SEL skills and competencies, including Student-Teacher Relationships, Growth Mindset, Grit, and Sense of Belonging.

School and district leaders then review the results using Panorama’s reporting platform, which includes dashboards, analytics, and heat maps: “We look at the data across the whole district, grade levels, and student groups,” shared JJ Johnson, community relations director at Lackland ISD.

"We can’t know where to start or where to go without real data on the social-emotional strengths and needs of our students. We’re using the data to drive the professional development and resources we’re providing around SEL."

jj_johnson– Jason "JJ" Johnson, Community Relations Director, Lackland ISD

Relationships and Belonging: Two Areas of Focus for Lackland Administrators

Student-Teacher RelationshipsStudent-Teacher Relationships Decline in Grades 6-12 

While students in grades 3-5 reported strong teacher-student relationships, students in grades 6-12 had lower perceptions of the quality of their relationships with teachers. 67 percent of sixth graders responded favorably to the Teacher-Student Relationships topic, and that figure dropped to 34 percent by the twelfth grade.

This trend—while not uncommon—is currently driving how Lackland ISD allocates resources, programs, and professional development.

Sense of Belonging Girls Report a Lower Sense of Belonging Than Boys

Lackland ISD’s Panorama data showed an 11 percent point gap in sense of belonging between girls and boys in grades 6-12. Using the data, school and district leaders probed into the issue: Is it because boys mature later than girls? Is it because of the clubs, sports, or electives offered?

As one way to increase connectedness among girls, the district actively pursued female engineers to be mentors in the engineering and robotics program.

Lackland ISD’s work to embed social-emotional learning in the classroom is ongoing, and has already made a positive impact on educators’ ability to ease school transitions and to build students’ college and career readiness.

“We believe that resiliency matters,” JJ said. “We’re just beginning this journey into formally supporting SEL, but we’re already seeing positives in the survey data and in family engagement. The real opportunity is that we’re looking at comprehensive data so that we can make more informed decisions to support military-connected students.”

Interested in students' SEL strengths and skills? Download our guide to measuring SEL for more examples of how districts are measuring and improving students' social-emotional skills.

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