Why is it important for your district to assess programming and initiatives that support social and emotional health?
The pandemic has resulted in students suffering from higher rates of anxiety and depression and has further isolated those students who were already marginalized. The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that our students are experiencing high rates of anxiety, hopelessness, suicidal ideation and behavior, and certain subgroups (teen girls, girls of color, and LGBTQ students) have rates that are particularly alarming (CDC, 2023). Students are not the only ones who have been impacted by the pandemic. A recent NASSP study (2022) reported that 73% of school leaders needed help with their mental or emotional health in the past year. Another study by Rand that was completed in 2022 found that 73% of teachers reported job related stress, 59% reported burnout and 28% reported symptoms of depression.
It is critical that districts regularly assess social and emotional health and safety needs to maintain healthy and supportive school environments for all students, teachers, and staff.
Heather M. Reynolds, Ed.M., Ph.D., consultant, SEL-Solutions brings a unique perspective to the school safety conversation as someone who has:
25 years of experience as a school and community safety researcher which includes 20+ publications in the area of school safety, local and national school safety presentations, and grants and awards for research and service.
17 years working with a wide range of school districts and pre-service teachers as a Teacher Educator at SUNY/ Empire State University
A 3 year term as a trustee on her local board of education (2016-2019)
A year-long fellowship that supported work with two different school districts to assess their social and emotional health and safety programming over the course of one school year (see testimonials below)
Many safety "audits" focus solely on physical security such as monitoring access into and within buildings, and preparing for the possibility of an armed intruder. These audits are often done by local law enforcement or the insurance carrier for the district. This audit focuses on the social and emotional components of school safety. Research demonstrates that schools with strong, caring, culturally and emotionally supportive school environments have lower levels of victimization, more positive behaviors, higher academic achievement, and a psychologically healthier student body. Teachers in these school environments are also more satisfied with their job and less likely to report burnout (Astor & Benbenishty, 2019).
What does SEL-Solutions provide?
A comprehensive district level assessment of programs and initiatives that address social and emotional health and safety using the lens of research based best practices.
The SEL-solutions audit focuses on 5 key questions:
Are SEL related programs, policies or initiatives:
1) Connected and consistent across grade levels and over time?
2) Embedded into the culture of the district and key district goals?
3) The result of grassroots interest and development?
4) Supported with necessary staff and resources?
5) Regularly assessed?
Within the 5 question framework work includes (but is not limited to):
Conducting interviews (in person or via Zoom) and consulting with key stakeholders about programming
Organizing and analyzing program data
Identifying the successes and challenges of programming or initiatives
Assessing connections between programs and the continuity of programs over time
Making recommendations based on best practices for creating safe and supportive school environments
A final report with all data and recommendations
An in-person presentation/summary to the community, key stakeholders and/or the Board of Education
"I appreciate Dr. Reynolds' outreach to the district and know that the takeaways she has shared in the research will be helpful to us moving forward. Supporting students in the SEL realm is so important, and will continue to be as we move away from the height of the pandemic and into the future."
"The collaboration offered an outside, unbiased big picture view of all of our programs and initiatives and how they aligned or didn't align k-12"
"It was a good opportunity to reflect on what we have done and where we want to head next with someone who is independent of the school (district)"
"(it was valuable to) reflect on the alignment of programs to be sure that a program is not just being run to be run, but is actually being run with fidelity"
Contact Heather Reynolds at: