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Recovering from the Pandemic: The Critical Need for the Integration of SEL and MTSS in Schools

Recovering from the Pandemic: The Critical Need for the Integration of SEL and MTSS in Schools

Date of the Event: November 09, 2021 | Anna Bowles, Pat Conner, Alicia Espinoza, Dia Jackson, Rosemary Reilly-Chammat, Nikevia Thomas, and Sara Wolforth,
Show Notes:

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated feelings of isolation and stress among students, families, teachers, and school communities. Incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) into all aspects of education through multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) can help equitably address the impact of the pandemic on students’ learning and development. In this interactive webinar, the Center for Education Equity examined how to integrate SEL into MTSS to support students and educators navigating the impacts of COVID-19, utilizing a recent toolkit developed by Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and the American Institutes for Research.

Nikevia Thomas:

Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to our webinar titled, Recovering from the Pandemic: The Critical Need for the Integration of SEL and MTSS in Schools. As you come in would you please type into the chat where you are from. We want to see where everybody’s from. Susan, hello from Lancaster, PA. Nice to meet you. Hi Rosemary. Christina from Forsyth County, Georgia. Hello Tia from Phoenix. Nice to… oh Dia. Sorry, Sarah from Cumberland. [Wauchilue 00:01:17] Adam...

Nikevia Thomas:

Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to our webinar titled, Recovering from the Pandemic: The Critical Need for the Integration of SEL and MTSS in Schools. As you come in would you please type into the chat where you are from. We want to see where everybody’s from. Susan, hello from Lancaster, PA. Nice to meet you. Hi Rosemary. Christina from Forsyth County, Georgia. Hello Tia from Phoenix. Nice to… oh Dia. Sorry, Sarah from Cumberland. [Wauchilue 00:01:17] Adams. Nice to meet you from Maryland. Okay. Nancy, nice to meet you from PA. Heather, nice to meet you as well. You’re also from PA. Hello Alice from Rhode Island. Well, Jim, nice to meet you. You’re from near the suburbs of Philly. Yovayla from Annapolis, nice to meet you. Tracy from Annapolis as well. Another Tracy, she’s from Vermont. Oh look there’s a connection here. Susan and Sarah… Susan, Billy went to Frostburg. Small world. Okay. Just give like a few more seconds and then we’re going to get started. Okay, would you please go to the next slide. Thank you.

Nikevia Thomas:

So, before we get started we have some webinar etiquette that I’d like to go over with you. So please use the chat box to engage with other participants as we’ve done already. We recommend that you click on the chat icon on the bottom or top toolbar of your screen. We will not be using the raise hand function so please do not use that. We will be using polls and the polls will appear in the center of your screen. So please click on the appropriate button. And then the results will be read by the moderator. There will be a Q&A toward the end of the webinar, please put your questions that you want the panelists to answer in the Q&A box. And you should see that on the bottom toolbar as well. Next slide please. So to enable or disable live caption, you would want live caption should show up on your screen by default. And it will look like the images that you see. To turn them off on your webinar controls, at the bottom of your Zoom’s window, select live transcript or closed caption button and then hide subtitles to view them again. Then repeat the second step and show this select the subtitles instead.

Nikevia Thomas:

Next slide please. So it takes a team of people to put on a webinar. And the behind the scenes crew that you see here is what makes a lot of the magic happen in the background. So I would like to get you all to meet the webinar support team. We have Kathleen Pulupa. She is the Communications Coordinator at MAEC and she will be Facebook Live monitoring and doing some of the tech lead for our webinar today. And then there is me, my name is Nikevia Thomas. I am a senior specialist at MAEC and I am serving as a virtual event planner for our webinars and chat. We also have someone who was not pictured. She joined our team. Her name is Gracie and Gracie will be monitoring the chat as well. Gracie is our MAEC, intern. Gracie, if you can please say hi to everyone in the chat so they know you’re there. And then we have Claire Ruhlman. Claire is an evaluation associate and she will be working with the operations and tech support for our webinar. Next slide please.

Nikevia Thomas:

And so today, today’s webinar will be facilitated by two members of AIR. They are Alicia Espinoza and she is the Senior Technical Assistant Consultant. And Alicia has served as a senior technical assistant consultant for several federally funded programs including State Support Network and the Comprehensive Literacy Development Grant. Then we have Sarah Wolforth. Sarah is a principal researcher at AIR and she is a policy principal. Sarah leads AIRs for Child Learning and Development Practice hub, which houses research, evaluation and technical assistance work related to the whole child approaches in K through 12 educational settings. Next slide please. And I would like for you to meet our panelists as well. So we have Dia Jackson, who is a Senior Researcher at AIR. And she provides leadership and technical assistance directly to states and districts in the areas of special education, best practices and multi-tiered systems of support with a focus on equity. Then there’s Rosemary Reilley-Chammat, who works at the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as a School Health Policy and Program specialists. And has previously worked as the HIV sexuality specialist.

Nikevia Thomas:

Next we have Pat Conner. And Pat Conner is a Senior Policy and Practice Consultant for CASEL or the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. And as a consultant with CASEL she provides technical assistance and support to states and SEL or Social Emotional Learning that are involved in the collaborative state initiatives. And finally, we have Anne Bowles. Anne joined the Council of Chief State School Officers in October 2018 and serves as the Program Director, Student-Centered Learning. And is responsible for providing overall direction, coordination and supervision for the council strategy on Student-Centered Learning, including supporting states to shift to more personalized approaches to learning and designing, systems to support students social, emotional and academic development. Thank you. Let’s go to the next slide please.

Nikevia Thomas:

So, I will start telling talk to you a little bit about MAEC. And MAEC is a champion of innovation, collaboration and equity. Next slide please. So to give you more background of who we are. I will talk about who we are and what we do. MAEC was founded in 1992 as an education nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to high quality education, for culturally diverse, linguistically and economically diverse learners. MAEC envisions a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. And our mission is to promote excellence and equity in education to achieve social justice. We believe that all students deserve to feel welcomed, respected, and safe at school, and provided with the opportunities to thrive. Next slide please. So one of our biggest projects is the Center for Education Equity, or CEE. And we partner with WestEd and the American Institutes for Research or AIR. CEE is one of four regional equity assistance centers, across the country funded by the US Department of Education under the Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Next slide, please.

Nikevia Thomas:

So the image that you see here on this map is an overview of the region covered by region one Equity Assistance Center, the Center of Equity Education or CEE. As you can see, we reach all the way from Maine down to Kentucky, including Pennsylvania and Virgin Islands. And CEE’s goals are to improve and sustain the systemic capacity of public education systems to address problems caused by segregation and inequities. Increase equitable educational opportunities for all students regardless of race, gender, religion, and national origin. Next slide, please. And our approach is equity centered capacity building, extensive use of data and collaborative inquiry, comprehensive and multi-tiered technical assistance, equity centered socio economic integration and collective impact and technology leveraging. Next slide, please. And the services we offer are universal, targeted and intensive. And now, I… Next slide please. And now, I will pass the baton to Alicia, and Sara, who will continue with the rest of the presentation.

Alicia Espinoza:

Thank you, Nikevia. Great. So welcome, everyone. This is our agenda for today. We will begin by reviewing the objectives of today’s session. We will then provide an overview of the SEL within MTSS to advance equity toolkit. We will provide opportunities for Q&A shortly after the presentation and throughout the session. And as Nikevia mentioned earlier, please feel free to enter those questions in the Q&A box icon that you see at the bottom of your screen. We will be introducing you to our panelists today. Do a reintroduction. And we will engage in a panel discussion. And then that will bring us to our closing and next steps. Next slide. These are our objectives for today. And there are three primary objectives. The first is to review existing systems of support across K-12 education and opportunities for improvement. We also want to explore further what it can look like to integrate SEL into MTSS. And we’d like to share resources that support practitioners at all levels of the system, in SEL, MTSS and general mental health and well being.

Alicia Espinoza:

With that said, I’d like to pass it on to my colleague, Sarah Wolforth who will get us going with a brief warm up activity. And we could go to the next slide.

Sara Wolforth:

Okay. Great. So, in a spirit of social emotional learning. I and many of you have probably engaged in these kinds of activities. But I’m gratuitously assembled some pictures of my son and his age is about, he’s getting close to two years old now. And just wanted to first ask you all to think about how you’re feeling now at this moment. And one of the wonderful things about babies or maybe not always so wonderful is how expressive they are with how they’re feeling and how they really show that in their expression, in their behavior. So, if you could take a look at these images, and I don’t know if the drawing function is available. If it is you can just circle one that resonates with you and how you’re feeling today. Or if you’re comfortable, or you can just put them in the chat function. The letter number combination of how you’re feeling today as you’re coming to this webinar on this Tuesday afternoon. I see one D. Yes. Me too. Good. I love that.

Sara Wolforth:

Oh wait, no C2 is the tired one. I was thinking C1. [inaudible 00:15:31]. Great. Oh good. We’ve got people kind of all over the place here this morning, or this afternoon. Okay. So it looks like really we’ve got some… That 2A. I don’t even know what he’s trying to express there, but I get it. Some people are feeling maybe exasperated and ready to be done with the day. Yeah. And I love that there’s at least a couple people in that very joyful spot of C1. Well, however you’re feeling we just want to encourage you to think about what you might need, given how you’re feeling to be able to engage in the meeting, or in this webinar today to participate and to be here and to take something away from it. And consider where you are and what you might need to be able to participate today. So yeah, I think that’s it. So I think we can just move on to… Thank you. Thanks everyone. Move on to the next slide. And I’m just going to introduce my colleague, Dia Jackson, who you already heard her bio. She’s a senior researcher here at AIR.

Sara Wolforth:

And she’s going to be presenting on a toolkit that AIR, CCSSO and CASEL collaboratively developed and published earlier this year around integrating social emotional learning and an MTSS framework to advance equity. So Dia is going to present on that toolkit and some of the key learnings that we had from that work. And after Dia present, you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions. And then we’ll move into the panel conversation, we’ll hear from Dia, Rosemary, and Ann and Pat as well. I’ll turn it over to Dia.

Dia Jackson:

Thank you, Sara. Hi, everyone. I am zooming in also from Maryland. I saw a lot of Maryland folks in the chat. I’m calling in from Columbia, Maryland. And I spent over nine years teaching in Maryland. So I really appreciate all the work that you all are doing. And I’m super excited to share this toolkit. Next slide. So we’ll start with an opening poll. To what extent is SEL integrated into your system of support in your state or district? It’s anonymous, so no worries. Okay. I think we can go ahead and close the poll. And great, now we can see the results. Awesome. So it looks like 55% of you said somewhat. So you’re kind of maybe in this process. 10% said SEL is not integrated at all. And wow, 23% of you said SEL is fully integrated into your system. So I really hope that you all speak up during the Q&A and can share a little bit about your work. And some folks this is not quite applicable yet. So, we will move on to the next slide. Thank you, and thanks for voting everybody.

Dia Jackson:

So I’ll tell you a little bit about the toolkit. In recent years, states and districts and schools across the country began using a multi-tiered system of support and MTSS to organize and deliver academic and behavior support to students. MTSS has a long history, and was originally set forth as one approach to address disproportionality. And we’ll talk a little bit more about how MTSS really serves as a great framework to promote equity. But so at its core, MTSS serves as a framework to support practitioners in using data to ensure that all students are equipped with the skills they need to succeed. MTSS is comprised of the core components that you see in the graphic. So screening, progress monitoring, the multi level tiers of support, which typically are shown as the pyramid in the red, yellow, and green pyramid that we all kind of associate with MTSS or RTI. And in the center is data-base decision-making, which is really at the heart of MTSS. So education leaders are increasingly interested and explicitly incorporating social emotional learning or SEL within the MTSS framework.

Dia Jackson:

So as you can see, in the CASEL wheel, we have the five core SEL competencies, that practitioners and students need to have in order to effectively implement SEL in their school or district. And this interest was really motivated by the desire to more intentionally connect academics and behavior, to build equitable systems that ensure all students receive the support they need to succeed. We know that the impact of COVID-19 and the increased attention to systemic injustice has led to a heightened sense of need in this area. So individuals who oversee SEL and MTSS often work in different divisions and may be siloed within a district or state. And education leaders are interested in integrating this so that we have a shared understanding of key terms, and that these frameworks and opportunities can engage each other on cross divisionally. So that last graphic is just a picture of the cover of the SEL toolkit, the SEL and MTSS toolkit which is available to all of you. It is completely free. Next slide. Great, thank you. So the link is in the chat if you want to go ahead and flip through as I’m talking.

Dia Jackson:

So I’ll tell you a little bit about how it is organized. But I first want to start with just honoring and thanking our partners. So CCSSO and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning, CASEL and AIR. We collaborated to develop this toolkit with the support of the Learning Policy Institute or LPI, in collaboration with leaders from nine state education agencies across the country. And they are actively working to integrate SEL and MTSS, like many of you are as well. So beginning in October 2020, CCSSO and CASEL convened a community of practice across division teams from SCAAs, who were committed to collaboratively working together to identify opportunities to integrate equity focused SEL and MTSS. And to bring alignment and coherence within their existing priorities, systems and practices and ensure focus on whole child development. Out of a robust pool of applicants, nine states were selected to engage in this effort. Alabama, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia, were a part of the original cohort that engaged with each other, with field leaders and national experts in peer-to-peer learning experiences over the course of nine months.

Dia Jackson:

So this toolkit is designed to support policymakers and leaders in their states, as well as district leaders who are interested in engaging in the work of intentional SEL and MTSS integration. The toolkit addresses five key questions to support state and district leaders in advancing equitable integrated SEL and MTSS. So the five questions are on the screen, and those are the sections of the toolkit. So the first is what do we mean by SEL and MTSS? So in section one, we define our key terms and relate it to SEL and MTSS, and we articulate how both sets of practices are connected to equity. And section two, we answer the question, why SEL and MTSS? Section two provides the rationale for integrating SEL into MTSS. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that rationale today as well. Section three looks at well, what does it look like to integrate SEL into MTSS? So section three describes the look fors of SEL when it’s integrated within an MTSS framework. And section four is, once you’re ready to go. So how can state and districts get started?

Dia Jackson:

Section four provides integration guidance that draws on the work of the nine community of practice states. And section five is, where do we go from here? So section five, provides a set of considerations to inform next steps for the field. Next slide. So how does this integration actually advance equity? The graphic that you see on the screen is one that is taken from the toolkit. And really, it’s just to depict that how together, we’ve identified these observable and measurable outcomes of integrated SEL and MTSS to advance equity. So those are listed under the graphic. The principles and practices of SEL, combined with the systems and data driven approach of MTSS create a system that is asset based, that’s data driven and focused on systemic change. All of these are components that lead toward equitable outcomes. Researchers agree that addressing inequity and education is complex and requires a systemic approach. So given this, SEL is integrated into MTSS, which holds promise through a focus on systems change and data driven decision making.

Dia Jackson:

Within this system, leaders must have an asset based mindset. Meaning that they’re focused on students strengths, and look for opportunities to challenge and support students with rigorous instruction and high expectations. Additionally, it’s not enough for practitioners to simply implement interventions and strategies. We know that practitioners and leaders need both a technical and an adaptive approach. So all of us students, as well as practitioners bring to the classroom, our culture, our beliefs and inherent biases with us, everywhere we go. So in an integrated system, practitioners make an intentional effort to interrupt bias, bias based beliefs, and to take a critical look at the policies and practices that are in place. And to ensure that these policies and practices are beneficial for all students, and facilitate success for all. So the guidance and tools in the toolkit, drive toward a vision of integrate SEL and MTSS to advance equity. How will system leaders know when they’re successful? These outcomes are observable and measurable. So we wanted to make sure that folks had a really clear picture of what this looks like.

Dia Jackson:

And by looking at the list on the screen, they can use these principles to observe and measure their policies and practices that are in place, and how well they’re being implemented. They can also use these principles to teach students and to build learning conditions that adults and students are experiencing. These are outcomes we hope and know that states and districts are driving toward, and the steps in the toolkit are designed to support you along that journey. Next slide. So I want to talk a little bit about the foundational principles that undergird the toolkit. So each section of the toolkit is grounded in a set of shared foundational principles, about how systemic schoolwide SEL can drive equity and support students thriving. Taken together, the principles provide the rationale for integrating SEL into MTSS, and are endorsed by the partner organizations and the state teams participating in the community of practice. Next slide. So a little bit more about these foundational principles that undergird the toolkit. So the first is that SEL is intentionally implemented and supported.

Dia Jackson:

We know that it’s really important to be intentional and make sure that we have SEL at the center of this work. The SEL competencies of self awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, are all key in building an inclusive and positive school climate. Centering youth voice also increases student engagement and feelings of belongingness and value. So, one of the foundational principles that we have is to center youth voice in this work. When students are heard and intentionally brought into decision making, they feel seen valued and more connected to school, which in turn improves their self esteem, their confidence, and ultimately engagement and school completion. One of the most critical aspects of MTSS and SEL is a focus on the adult practices. So we want you to make sure that you’re focusing on adult SEL. When adults are able to model these competencies for youth and show, for example how to challenge stereotypes or how to build relationships with diverse individuals, students are then able to see these skills in action. And then the role of the family is so critical. So the role of the family and the community as partners is another foundational principle.

Dia Jackson:

These stakeholders need to be involved in decision making and have a welcoming space to provide input and feedback. One thing that came from the pandemic is that schools, districts, I think were all have a heightened appreciation for how critical it is to have a close connection with families and communities. And then finally, discipline should be regarded as part of the instructional program. So just like academics or social skills, discipline policies should be instructive, restorative, developmentally appropriate, and applied fairly to all students. Next slide. So what does this look like in action? Too often, in MTSS we make decisions to support students based on convenience or tradition. And we say, “Well, this is the way we’ve always done it. This is just kind of how our MTSS framework works in our school.” And unfortunately, this mindset leads to practices that can promote patterns of underachievement for certain student groups, and are inconsistent with culturally responsive practices. So we want to make sure that your integrated MTSS framework has these five core principles built into it. So these are actionable.

Dia Jackson:

These are all explained in the brief leveraging MTSS to ensure equitable outcomes, which is linked on the slide. And the brief will explain more in depth about how you can implement each of these components. So culturally responsive assessments and instruction is our key component. We know that research has shown that assessments and instruction and intervention has not always taken into account students cultural and linguistic background. And we want to make sure that we are attending to that as we are implementing this new system. We also want to make sure that we have high quality instruction and early intervention. One of the key factors of MTSS that makes it really successful, is that it is a proactive and preventative approach. So we want to make sure that we are looking ahead to see what can we do to build a system where students can be successful, where we’re actually building a path for them to be successful and removing barriers before students run into them. Another key piece of this framework is professional development, professional learning. So we know that each of us are on our own individual journey towards equity and learning.

Dia Jackson:

But professional learning can really provide opportunities for educators and leaders to build their skills, and culturally responsive instruction and intervention in SEL skills, and how to really enact these practices in real time in their context. And then the fourth bucket is leadership. So we absolutely need leaders at the table to make decisions about resources, about professional learning, and to be able to have those hard conversations about maybe race or bias in their school. So we need a strong leadership to be able to to lead this work within a district or a school or a state. And in the center, we have data-base decision-making, which is really how we want to make sure that we’re shifting to make decisions. We want to use data to make sure that we’re looking at not just student level data, but system level needs. So that we’re not looking at individual students necessarily to make decisions. But we’re looking at what does our system show is working for all of our students or working for certain groups of students.

Dia Jackson:

So we want to be able to have both a systems approach and a systems view, as well as looking at that student level data. But we want our data to really undergird all of our decisions and the framework. Next slide. So these are some key ideas, and I will call these key actions in SEL and MTSS. So if you’re ready to get going, and you want to know what do I actually need to do? These are some of the key actions that we wanted to pull out and make sure that you are aware of, and some areas that may be missteps, for some folks. So first we want to make sure that you implement SEL programs and practices, as foundational, as Tier 1 supports. So this is not something that we want to be extra, on top of, your current system. But it really should be integrated, it should be taught right along with reading and math and social studies. Your SEL program should really be integrated into your Tier 1 programming. We want to make sure that you reinforce these as social emotional competencies, and integrate SEL practices at Tier 2 and Tier 3.

Dia Jackson:

We want to avoid “tiering” SEL. So we don’t want you to tier SEL based on a perception of deficiencies or students social emotional competencies. But instead, we want you to reinforce those core practices and skills that students learn at Tier 1, to just continue to reinforce those at Tier 2 and Tier 3. You may want to pull them out and be more targeted. But those same practices are going to be reinforced at Tier 2 and Tier 3. We also want to make sure that you all are using measures of school climate and culture, and assessments of students social emotional competencies, if that’s available. As a part of your data-base decision-making. So when we talk about data-base decision-making and MTSS, we often think about maybe math assessments or dibbles or some of the literacy screeners or data that we have, or maybe some behavior data that we have. As you’re looking at that data within MTSS, integrate that school climate data as well. And the social emotional competencies data. We want to make sure that again, you’re able to make a system wide decision about what skills students may need, and how to really strengthen Tier 1 instruction.

Dia Jackson:

And then finally, we want to make sure that as you’re integrating data from these assessments, that you avoid using these assessments of students social emotional competencies, for the purpose of universal screening. So this is not to be used as a screener to look for deficits, or for formal progress monitoring within MTSS. Really, those social emotional assessments are to give you a picture of your overall system, and to help you with planning, in terms of building up social emotional programming in your school. Next slide. So now, how do we get started? What do we do? The toolkit in section four outlines how to get started. So on the screen are the steps that the community of practice members took as they engaged in this process. And each of these steps is linked. And that’s because in each section, in each of these steps there are tools that go right along with that step. So the first step is to convene a team of diverse stakeholders. The second step is to conduct a self assessment.

Dia Jackson:

And in the toolkit, you can click on the step of self assessment, and it will lead you to a template where you can go ahead and take that self assessment. So we wanted the toolkit to the actionable, to be something that you can just sit down with your team and jump right into, and you have the templates there for you. And you have directions on how to actually move through these steps. So the third step is to develop priority objectives. We want to make sure that your priorities are in line with your state or district priorities, and that you consider centering equity as you’re starting to develop priority objectives. The fourth step is to choose high impact strategies and action steps. And then you want to develop a theory of change. So you really want to with your team, think through, how are we actually going to make this change in our context? Step six is community engagement and communication. And then step seven is planning for continuous improvement. So again, using data to continually improve your system, and make sure that you are actually creating a system that is producing positive equitable outcomes.

Dia Jackson:

Next slide. And finally, I’m in that section on the steps. You will also see, in section four, you also see some state spotlights. So this is just a snapshot of what one of those state spotlights looks like. It’s always helpful to see how others have done this work, right? So we want to be able to show you, here’s how some of the states that were a part of the cohort, actually engaged in this work and what they did to actually put some of these steps in place in their state. So in the toolkit, we have a number of state spotlights from all nine of the states that were in the cohort. So you can see how they’ve implemented the steps in their context. They’re all at different places, just like you all are and you showed in the poll. And we hope that the toolkit gives you some guidance on how to get started. Next slide. So now we will take questions on this section before we move into our panel discussion.

Sara Wolforth:

And Dia, I’m looking at the time. I think maybe just one or two, if there’s questions that are in the chat, and then know that there’ll be an opportunity to continue to ask questions as we move into the panel, and Dia will be a part of [inaudible 00:40:20]. Any questions for Dia. Okay. Well, then I will take that as the cue to keep us on schedule and move us along to the panel conversation. So if we move to the next slide. And then actually the next well after this. I just wanted to reintroduce our panelists briefly. So Dia will be on our panel along with Rosemary Reilley-Chammat. And Rosemary is from Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. And she was a part of the team from Rhode Island that engaged with that nine state community of practice. So we’re excited to have her here to share her learnings and perspective as a state education agency team member. And Pat Conner from CASEL. And Anne Bowels from the Council on Chief State School Officers, that are also joining us on our panel.

Sara Wolforth:

And Pat and Dia and I were all a part of the team that helped to develop the toolkit that Dia just share. All right. So, I think we can actually get off the slides and just have our panelists join us on the screen. And I’m going to start by asking everybody to answer a question. So, just to get everybody to respond to a big picture question, I think is pretty important for this conversation and the goals of this webinar. So I’d like you to answer, I’ll start with… I’ll give you a break Dia. I’ll start with Pat. So what do you see as the most important equity implications of integrating SEL into MTSS? And why does this matter for supporting equitable outcomes for children? And so we heard a little bit about principles, but just kind of cutting to the core for you. Why is this important work? We’ll start with Pat.

Pat Conner:

Good. Thank you, Sarah. For me and for my CASEL colleagues, we recognize that social emotional learning advances education, equity and excellence, bottom line. And it should be an important part of an effective MTSS framework, because it helps to coordinate those practices across all three tiers. So SEL is important in Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 practices. It’s relevant for all students, not some students. Not just those that need Tier 3 and Tier 2, but all students. And it really affirms the diverse cultures and backgrounds that all students are representing when they come to school. And again, as Dia said, social emotional learning is really a strategy for systemic improvement, not just an intervention for at risk students. It really serves to lift up student voices, and develop student agency. So for those reasons, I think it’s the integration of SEL with MTSS, to me is a must.

Sara Wolforth:

Great, thank you, Pat. I’m going to ask Anne and just so, you’d known the order that I’m going to ask next, Anne and then Rosemary and then Dia. Same question. So why does this matter? Why does integrating SEL into MTSS matter for equity?

Anne Bowles:

Thanks, Sara. I think as Dia really emphasized in her presentation too. What’s so powerful here is that both MTSS and SEL are together, such a proactive approach, really grounded in asset based lens. So really filling off what Pat said too, right? It’s for all students, grounded in the immense capacity of all students and really, very asset base. Not coming in with a deficit mindset about, where we need to be fill gaps or how we need to address something that’s not working. But I think really, it promotes of course, the school wide conditions. It really focuses on individual competencies and equitable learning environments all from a really asset based and psychoactive lens.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you, Anne. So Rosemary from your perspective in Rhode Island and your work in the community of practice and implementation with the state. Why is this work important?

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

So, and thank you so much, Sara and Dia. And I’ll just build on what Anne and Pat said. And I am standing on the shoulders of giants here, my teammates, and I’m really honored to be able to represent the team on this webinar. So thank you for having us. So the importance of integrating SEL into MTSS was underscored in the pandemic, and that mental health challenges were on the rise already. And certainly all of that exacerbated suicidality, depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc. And, of course, we’re also concerned about instructional time lost as well. And the department convened what they call the LEAP Taskforce, Learning Equity and Accelerated Pathways. And they were local stakeholders in Rhode Island as well as national experts came in, to help develop recommendations on how we could guide schools in developing plans to use their ESA funds, the one, two and three. So all of the recommendations are really centered on an MTSS framework, integrating both the academics and the SEL piece. So this will help schools consider policies, programs and strategies that will address both.

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

And hopefully it will help us avoid the sometimes default rigorous academic only solutions that come to light when we reveal our state level test scores. Which kind of predictably showed decreases among our most vulnerable populations of multilingual learners, students in special education, students of color, homeless students. So it really will help us keep our eyes on the prize with an integrated approach.

Sara Wolforth:

Wonderful. Thank you, Rosemary. And Dia.

Dia Jackson:

Sure. So MTSS really has a long history and was originally put forth, as I said earlier, to address disproportionality. But unfortunately, we really have not seen those equitable outcomes from MTSS. So even though, it’s in the framework, it’s written there on the graphic, we haven’t seen those outcomes in at least 20 years since it was conceived. So SEL really does give us some concrete action steps. And some ways that adults and students can really enact some of these equitable practices. Some of these practices that help you build relationships, help you solve problems, help you become self aware and aware of others. Which are all really key strategies that we need to build a warm school climate and a positive environment for all students to thrive.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you, Dia. And I’m going to follow up with you Dia with another question around, for the implementation side of this work. And so, I guess what is different about implementing when you’re talking about bringing together two frameworks, integrating two frameworks. So we talked about implementing SEL, we talk about implementing MPSS. And we’re talking about bringing alignment and coherence across two different frameworks. What do we need to be thinking about? Or what does a district or school or state need to be thinking about, in terms of how is this different from other types of initiatives? I guess.

Dia Jackson:

Did you want me to start?

Sara Wolforth:

That one is just for you.

Dia Jackson:

Oh, just for me. Okay. So, in terms of integrating, I think one of the things that I always do with districts that I’m working with, on integrating is to have them start by just visioning, what is it that you want to see change? So really write down what is the measurable outcome that you want to see from this integrated work. Do you want to see discipline referrals of Latino boys go down? Do you want to see families feel more engaged in your school? So really try to be concrete about what the outcome is. And then use that as your anchor to continue to align your systems and then integrate them so that you can really take clear steps towards that outcome. So I think really bringing together the SEL and MTSS, really just gives you a nice framework as as well as actions and practices to put in place to really move towards measurable outcomes, with equity at the center, of course.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you. So I want to turn to Pat. And Pat, please feel free to build upon that prior response around Dia’s response around the alignment and coherence piece. Because I know you have thoughts on that as well. But I also wanted to just ask you about, that your work, bringing together the nine states in the community practice. And what are some of the key learnings that you took away from engaging in that community practice and bring the different states together, along with Anne and others CCSSO and other colleagues?

Pat Conner:

Yes, Sara. Thank you. I want to echo something that Rosemary said. What we saw with the impact of COVID-19, there’s been a real sense of urgency by districts and states around the potential of MTSS, to create those safe and supportive learning environments that are grounded in positive relationships, that can ultimately help improve academic and behavioral outcomes for students. And so with that, when we issued the RFA for this, we were overwhelmed. For a six state community of practice, we had 20 states apply. That was overwhelming. And we had to call that down to nine. But there are three areas of key learnings that really resonated with me from this community of practice. And one of them, and I can’t stress this enough is about the power of collaboration. A key learning by all nine states was the value of just collaborating with each other, learning from each other, getting peer review and feedback. And as well as collaboration within the nine states. But collaboration by bringing teams to the community of practice, that really broke down those, “silos” that exist. And we know they all exist silos, within any agency or organization.

Pat Conner:

But bringing those departments together to really offset that fragmentation of systems. Because what we know is collaboration does not occur. You have less clarity and focus on key priorities. You make fewer effective decisions, and you potentially develop competing priorities that stretch capabilities. I heard a great quote today from Dr. George Bat, who said, “Every system is perfectly aligned for the results it gets.” So if you want positive results, then you’re going to have to collaborate. And you’re going to have to develop a shared vision and an understanding. So it’s important in this work to develop and communicate that of what you want SEL, within MTS to look like so it can result in that coherent messaging in support. And in our toolkit, and all in sections two, three, and four. It really outlines those shared principles and the rationale for why you should integrate SEL within that MTSS. And then the last one is the impact on policies. Oh my goodness, we saw states develop SEL standards that are the underpinning and foundation for their MTSS work, their mental health work, their academics, grounding those competencies is important in developing them.

Pat Conner:

We also saw states develop policies around the integration of SEL within mental health or other initiatives. We saw states pass state legislation, requiring them to support students through MTSS and SEL. And then we saw states that also kind of tied it all together because districts say, “How can I integrate SEL and PBIS And MTSS to avoid potential challenges?” So we had states developed briefs and guides on how to do that. And again, looking at those discipline policies and practices that you have at the state and local level, how can you change those to benefit students? Not moving from compliance to support. So those were kind of three key target learnings that I got from the community of practice.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you so much, Pat. And I wanted to, I saw there’s a hand raised. So Tracy W., did you have a question you wanted to ask? I don’t want to miss your question. You’re welcome to put it in the Q&A, or you can just ask it. Oh, maybe it was an accident [inaudible 00:55:57]. Okay. So I will move on to Rosemary. So Rosemary, we are learning more and more about the importance of supporting students social emotional learning through building the capacity of the teachers and other adults that work with children and youth. And we saw that emphasized in Dia’s presentation as a key focus on adult social emotional learning and professional learning. The Rhode Island, we understand is focused on adult, and social emotional learning and professional development, and its work to integrate SEL into systems of support. So what were the drivers that led to that strategy? And what are you learning as you’re building and implementing professional learning opportunities for the field in Rhode Island?

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

Thank you for that question. And it just makes a lot of sense that if we’re entrusting the development of social and emotional skills for children, with our teachers that we really need to make sure that we’re supporting them socially and emotionally too. So I would take it back that the drivers are really embedded in that toolkit, that all students and adults thrive in a safe just in supportive school climate. And adult SEL is intentionally supported to ensure student SEL is fostered. So those are the drivers. And back when Rhode Island developed the SEL standards, competencies for school and life success, that there was a realization early on that we needed to include adults. And so when the indicator document was developed as a complement to the SEL standards, we also include SEL indicators for adults, to be able to raise awareness and to also be aspirational for students. So it’s kind of what does each skill look like. And then we had a number of state level efforts and district level efforts at the start of the pandemic.

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

Pure Edge had reached out to provide social emotional professional development supports, for not only the Department of Education staff, because we’re adults that need support too. But also for adults in our schools. And then we also had a partnership with Yale University and their Center for Emotional Intelligence and our Rhode Island Foundation. The two teacher unions here partnered to offer a course on SEL for all educators in the entire education community in Rhode Island, and that’s still an ongoing offering. Community of practice was developed. And that’s now we’re convening that monthly, it had been convened quarterly. And that had to focus to on teacher self care and highlighting work in districts. We have a private nonprofit called Shri Yoga, that a newscaster, local newscaster actually developed and runs it. And that organization provides free yoga and mindfulness to educators. We have partnerships with the parents support networks to support parents as well.

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

And then at the district level, the importance of creating that culture of support was really underscored and particularly in the pandemic, and being able to change norms to help focus that support and make it part of the norm that we want to support social emotional learning for our educators to raise awareness, about what social emotional skills look like, our emotions and having that kind of emotional intelligence. So in some districts, SEL coordinators provided online support to educators. There were some districts that developed websites to keep resources and share information for both teachers and students. One district had a check-in tool to support self awareness and self regulation. And making sure that staff and students were coming to school, ready to learn. A local assistant superintendent had, take a Tuesday…. Excuse me. Take a moment, Tuesday, where they provided words of encouragement and ideas and visuals to help teachers. And just kind of an outreach to know that we’re thinking of you and we think you’re important, and we know this is a difficult time for all of us.

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

There have been partnerships with Bradley Hospital, which is a children’s mental health hospital in providing professional development, and support to teachers around trauma, depression, anxiety, and kind of understanding that but then also support for them as well. One district developed a virtual calming room that can be used by both students and staff when you need to take a break. And then finally, SEL bookshelves were both for in person and distance learning. There can be a variety of reading materials for staff and students as well.

Sara Wolforth:

Wonderful, thank you. [crosstalk 01:01:23].

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

And they’re all posted on our website as well.

Sara Wolforth:

Oh, great. Hopefully I can find a link to that we can share with, or send it in the follow up.

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

I’ll put it in the box.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you. All right. So, Anne I have a question for you from your perspective at CCSSO. So from your perspective, supporting SEL in developing and implementing policies to support SEL, student centered learning. What can you share about the challenges and opportunities of the current moment? Or where we are with our world events and with new opportunities in terms of funding investments, and etc? So what would you offer as important things to know?

Anne Bowles:

Thanks, Sarah, I think Rosemary was a great lead into this because I think with, as the famous folk goes, “With tremendous challenge comes tremendous opportunity.” And we certainly are really poised to make some large scale impacts, particularly at the state level. And I think Rosemary illustrated just how important a role the state education agency can play, to build the capacity of districts and schools to do this work in partnership with their families and students and communities. And so at CCSSO, our members, our State Department’s of Education, and so we’ve been working closely with them to track how they’re hoping to spend their American Rescue Plan dollars. So, as I’m sure many on the webinar know, there are these three large federal funding streams, funding bills, providing funding to states and districts, given the COVID-19 pandemic of course. And CCSSO, in partnership with Education First looked at all, at the time 35 state plans that were submitted prior to the end of June of this year, just to look for common themes and try to see how well states hoping to leverage that funding.

Anne Bowles:

And we saw that over 50% of the plans listed students, social and emotional learning and development as one of the top three pandemic related issues that were facing students and schools and that’s where they wanted to focus their funding. We saw some common strategies at the state level, including the use of an MTSS framework or a whole child framework. So in that case, trying to think through how to provide holistic supports to students, and staff. We saw enhanced counseling or guidance services. And we’re seeing some of that play out now with states like Arizona and Oklahoma using some of their funding for increasing the capacity of school health personnel. We saw a lot of summer programming focus on integrating SEL, and then also offering virtual and on demand tools and resources similar to some of the work that Rhode Island’s leading in terms of building the capacity of educators themselves, to be able to integrate SEL into the school day and then integrate SEL into MTSS. So I’ll stop there and see if you want me to elaborate on it.

Sara Wolforth:

I think that’s great. I think we should, I’m just looking at the time and wanting to make sure we circle back to everyone to offer a closing consideration. And before I do that, I just wanted to encourage participants, if you have any questions, just feel free to put them into the Q&A. And we can try to respond to them while we’re all here, or follow up after as well. So please do put any questions that you have for our panelists into the Q&A. And the last question that I wanting just to get a reflection from each of you is, what advice would you give to a state or district that’s just getting started with this work? So if there’s somebody who’s on from a district and is saying, “Gosh, this is something I’d like to think about integrating SEL within MTSS, in this district? How do I get started? And what do I need to be thinking about?” Or what’s kind of the one thing you would want them to have in mind in this work. So I’ll start with Dia.

Dia Jackson:

So one thing I would say is, I will borrow from a colleague of mine, David Osher, who really says that you have to… “In order to get to equity, you have to start with equity.” So I would challenge folks to really start by identifying what outcomes you want to achieve. And what are the, looking at your data and seeing what are the inequitable outcomes that may be occurring in our system? And what do we want to do to address that? What is our actual goal? So I that would be my parting words to everyone is to start there.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you, Dia. And I’ve heard the same from David before. So that rings true for me, too. Pat.

Pat Conner:

I want to echo my supportive of what Dia said. I think that’s very true and wiser words by Dr. Osher have been spoken but that’s one of those that I really agree with him. I just want to kind of refer back to section four in our toolkit when we talked about the conditions that need to be in place in order to get this work done. And in my opinion, the most important is leadership. Leadership at the district level, at the state level, to really prioritize and support this work. That’s the driver for the collaboration. That’s the driver for achieving alignment and coherence with other initiatives across either a state or within a district. So that leadership is key. And through that strong leadership, it will lead you to that clear vision, those outcomes that Dia talked about, that you need to decide, “I want to do this because this is what I want to see for my students.” So that clear vision, and really coming to that shared understanding within teams about these integration efforts, and the importance of placing equity focus SEL at the heart.

Pat Conner:

And Dia, I just want to just piggyback on that research that shows MTSS has not been effective in achieving change the past 20 years. But when you put SEL within that integrate equity focused SEL, you can see positive outcomes for students. So that’s my advice.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you, Pat. See, let’s Anne and Rosemary.

Anne Bowles:

All right. Thanks, Sara. I think I would reiterate Dia and Pat’s emphasis on that shared vision and shared outcomes, what are you driving towards? I think those definitely have to go first. I think to offer something additional, I would underscore the importance of looking and taking stock of what you’re already doing. And identifying opportunities to partner with your colleagues either within your school, within your district or within your state Department of Education, to better collaborate and better coordinate on the support that you’re providing to students and families or districts or schools. I think that a lot of time, there’s this tendency to try to start up something new, without first taking a step back and saying what are we already doing? What is working already? Where could we build capacity where we’re having some positive impact? Where could we pull back where something is maybe not working the way we wish it were?

Anne Bowles:

And if you have that vision and you have those objectives that you’re trying to achieve, that can help drive and inform some of those decisions that you might make and where you want to focus your energies on. Particularly given that limited capacity that a lot of districts and schools have at the moment.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you. And I do, before we get the final word from Rosemary. I do have a specific kind of nuts and bolts question that came in, which is, do we have any guidance for districts, on how to choose an SEL assessment to help establish the direction and identify the outcomes that they should focus on? So anyone want to take that one?

Pat Conner:

Well, CASEL does have an SEL assessment guide, that I will while we’re talking, find the link for that and put it in the chat. Very helpful tool that will guide districts and schools in selecting an assessment. So I’ll put the URL for that.

Sara Wolforth:

Thank you, Pat. All right, Rosemary, last word from you.

Rosemary Reilly-Chammat:

Okay. So I would echo leadership and also say, leadership from where you’re at. So where your circle of influence is, no matter where you are. Organizationally, you can be a leader, and work from your circle of influence, connect yourself to a good team or establish a good team that’s been so critical to the success that we’ve had in Rhode Island. Be persistent, and know that this work is so powerful. And not everyone has this this point of view, or this access to the research base and this knowledge and being able to share that and how important it is for students. And I just think back on the LEAP Taskforce recommendations that I shared earlier. If this had been five years ago, it probably would not have integrated academics and SEL within an MTSS framework. SEL might have been the add on. So the fact that it’s integrated all in one document as a guide for our districts, I can’t underscore how huge that is. And that was the work of a lot of people here, including Alice Woods, who’s in the room with me who really helped lead this work here.

Sara Wolforth:

Well, wonderful. Thank you all so much. Thank you to all of our panelists, and really appreciate you offering your insights. And if we can close this part of the webinar, and I’m not 100% sure if I’m next or not. I think I am. I have a couple of closing considerations. So we share the slides and I’ll go through those. Right. So this slide is actually the very last section in the toolkit in terms of closing considerations for moving forward. And these I think really echo what we heard when we just asked for advice and thoughts from the panelists that wanted to leave you with these, so keeping equity at the center. And that’s sort of similar to that. That David Osher guidance there. Consider how integrating SEL and MTSS can support restart and recovery plans. And I don’t even know if we’re in restart, recovery or what the word is now from where we are, but planning that we’re doing to support students and the school community at this time. Take action to implement new policies and practices that we’ve got in the toolkit.

Sara Wolforth:

Some links and some ideas around resources and guidance that you might might use, in addition to those action steps and resources that we referenced before. And then the last one, I would just as a researcher put out there. So a lot of this is really based on good, solid experience and expertise and evidence. But we really need to be gathering evidence to make a compelling case for this work and for continued investment, and to also learn how it works in different contexts. And so we would just really encourage districts and states that are taking this journey to think about the data and continuous improvement piece, but also just around how can we gather evidence around what works and how implementation can support these efforts. So that’s the researcher plug for you. Go to the next slide. All right. And then I wanted to point you to a feature of the toolkit. Each section concludes with some links to some key resources. So some of these has been shared throughout the conversation today. But there are so many things out there that you could look at and draw upon and work. And we’ve shared them throughout.

Sara Wolforth:

And we’ve also offered for teams that are just wanting to get together and engage with focus. There are some reflection questions to help you do that as a team. And I think the next slide is, I will turn it over to Alicia.

Alicia Espinoza:

Thank you, Sara and thank you all the panelists for your time today. I know we said a lot in a very, what seemed like a short period of time. But I’d like to hear from those of you that are still with us. Take a moment to just pause and reflect. What is something that really stood out to you? Something you appreciated, something that you heard or an AHA that you might have experienced? If you could in the chat, share just a brief reflection on some of your key takeaways today. And we are almost there, so hang in there with us because we have a couple key questions for you. That being one of them. So I’ll just pause for a second. Any thing that stood out to you today? Thanks, Lance. Great. I’m glad, Jim that you find the resources seem to be very useful. The toolkit, great. Proactive approach. Yes, thank you. Grounded in students strengths. So keep those coming in. I do have a really important question that I’d like to ask via poll. To get a sense of… If you could go to the next slide.

Alicia Espinoza:

We’ve delineated, the presenters delineated that this for the seven step process embedded within the toolkit. If you were interested in digging deeper into any one of those key seven steps, with your immediate colleagues, whether it be a district team, a school team that would like to explore a little bit further how to operationalize some of these steps. We’re again, at the Center for Education Equity, is happy to facilitate that process through a smaller, more immediate community of practice. So we’d like to offer this poll. If you were to think of each of those steps, which one, and you can select more than one. The pool will be coming up momentarily. Do you feel you’d be the most interested in exploring further with the smaller group or smaller subset of individuals? And you can select more than one, depending on where you’re at, as we saw at the beginning of the webinar. I know some of you are further along in the process.

Alicia Espinoza:

Some of you are still thinking through how to best integrate SEL and MTSS. Depending on where you’re at which of these would you like to explore further. So go ahead and select that. We can share the poll results just to see, in a second one’s supposed to be you have chimed in if there’s any step in which we see a significant amount of interest in digging deeper into. Let’s go ahead and close that poll. Okay. So overwhelmingly, we do see choosing high impact strategies and action steps as an area that might be helpful to dig deeper into. Great, thank you. Planning for continuous improvement is second to that. How do you pick an action or strategy and really test it to see if it works, in a small rapid cycle of continuous improvement and then take it to scale? Great. So this is really helpful. Thank you. So at this moment, what I’ll do is I do want to put a plug in there that in the survey, the evaluation survey at the end.

Alicia Espinoza:

We do ask you, if you are interested, let us know so that then we can try to coordinate or facilitate an opportunity for you to be part of a community of practice that can take a look at this, dig deeper with your peers and then implement. So that is a part of your survey, but I’ll go ahead and pass it to Nikevia who will take us to our closing and next steps.

Nikevia Thomas:

Well, thank you, Alicia. I hope you all had a good time at this webinar. Please, will you go to the next slide, Claire. Thank you. So we would like to hear what you thought of the webinar today. Please share with us your feedback, you can use the QR code that is on your screen or the link that Gracie place in the chat, for our webinar poll. And as Alicia mentioned, at the bottom of this poll there is a prompt about more information for the community of practice survey. And Gracie has also placed that secondary survey in the chat as well. Give everybody a couple moments to complete. Okay. Claire, would you go to the next slide, please? So, here is our contact information. You can reach us here for more information. You can follow us on social media at Twitter or on Facebook. And you can also visit our website www.cee-maec.org. Thank you so much. Next slide please. And that concludes our webinar. We hope to see you next time. Bye everybody.

 

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