As students in local schools learn academic skills, they also are encouraged to develop social and emotional behavior that will help them handle school, work, relationships and personal development. As the first state to adopt a comprehensive set of Social and Emotional Learning principles, Illinois is a leader integrating standards in schools.
Professionals in local schools promote social and emotional competencies, encouraging students’ academic engagement, positive work ethic, and school success.
Local district programs incorporate the SEL standards seamlessly into instruction across all grade levels. Here is a sampling of the programs offered.
Genoa-Kingston schools provide positive and preventive learning through school-wide expectations and then operationally define the expectations, teaching students how to demonstrate them.
The staff defines behavioral expectations for various school settings – classroom and cafeteria. Individual schools adapt the framework to work most effectively for their school culture. Students are given guidelines for the various settings. Reinforcements exist to recognize students for meeting the expectations.
Additional support is offered for students who are not successful behaviorally or emotionally. A check-in/check-out system at the beginning and end of each day helps students have positive interaction in the building.
Social skills at the kindergarten through third-grade level are taught using Second Steps, in which a social worker conducts monthly lessons, teaching a specific social skill. Classroom teachers help students with additional practice and reinforcement of social skills. Small groups are used throughout all grades to assist students’ progress.
Kindergarten through eighth-grade reading programs include Making Meaning with comprehension strategies. Character Counts! principles are used in classroom activities to promote traits and reading materials that reinforce particular character traits.
DeKalb schools match resources with student needs. The Positive Behavior Intervention and Support principles are used throughout the district. The staff in individual buildings define their behavioral expectations and incorporate them into the classroom and other school settings.
A mentoring program called Where Everybody Belongs is in place at DeKalb middle schools.
Monthly performance reviews are conducted, in which the staff reviews both academic and SEL progress. Interventions are based on specific student needs.
The Response to Intervention model is used throughout the district. This is a tiered program where tier 1 matches resources to student needs; tier 2 is the data review; and tier 3 involves using the local support network, where more specific resources are matched to needs.
Indian Creek schools have a district-wide needs assessment program which addresses topics such as anger, organization, communication and integrity. Student feedback is used to adjust the program to meet specific needs. At the high school, monthly labs are conducted where topics are presented and discussed. The ICGr8ness program (Indian Creek Greatness) at the high school has eight indicators of positive behavior with recognition of student accomplishments.
Character adaptation receives strong attention at the middle school. Weekly advisory classes allow the staff to respond to specific student needs. Behavior expectations are adapted to each student. Adventure therapy and the forty developmental assets (DeKalb County KEYS program) are incorporated into the school program. Similar emphasis is done at the elementary level in the district, responding to individual student needs.
Sycamore schools have core behavioral values defined for students. Individual schools have monthly instructional programs on specific core values. Classroom instruction reinforces the focus on the expected behaviors.
The middle school secured a soft skills grant which helps identify resources for students needing further assistance. A team approach is used to provide support to individuals.
It is good to see the positive steps that teachers and other staff members are taking in matching resources to student needs. The assessment measurements are important to assure the efficient and targeted programs are effective in producing desired results.
Students are provided opportunity to learn positive skill development in safe, caring learning environments. Where families and schools work together, children’s success is enhanced.
• John Rey lives in DeKalb and is retired from DeKalb Ag/Monsanto. He also has been employed with AXA Financial and Family Service Agency. He continues as an active community volunteer in several organizations. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.