Tulsa Public Schools’ (TPS) commitment to SEL is evident in the district’s strategic plan for 2016-2020, “Destination Excellence.” The anchoring core values of Equity, Character, Excellence, Team, and Joy resonate with CASEL’s five SEL competencies, providing great opportunities to strategically embed SEL deeply both in schools and out-of-school-time contexts. Additionally, Tulsa Public Schools is working with the Opportunity Project (“the Opp”) to promote a city-wide understanding of the power of SEL to transform lives and communities. As one of the districts to receive a grant from the Wallace Foundation, TPS is initiating practices and programs at five pilot schools, using the experiences at these sites to inform how SEL will be implemented at all schools over the next several years. SEL is overseen by personnel in the Office of Student and Family Support Services, which promotes an understanding of SEL through professional learning and the creation of SEL guidance documents and by assisting in the integration of SEL with other key district initiatives through strategic planning.
SEL in Action
Professional learning: “Introductory SEL 101” was the focus of professional learning during TPS’s first year as a Wallace grant recipient, with all principals participating in a session during the summer of 2017. The introductory session has since been provided to others in the district and in the community, with the Opp co-facilitating sessions for the community. Principals and staff at the five pilot sites, including their out-of-school-time staff, received training in RULER, the evidence-based program endorsed during the first year of SEL implementation. Additionally, professional learning was provided on adult SEL, an area identified early as being a prerequisite for a focus on student SEL.
District/community partnerships: The Opp provides major assistance with community outreach. SEL is one of the Opp’s five priority areas, with a designated staff member charged with promoting an awareness of SEL in the broader community and soliciting community input for the development of an SEL strategic plan for all of Tulsa in alignment with the work being done by TPS. A series of SEL Task Force meetings yielded suggestions from residents that will help the Opp and the district align their work in support of a unified plan for SEL.
With equity as a key part of the strategic plan, the district’s Organizational Learning and Equity Team has played a major role in engaging community members as partners in addressing areas connected to the SEL competencies of social awareness and relationship-building. The team hosted a series of Exploring Equity Community Conversations on topics relative to various aspects of diversity and inclusion.
Climate and culture: Schools are at varying stages of implementing Restorative Practices and other alternative approaches to suspension focusing on empathy and restoration, class meetings, and CASEL’s 3 Signature Practices. Additionally, the district’s five pilot schools are deeply immersed in RULER to help shape climate and culture. In-school and out-of-school staff, along with students and parents, are familiar with mood meters, charters, and meta-moments, with colorful signage reflecting these RULER components prominent at the five sites.
Communicating with parents: Within TPS, the student’s report cards reflect descriptors from social and emotional learning core competencies. The district communicates with parents via newsletters, parent/teacher conferences, websites, and face-to-face during meetings about the importance of social and emotional learning and ways that the school is supporting the development of SEL skills. In addition, we are developing communication about the Panorama survey data for parents.