How this Texas district prioritizes SEL

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The Covid-19 pandemic may be on everyone’s minds right now, but school districts grappled with another pandemic before the virus changed our world. School violence incidents such as the Parkland School shooting were increasing, and students’ physical and mental well-being were at critical levels.

New Caney Independent School District, northeast of Houston, Texas, understood that social emotional learning (SEL) and the missed opportunities to identify students with deficits played out in school–specifically in school violence.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) states that SEL programs “provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance as reflected in more positive social behaviors and peer relationships, fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress, and improved grades and test scores.”

In the 2018-2019 school year, to measure its students’ mental health and well-being, New Caney ISD partnered with Panorama, a data collection system, to gather information from 10,000 students whose results highlighted significant SEL deficits.

Simultaneously, the 2019 Texas Legislature expanded SB11 to include student safety and mental health support for public schools. According to Loree Munro, New Caney ISD’s director of Advanced Academics and Counseling, the legislative traction of SB11 helped the district propel its initiative to incorporate SEL throughout the school district.

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