High Schools to Pilot Social Emotional Lessons During Upcoming School Year
August 4, 2017
Washington Social Emotional Learning Framework

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) is acting on the 2016-17 PAUSD Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Committee’s (SCC) recommendations presented to the Board of Education in February of 2017. The SCC and its work was the first stage of a multi-year process in which SEL will be developed and implemented through a unified district-wide approach. 

"PAUSD staff has long been committed to responding to the social and emotional needs of students and has a wide variety of activities and programs that promote SEL, which are currently operating at PAUSD school sites," says Ms. Miriam Stevenson, the school district's director of wellness and support services. "The current SEL initiative is to create a more comprehensive, standards aligned, K-12 approach to SEL that will ensure that all students, regardless of school or age, will have access to Social Emotional Learning through evidence based practices."

During the upcoming 2017-18 school year:

  • SEL Lessons will be piloted at both high schools. 
  • The leadership teams at elementary and middle schools will also be working towards coordinated and consistent delivery of SEL instruction. 
  • Potential SEL curriculum and existing programs will be reviewed for alignment to the Washington State SEL Framework as recommended by the SCC. 
  • PAUSD will invite applicants for a cross-constituent advisory committee to inform the continued implementation of SEL districtwide. 
  • Curriculum Steering Committees for staff members participating in SEL will also be formed to provide for continuity in programing between school sites.  
  • SEL practices and skills will be incorporated into trainings and meetings at the district office and school sites to faciliate learning for all PAUSD community members about SEL.

SEL instruction teaches students the skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, develop and demonstrate empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible choices.  Ms. Stevenson explains that "it is a 'whole child' approach to education, which provides the essential social-emotional competencies to be successful in life."

Effective SEL programs improve academic achievement, help students form deeper connections to school, encourage prosocial behaviors and reduce depression and stress among students all of which align with PAUSD’s mission and goal areas and students’ needs.

In May of 2017, SEL Speaker, Advocate, Teacher and author Keeth Matheny presented to parents and worked with staff members from both high schools and district leadership members.  This summer, representatives from Gunn and Palo Alto high schools, District Wellness and Support Services staff, and Research and Evaluation and Assessment Department staff, were trained in SEL curriculum by School Connect.  Participants included high school counselors, teacher advisors, Living Skills teachers, administrators and Wellness Workers.

Parents and community members interested in learning more about SEL can visit the PAUSD Social Emotional Learning Committee webpage. In addition, the school district is hosting a community event, Transforming Schools and Promoting Student Success through Social and Emotional Learning, this coming Monday, August, 7, 2017, at the District Office. 

The application for the PAUSD’s PreK-12 District SEL Advisory Committee will be available in September of 2017. Parents and community memebers will be invited to apply closer to the date. 

###