Massachusetts Superintendents are embracing SEL

July 17th, 2015 at the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents conference, Mashpee MA:

ESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester, MASS Executive Director Tom Scott, Fitchburg Superintendent and MASS President Andre Ravenelle, William James College Professor Nadya Reilly and Teachers21 President John D'Auria participated on a panel to discuss the importance of addressing Social-Emotional Learning in schools.

SEL has gained recognition over the last few months as an essential factor in student learning, culminating in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Early Education and Care adding Social-Emotional Learning standards to their standards for educators.

"Superintendents are starting to pay much closer attention to the importance of social and emotional learning" says John D'Auria. "If school leaders model respect for the adults and students in their building, commit to a no shame approach, and respond to wrong sounding ideas with curiosity they can create the kind of safe, supportive environment that promotes learning and continuous improvement for all."

Legislators are also paying more attention to this issue, in part because of the Social-Emotional Alliance for Massachusetts, In the state budget passed last week there is a $500,000 line item for Safe and Supportive Schools, including $400,000 in grants for districts to develop, implement and evaluate plans to address SEL.

Teachers21 has been helping districts improve on school culture and leadership throughout the Commonwealth and is thrilled to see that the importance of these issues to learning and achievement are being recognized.

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Teachers21 supports Kentucky Educators to launch teacher leadership planning


Teachers21 is honored and excited to work with Kentucky educators to lead a five-month, statewide initiative: the Activating Teacher Leadership Institute (ATLI).  Developed by Teachers21 in partnership with the Kentucky’s Network to Transform Teaching  (NT3), this initiative is aimed at implementing teacher leadership models on a systems (school or district) level. This ambitious initiative is supported by a team of Kentucky-based regional coaches representing organizations including the Kentucky Department of Education, the Fund for Transforming Education, Hope Street Group, and the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning.

For the launch of this work, school or district-based teams of 3-5 educators (administrators and teachers) gathered in Lexington, KY in June to learn with Dr. Jill Berg and Dr. John D’Auria.  Participants from a diverse group of schools and counties across Kentucky focused on how to strengthen school and district leaders’ abilities to identify, bolster and tap the leadership potential of their teachers and to understand how to support and align this leadership influence with school and district goals.  Each team was charged with examining school data and identifying a learning gap that they wanted to address through teacher leadership. Each team will craft a specialized teacher leadership role or refine an existing one that will be focused on assisting educators to shift their practice in order to better meet the identified student learning gap.  This project’s first phase will continue over a five-month period with the support of trained regional coaches who will continue to be supported by Teachers21 to assist teams in shaping and supporting these new teacher leader roles.  The teams will then reconvene in October to share progress, learning, and ideas for next steps.  Learning derived from this important initiative will help advance the networked improvement community (NIC) of educators collaborating to maximize the impact of accomplished teachers through teacher leadership as part of the Network to Transform Teaching, a national network established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Carnegie Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

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SEL - The Core of Academic Success and Safe, Resilient Communities

Social-emotional learning is a core part of effective education - at the heart of academic success as well as providing competencies that are central to students' mental health and well being and success in all areas of life. By focusing on the emotional supports that our students need, they are not only better prepared for life and careers (and therefore have less discipline and social problems in the future) but they also perform better academically.

The SEL Alliance for Massachusetts has made progress in getting standards included in the rubrics for educators but have a long way to go before this is seen as core to the mission of schools and educators.

Learn more in this news segment.

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The Changing Role of the Principal

This article and report from the Center for American Progress highlights many of the competencies that Teachers21 cultivates in school leaders. The report highlights that

  • "Principals are being asked to develop new competencies largely centered around data, curriculum, pedagogy, and human capital development in order to meet the new expectations” and
  • "Attrition due to resignations and early retirements, along with a shortage of qualified candidates for open principal positions, is leading toward a crisis of leadership in American education. Principals do not feel sufficiently prepared by their pre-service training to successfully meet the demands of school leadership.

Here are their recommendations, many of which directly connect to some of our initiatives:

  1. Redesign school organizational charts and job descriptions.
  2. Develop instructional-leadership capacity around the principal.
  3. Focus principal training on coaching teachers.
  4. Build the capacity of central-office administrators to support principals.
  5. Provide regular opportunities for principals to gather around self-selected problems of practice.
  6. Develop partnerships with universities and nonprofits to recruit and train future principals.
  7. Develop and train principals on district-wide teaching and leadership frameworks.
  8. Provide technological supports that allow administrators to record and share instructional data.

Teachers21 recognizes that effective leadership is essential to improve educational outcomes and is committed to the development and sustainability of leadership at all levels:

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Learn to avoid or overcome leadership obstacles

Leadership is increasingly recognized as an important factor in moving schools forward, yet we have been relatively random in how we prepare and support them. Four obstacles often block or diminish their effectiveness. Avoiding or overcoming each of these requires an underlying set of skills and knowledge that we believe can be learned and practiced to improve leaders’ impact.

Read the full article by John D'Auria, President of Teachers21 as published in Kappan Magazine, February 2015.

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Systemic conditions vs. individual contribution

As reported in the January 2015 Edition of the Rennie Report, it will take collective and systemic action to improve outcomes for ALL students. According to Teachers21 President John D'Auria, "We cannot produce the impact we want for all our students, one educator at a time. Our most effective schools are not collections of individual stars but systems designed to influence and shape adult and student learning. Moving from the qualities of the individual to the systemic conditions that lead us to change, grow, and constantly adapt needs to be the focus of our future work."


A rising tide lifts all boats and it is encumbent upon school and district leaders to create the climate and culture that truly supports each individual's growth.

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