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SEL Initiative To Expand Support For Students

Allen ISD will be expanding its counseling and student support programs next year through a new districtwide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) initiative.

Four different SEL programs will be rolled out starting in August 2019. The overall goal will be to help students understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.

Allen ISD’s lead counselors researched successful SEL programs this past year and matched them up with needs identified by teachers, students and parents.

Surveys show that teachers need support managing persistent minor misbehaviors in the classroom, student anxiety, and extreme misbehaviors such as physical and verbal aggression. The same survey showed that students are seeking help controlling emotions and building relationships with peers.  Parents also indicated they could use help with child behavior strategies and improving their child’s academic performance. The SEL initiative is intended to provide tools for all three groups.  

The group recently recommended four different programs to be implemented at different grade levels.  They include: Second Step for Early Childhood through Grade 5; Second Step for Grades 6 – 8; School Connect for Grades 9 - 12 and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Teens (MBSR-T) for grades 10-12.

The Second Step EC-5 program is a series of scripted lessons for early childhood through grade 5 that address self-awareness, social awareness, interpersonal relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

The Second Step Grade 6-8 program is a series of lessons that cover mindsets and goals, values and friendship, and managing serious peer conflicts. Topics would also include bullying, cyberbullying and online behavior.  

The School Connect program for ninth graders would tie into the Second Step curriculum.  It would focus on self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making skills.

MBSR-T at Allen High School would be a training program for teachers and counselors to help them build a supportive culture and climate for students as well as stress reduction and time management for students. 

In addition to the new SEL programs, Allen ISD is expanding the district staff by 7 counselors to expand services and reduce the counselor to student ratio.

“Research and anecdotal evidence show that our students are under more stress and face more serious social problems that affect their behavior and academic performance,” explained Dr. Scott Niven, superintendent of schools.  “The SEL initiative is a proactive approach to help students cope with those challenges with age-appropriate lessons and staff training.”

Allen ISD support counselor Jennifer Atencio sees the SEL programs as a powerful tool “to help students better deal with stress and emotional challenges.  Using a preventive approach, we can also reduce behavior and academic problems we see in the schools.”