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School Climate Transformation Grant


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In 2014, the Iowa Department of Education (Department) was one of 12 states awarded a 5-year federal School Climate Transformation Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of the Iowa School Climate Transformation Grant (SCTG) is to develop, enhance, or expand the statewide systems of support and technical assistance to local educational agencies and schools implementing Iowa's multi-tiered behavioral framework for social-emotional-behavioral health outcomes and learning conditions for all students. The most recent work has focused on Iowa’s Social-Emotional Learning Competencies.

Social-Emotional Learning

Social and Emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. (CASEL, 2018)

Social and emotional (SE) competencies are important for whole-student development and well-being. We know that “brain function is hierarchical. We feel and then we think.” (Blodgett, 2015, Perry, 2006). A purposeful focus on implementing strong SE competencies fosters an environment where all individuals feel supported and can thrive.

Based on research and recommendations from stakeholders, the decision was made to use the CASEL framework of the five Competencies as the focus for providing resources in Iowa. Use of this framework and these resources are completely voluntary and not required. School districts, should they choose to establish a Social-emotional Learning (SEL) framework, are encouraged to research and select an SEL framework that works best in their context.

Iowa’s Social-Emotional Learning Competencies are organized around the five core Competencies as defined below. Each Competency includes three to five Learning Targets that further organize essential skills, abilities, behaviors and attitudes. The five Competencies and Learning Targets are consistent across grade bands that include K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th. Although Learning Targets are consistent across grade bands, Adult Examples for Instruction were developed considering the important changes in learners’ social and emotional development as they mature. Learner examples are provided for adults to recognize learners’ progress toward the competency. The expectation is for learners to demonstrate age-appropriate skills and not final mastery of any competency as all learners—including children, youth, and adults—continue to grow and evolve.

The five (5) Social-Emotional Learning Competencies:

  1. Self-Awareness is the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. It is the ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset." There are three (3) Learning Targets within this competency: Identifying Emotions, Accurate Self Perception, and Self-Confidence.
  2. Self-Management includes regulating one’s emotions, stress management, self-control, self-motivation, and setting and achieving goals. There are five (5) Learning Targets within this competency: Impulse Control, Stress Management, Self-Discipline and Self-Motivation, Goal Setting, and Organizational Skills.
  3. Social Awareness connotes perspective-taking; empathy; respecting diversity; understanding social and ethical norms of behavior; and recognizing family, school, and community supports. There are three (3) Learning Targets within this competency: Perspective Taking and Empathy, Appreciating Diversity and Respect for Others, and Civic Engagement.
  4. Relationship Skills connote building relationships with diverse individuals and groups, communicating clearly, working cooperatively, resolving conflicts, and seeking help. There are four (4) Learning Targets within this competency: Communication, Social Engagement, Relationship Building, and Teamwork.
  5. Responsible Decision-Making refers to considering the well-being of self and others; recognizing one’s responsibility to behave ethically; basing decisions on safety, social, and ethical considerations; evaluating realistic consequences of various actions; and making constructive, safe choices for self, relationships, and school. There are four (4) Learning Targets within this competency: Identifying Problems, Analyzing Situations and Solving Problems, Evaluating and Reflecting, and Ethical Responsibility.

The Department convened the first group of stakeholders in the summer of 2017 and subsequently engaged additional stakeholder work groups, an internal Department SEL team, and a SEL State Advisory Team. The stakeholder work groups brought together a broad mix of voices from districts, teachers, regional area education agencies, higher education, school counselors, students, other state agencies, and community organizations.

The Department is continuing to provide an opportunity for feedback on the Iowa SEL Competencies through March 31, 2020.

Provide Feedback on SEL Competencies

In 2018, as part of the Iowa Learning Supports Conference the School Climate Transformation Grant supported presentations by Dr. Nick Yoder from the American Institutes for Research. He provided two sessions on Social-Emotional Learning that were also streamed to AEAs across the state and facilitated by AEA PBIS Coordinators. Dr. Yoder presented Connecting Social and Emotional Learning and School Climate: Key Components of Student Success. Consensus is emerging that student development of social and emotional competencies is critical for student success in work, life, and career. Yet, teachers and administrators often mention that they do not have the time to implement social and emotional learning (SEL). The following are two recordings of his conference presentations:

  • Part 1 - Explains why it is important and explores some key components of SEL.
  • Part 2 - Discusses ways to integrate SEL into instruction as well as support adult social and emotional competencies. Dr. Yoder also provides strategies on how to integrate SEL into other initiatives, including school climate and PBIS.

Resources for Social-Emotional Learning

School Climate Transformation Grant

This work is a component of the Iowa Department of Education's Learning Supports efforts to positively impact Safe/Healthy/Caring Learning Environments in Iowa's schools. Research demonstrates that the implementation of an evidence-based, multi-tiered behavioral framework, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and SEL can help improve overall school climate and safety. A key aspect of this multi-tiered approach is providing all students strong universal policies, practices, instruction, and supports while implementing additional levels of support and for students based on their needs.

The two main goals of the Grant were to build capacity for the Department and the grant sites to implement and/or enhance MTSS for social-emotional-behavioral wellness and mental health. Main components of the grant work included: expanding and enhancing district implementation of the PBIS framework, developing durable systems at the district level through the use of the District Capacity Assessment, collecting student data using the Iowa Behavioral Health Survey in grades 5 - 12. This survey has since been developed into the annually required ESSA school climate measurement “Conditions for Learning” for all 3rd-12th graders.

SCTG initiated a collaborative with Teacher Leader Compensation, PBIS and Special Education to focus on coaching skills and practices. The intent of the collaboration was to build coaching capacity across content areas and create opportunities to form coaching partnerships. Two Coaching Forums were hosted by the School Climate Transformation Grant in 2018 and 2019.

At the same time as the award of the SCTG, the Iowa Department of Education was awarded a complementary federal grant, the State Education Agency (SEA) Now Is the Time Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) federal grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). Both grants were a part of the Now Is the Time federal initiative to make schools safer and increase youth and children’s access to mental health services and supports.

Grant Sites

Districts selected to participate in the State Education Agency School Climate Transformation Grant included: Charter Oak-Ute, Davenport, Mason City, Sioux City, Waterloo, West Liberty, West Monona, West Sioux. The focused grant work with these sites ended in September 2019.

Project AWARE and SCT and SDT Grantee Map

Other sites throughout Iowa received direct School Climate Transformation and/or Project AWARE grants as well.


Social-Emotional Learning

A Review of Instruments for Measuring Social and Emotional Learning Skills Among Secondary School Students – The purpose of this resource is to support state and local education agencies in identifying reliable and valid instruments that measure collaboration, perseverance, and self-regulated learning among secondary school students. This resource, developed by the Regional Education Laboratory Northeast & Islands in collaboration with its Social and Emotional Learning Alliance, presents social and emotional learning instruments and the reliability and validity information available for those instruments. 

Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning

Center for Social-Emotional Learning Research at RAND

Center to Improve Social-Emotional Learning and School Safety

District Resource Center – The District Resource Center from CASEL helps school districts make social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of every student’s education. Here you’ll find research, knowledge, and resources curated from school systems across the U.S. to support high-quality, systemic implementation of SEL.

Equity and Social-Emotional Learning: A Cultural Analysis – This brief outlines how CASEL’s core SEL competencies reflect issues of equity, highlights programs and practices that support the development of these competencies to promote educational equity, and offers some implications for the growing demand for SEL assessments.

Keeping SEL Developmental – This Special Issues brief from Measuring SEL/CASEL shows how development and the developmental tasks children and youth face at different ages are essential to everything about SEL—from the way we frame what SEL is, to the standards we use to describe what it looks like over time, to the ways we do instruction and assessment. The idea that SEL is a process of development is crucial. In development, many things change, but many things also stay the same.

Schoolwide Guide to SEL – CASEL's Schoolwide SEL includes advice, resources, tools, and templates to help engage the entire school community in creating caring, motivating, and equitable learning environments that promote social, emotional, and academic growth.

Social-Emotional Learning Coaching Toolkit – The purpose of this toolkit is to support coaches and administrators as they observe practices that support the development of social and emotional skills in classrooms, and hold critical conversations that include SEL (American Institutes for Research).

Measuring SEL Assessment Guide – The Assessment Guide provides several resources for practitioners to select and use measures of student SEL, including guidance on how to select an assessment and use student SEL data, a catalog of SEL assessments equipped with filters and bookmarking, and real-world accounts of how practitioners are using SEL assessments.

Nation at Hope – From the Commission for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning at the Aspen Institute, Nation at Hope follows up from Nation at Risk to provide:

  • Research Agenda – Support whole-child and adolescent development across learning settings.
  • Practice Agenda – Offers strategies for how schools and communities can create learning environments that foster the comprehensive development of all young people.
  • Policy Agenda – Discusses the role of policy in creating conditions for communities to implement locally crafted practices that drive more equitable outcomes.

School Climate

PBIS School Climate Transformation Grant (SCTG)

School Climate and Safety-AIR

National School Climate Center

School Climate Resource Center

MTSS for Behavior/PBIS

PBIS OSEP National Technical Assistance Center

Mid-Atlantic PBIS Network

Midwest PBIS Network

PBIS Missouri

PBIS Maryland

SWIS, Fidelity Instruments, and Surveys

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on July 04, 2020 at 11:25pm.