Rating of Social and Emotional Learning Programs for Middle and High Schools

caselThe Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) released a new tool to help middle and high schools meet their students’ most critical needs.

The 2015 CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs–Middle and High School Edition provides a framework for examining social and emotional learning (SEL) programs used in secondary schools and rates well-designed, evidence-based programs in a Consumer Reports-style review. CASEL published a similar guide to preschool and elementary school programs in 2013.

Nine programs earned a spot on the CASEL Guide’s “SELect list.” The programs had a range of effects on schools from improved academic outcomes to a drop in problem behaviors.

“Social and emotional learning should be an essential part of education for all of America’s children. Educators need a trusted source when selecting an evidence-based program, and the 2015 CASEL Guide provides that. This is sure to move the field forward,” said CASEL board member Tim Shriver.

Writing about the new guide in Education Week, Evie Blad noted that, “For schools, the decision to focus on the social and emotional learning of their students is just the first step. The real work kicks in when leaders try to navigate a confusing and still-developing field to select an evidence-based program that will translate the findings of researchers into actual results in the classroom.”

To read the report, see http://www.casel.org/middle-and-high-school-edition-casel-guide


Achieve Report Highlights “Honesty Gaps” in More than Half of States’ Student Proficiency Ratings

achieveNAEP-1A new report by the education reform organization Achieve finds large “honesty gaps” between state-reported proficiency rates in math and reading compared to those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is also known as the Nation’s Report Card. The report, Proficient vs. Prepared: Disparities Between State Tests and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), calls NAEP the “gold standard for measuring student achievement” and a “yardstick for state comparisons,” but it notes that parents and students are usually unfamiliar with the test, instead relying on their state tests to know how students are performing.

“Parents and educators deserve honest, accurate information about how well their students are performing, and the extent to which they have a solid foundation for their continued learning,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. “Tests are not the only source of this information, but they are certainly an important one. We don’t do our students any favors if we don’t level with them when test results come back.”

According to the report, more than half of states report a difference of 30 percentage points or more between their own proficiency results and those provided by NAEP. Georgia, for example, had one of the largest discrepancies for the 2013-14 year, reporting proficiency levels for fourth-grade reading and math that were 60 and 53 percentage points higher, respectively, than NAEP reported.

Essentially, what this means is that many states are sugar-coating test results, even test results for tests of their own creation and implementation. For this reason, Achieve urges states, educators, families, and students to make use of the NAEP results, at least as a cross-reference for test results. Achieve also urges continued use of national standards, such as Common Core aligned testing to ensure greater accountability.

By contrast, some states, which the report deems “truth tellers,” are accurately reporting student achievement. The report notes that New York, for example, actually boasts proficiency requirements on its state tests that are more rigorous than NAEP according to the 2013-14 data. It was also the only state to report a smaller percentage of proficiency than NAEP for both fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. For that, New York earned the highest rank on Achieve’s “Top Truth Tellers” list.

Proficient vs. Prepared asserts that while the “misleading” deficiencies are a problem, many states are working to correct the “honesty gap” by introducing more challenging and rigorous curriculum and aligned assessments that can better measure a students’ college and career readiness. Kentucky had some of the nation’s largest gaps in proficiency before adopting the Common Core State Standards in 2010. The state narrowed a 32-percentage-point differential to 15 between 2011 and 2014, the report notes.

“Leaders in many states have already recognized the need to administer more rigorous tests that will provide more honest and accurate information. Unfortunately, in some states there is already political pressure to abandon their new assessments and go back to using less rigorous tests,” said Cohen. “This report shows us that we can’t go back to the way we’ve always done it.”

Proficient vs. Prepared is available at http://www.achieve.org/files/NAEPBriefFINAL051415.pdf.

Learn more about the “Honesty Gap” in each state and Washington, DC, at http://www.honestygap.org.


Three New REL Toolkits Help Educators Understand Logic Models, Establish a Culture of Data Use, and Evaluate Instruction with Classroom Data

rel-logo-largeThree new toolkits from the Regional Education Laboratory (REL) Program are designed to help educators and leaders use data and evaluate programs and policies:

Logic models for program design, implementation, and evaluation: Workshop toolkit

This Logic Model Workshop Toolkit from REL Northeast & Islands helps state and district leaders design, implement, and evaluate programs and policies that address pressing education issues. The workshop guides participants through the stages of developing a logic model and demonstrates how to use logic models for program design, implementation, and evaluation. The workshop can be customized to fit specific contexts, and includes a slide deck, participant workbook, and facilitator manual.

Toolkit for a workshop on building a culture of data use

A second REL Northeast & Islands toolkit introduces a framework and set of tools to help administrators and teachers foster a culture of data use in their education settings. Five essential elements found in districts and schools with successful data-use practices are woven into a workshop to help leaders establish data use not only as an obligation, but also as a working culture that improves practice and learning. Workshop participants will develop an understanding of the five elements, analyze examples of school and district data-use practices aligned to the five elements, apply key findings to their own practice, and outline next steps to enhance the culture of data use in their schools. The toolkit includes a brief introduction to the workshop, a step-by-step facilitator guide, participant handouts, and a slide deck that organizers can customize to fit specific learning goals.

Instructional improvement cycle: A teacher’s toolkit for collecting and analyzing data on instructional strategies

A third new toolkit, developed by REL Central in collaboration with York Public Schools in Nebraska, provides teachers with a process and tools to deliberately study a single classroom instructional strategy. The toolkit includes access to a preprogrammed spreadsheet that determines the significance of test results between classes taught with and without the new strategy. The reflection guide offers information on how teachers can reflect on their results and consider adjustments to their instruction to increase student learning.


Educating the Whole Student through Social Emotional Learning

SCOPEIncreasingly, researchers and educators recognize that schools cannot focus solely on students’ academic learning to improve achievement. They also must nurture students’ psychological development, often described as social emotional learning (SEL). While this new focus on SEL benefits all students, it is especially critical for low-income students and students of color, according to Social Emotional Learning in High School: How Three Urban High Schools Engage, Educate, and Empower Youth, a new study from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

The SCOPE study examines how three diverse small public high schools have implemented social emotional learning schoolwide and analyzes that implementation across three areas—school climate and culture, organizational features and structures, and school practices. The researchers selected the three schools—Fenway High School (Boston, Massachusetts), El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice (Brooklyn, New York), and International School of the Americas (San Antonio, Texas)—because each school has an explicit schoolwide focus on SEL and demonstrated stronger academic outcomes and graduation rates than similar schools in their districts. Although each school serves fewer than 500 students, each one serves predominantly students of color. At Fenway High School and El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, the majority of students also qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, while at the International School of the Americas about one-quarter of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Researchers conducted in-depth case studies of the three SEL high schools, surveyed their students, and compared their responses with a national survey of students in traditional public high schools. Students in the SEL high schools reported a more caring school climate, stronger relationships with teachers, greater engagement with school, stronger feelings of efficacy and resilience, and more ambitious goals for higher education, compared to students not attending SEL schools.

While traditional SEL focuses primarily on students’ abilities to understand themselves and build supportive relationships with others, the schools featured in the SCOPE study take an expanded view of SEL that emphasizes social justice education as a well. The researchers determined that the social justice component enhances SEL by grounding it directly in the needs of the diverse student populations the schools serve and encourages students to examine issues of equity and advancement in their local communities.

“A growing body of research shows that when schools attend to students’ psychological, social, and emotional development alongside academic learning, student engagement and academic achievement improve,” the lead researcher writes in her blog post. “While we can’t clearly prove direct cause and effect between the schools’ social emotional and social justice skill building and positive student responses, our findings suggest these approaches hold promise.”

Social Emotional Learning in High School: How Three Urban High Schools Engage, Educate, and Empower Youth is available at https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1310


May Issue Brief: Great Principals

In Case You Missed It!School administrators serve as instructional leaders and set the tone for the culture of a school. The principal’s influence is pivotal. In this month’s issue brief, we explore effective school leadership and recommendations for improving the training, support and evaluation of educational leaders.

What essential skills should principals master in order to be exceptional instructional leaders? What are your go-to tools and resources for the training and support of principals? Please respond to our call for commentary. We’d love to hear from you!

To check out this month’s newsletter and access resources on this month’s topic, please follow this link: http://eepurl.com/bmKPtT

To ensure you do not miss future issues, we encourage you to subscribe to the monthly newsletter by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/byje6b9


Public Comment Sought on Revised Draft Standards for Education Leaders

principal.ashxTwo national education organizations are seeking additional feedback from the public on revised draft standards for education leaders. These standards aim to ensure district and school leaders are able to improve student learning and achievement and meet new, higher expectations. The first public comment period last fall resulted in suggested changes that have been incorporated into this draft of the standards.

For the past 16 months, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA) have led an effort to refresh the standards to reflect research-based evidence, practitioner input and experience gained since the last update of the standards in 2008. The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards for School Leaders, known as ISLLC, detail the knowledge and skills effective district and school leaders need in order to build teams of teachers and leaders who improve student learning.

“We strongly encourage the public to review these standards and help us make them even better,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. “We want to hear from teachers and school and district leaders as well as from parents and other stakeholders in public education. Their valuable perspective will help make sure the final ISLLC 2015: Model Policy Standards for Educational Leaders set the right expectations for these critical educators.”

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia, as well as districts, schools and university and nonprofit leadership preparation programs, use the voluntary ISLLC standards to guide preparation, practice, support and evaluations for district and school leaders, including superintendents, principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders.

The standards are built on a transformational vision of education leadership expressed through seven policy standards. Transformational education leaders:

  • Build a shared vision of student success and well-being.
  • Champion and support instruction and assessment that maximizes student learning and achievement.
  • Manage and develop staff members’ professional skills and practices in order to drive student learning and achievement.
  • Cultivate a caring and inclusive school community dedicated to student learning, academic success and the personal well-being of every student.
  • Coordinate resources, time, structures and roles effectively to build the instructional capacity of teachers and other staff.
  • Engage families and the outside community to promote and support student success.
  • Administer and manage operations efficiently and effectively.

Each of the seven policy standards is accompanied by specific actions that illustrate that standard.

The refreshed standards reflect the changing responsibilities of principals, superintendents and other district-office leaders. As a result of state-level reform measures, principals and other education leaders in most states are implementing higher learning standards to prepare all students for college, careers and life.

The refreshed standards benefitted from extensive involvement of the field and from researchers, including during the first public comment period. More than 1,000 principals and superintendents submitted surveys, and more than 100 participated in focus groups. This second public comment period will ensure that the revised standards truly reflect what effective leadership practice looks like in today’s schools and districts.

Review the standards at:


Provide feedback here:


The public comment period will last until May 29. CCSSO will use the comments to make additional refinements to the standards, which will be finalized and released this summer.


Fearless Teaching

core ed 1Shanna Peeples, recently named National Teacher of the Year, published on her blog a speech that she delivered in DC during her selection process.

I don’t want to offend you, but I have to tell you that I will be talking about the f-word today.

And that f-word is a four-letter word that’s as obscene as any you’re likely to be exposed to because that f-word is fear.

And I know a lot about fear. I was raised in it by a father who drank to escape it and a mother so fearful of life that she isolated herself from even her children. I come from the fallout of fear: domestic violence, addiction, abuse and neglect. However, what I know about fear is that even though my parents were both strangled by it, they encouraged me to be brave where they could not. And thankfully, I had teachers who made school my sanctuary…

As teachers, we have to face down normal fears of a lesson falling apart or the possibility of losing control of a class. But the fear I’m talking about as a problem goes beyond that to the fear of judgement over student scores or fear of being the one who will tank the school’s performance rating…

When we risk being authentic in our process, our products and our purpose, we teach our students faith rather than fear. We make a way for our best selves and their limitless possibility. We teach them the most important lesson: it can be done.

To read the entire speech, see http://www.shannapeeples.com/?p=615



Teacher Leadership: The Pathway to Common Core Success

center for american progressThe Common Core State Standards began in 2009 as a state-led effort to measure the nation’s students against a shared benchmark. At first, the standards received broad acceptance. But as the standards rolled out–and as they continue to roll out–the Common Core has become a political football. With all of the political posturing, it’s easy to lose focus and pay little heed to the voices of the people most affected by the standards–teachers and students.

Teachers are hard at work implementing the standards each day. As such, teachers’ voices on Common Core implementation are vitally important to its success. This report describes districts throughout the country that have taken collaborative approaches between management and unions to ensure that teachers have significant voice and leadership in implementation of the Common Core.

Based on interviews and observations of the teachers in the districts described in this report, the Center for American Progress makes the following recommendations to districts implementing the standards:

  • Create teacher leadership roles at the classroom, school, and district levels.
  • Allocate time for teachers to collaborate.
  • Create systems for embedded teacher professional development.
  • Give teachers an active role in the selection and development of Common Core instructional materials.

For more information, and to read the full report by Andrew Amore, Nichole M. Hoeflich, Kaitlin Pennington, please visit:




Policy Brief: Curriculum-Embedded Performance Assessments (CEPAs)

Mcrel-LogoEducational assessments provide data that give policymakers a “snapshot” of how students are performing and serve as a means of holding teachers, schools, and districts accountable. Many contend, however, that assessments could do more to promote deeper learning in K–12 environments. One interesting possibility is the use of Curriculum-Embedded Performance Assessments (CEPAs).

Key Ideas:

CEPAs are instructional units designed to promote subject matter learning and the acquisition of skill sets while providing data that can be used for both summative and formative purposes. The ultimate goal of CEPAs is to maintain consistency between what is taught, assessed, and how teachers are prepared.

This brief provides policymakers an overview of CEPAs, gives examples of successful CEPA application at the classroom, school, district, and state levels, and suggests ways that CEPAs can improve policy-driven outcomes.

For more information, please visit:




School Turnaround Resources

school turnaround logoA redesigned School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC) site provides access to a range of free resources and opportunities for engagement focused on school turnaround in action.

A project of the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd, the STLC supports state, district, and school leaders working to improve the nation’s lowest-achieving schools.

STLC makes it easier for busy education leaders to engage with specialists and other educators on just-in-time school turnaround research and practices. The site offers interactive webinars, curated resource collections, a Turnaround in Action blog, and a vetted resource library to help you address the complexities of school improvement work.

Especially for education leaders wanting to make changes with limited budgets, be they in rural or urban settings, this site is a goldmine.

For more information, please visit: