Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) is committed to developing SEL skills in all students and adults to create safe, supportive, equitable, and welcoming learning environments to promote academic success. Our Student Engagement and Counseling Services Department currently partners with 120 schools to support SEL implementation with the long-term expectation that Dallas ISD’s more than 230 schools will shape their climate, culture, and instructional practices around SEL. Our department draws on content from three primary frameworks (SEL, Restorative Practices, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) to provide a streamlined, multifaceted approach to student engagement. To ensure extended opportunities for SEL competency development, we build collaborative partnerships with local out-of-school-time organizations including Big Thought, Dallas Afterschool, and the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation.
<class=”blue_title mt_neg”=””>SEL in Action</class=”blue_title>
SEL implementation Our team focuses on four key elements for successfully implementing SEL across our partner campuses:
- Climate and culture: We understand that a school’s climate and culture are vital components for creating a safe, welcoming learning environment for students, adults, and families. We support our partner campuses with key practices such as greeting students entering the building or classroom, developing classroom/respect agreements in every class and for the campus staff team, and prioritizing healthy relationships (from student to student, student to adult, and adult to adult).
- Explicit skills instruction: To provide opportunities for students to develop SEL skills and reflect on progress, we are implementing Sanford Harmony as the primary SEL curriculum at partnering elementary campuses. Our secondary partner campuses will receive training and ongoing support in de-escalating power struggles as well as facilitating weekly community meetings (or circles) to build healthy relationships among students and adults and continue refining SEL skills.
- Integration: We are in the process of collaborating with our partner campuses and Dallas ISD content departments to intentionally blend academic content with SEL competencies to promote SEL skill development. We want to be intentional about reinforcing SEL competencies as well as providing direct connections to relevant learning experiences. For example, we can highlight SEL competencies such as responsible decision-making with designing a research project or reflecting on self-awareness in a literature class to continually foster student growth in SEL competencies.
- Instructional practices:Our team values instructional practices guided by student voice and choice, group work, and ongoing reflection to facilitate engaging learning for students at all grade levels. We support our partner campuses with incorporating these practices into every learning context so that students have the chance to foster positive relationships, hear different perspectives, and work as a team to problem-solve.
Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI): Dallas ISD, in partnership with Big Thought, was fortunate to receive a multi-year SEL implementation grant from The Wallace Foundation. The initiative’s primary goal is to fortify SEL practices through a continuum of support during the school day and out-of-school time to improve individual SEL skills, enhance school climate, and strengthen the greater Dallas community.
- Phase I (Years 1-4): Current efforts are focused on supporting seven partner schools who receive targeted SEL implementation support and resources across in- and out-of-school time to build adult acquisition and student SEL skills over four years.
- Phase II (Year 5-6): Building on knowledge from Phase I, seven new partner schools will receive targeted SEL implementation support and resources, and continue expanding the district’s SEL expertise, both in and out of school.
- PSELI Study: The RAND Corporation will conduct a study of the initiative to compile evidence-based practices, compare findings from Phase I and II sites, and provide ongoing programmatic feedback. In this way, we are embedding SEL practices and troubleshooting implementation issues across a select number of schools before rolling out an accelerated SEL implementation plan for all of Dallas ISD.