Reports Underscore Two Priorities for Teaching and Learning as Students Return to School
Indianapolis, IN,—The disruption to daily life and learning during COVID-19 has caused stress, anxiety, and increased trauma for students, families, and educators that will certainly impact the return to school this fall. In new reports, Teach Plus Indiana Teaching Policy Fellows address two priorities for schools and districts as they prepare for the next academic year: prioritizing social emotional learning (SEL) in teacher preparation programs and implementing consistent, positive school discipline practices across the state so schools can be the stable environments students need.
In Preparing New Teachers for the Classroom: A Vision for Social and Emotional Learning in Indiana, the Fellows, who teach across the state in a variety of settings, put forth recommendations on incorporating trauma-informed instruction and SEL concepts into Indiana’s educator preparation programs (EPPs). This brief will allow universities to adjust their curricula in alignment with the recently passed House Enrolled Act 1283, so the least-experienced educators are better prepared to handle trauma and their future students’ social and emotional needs. In Implementing Positive School Discipline in Indiana: Recommendations from Teach Plus Indiana Teaching Policy Fellows, the Fellows provide recommendations for school and state leaders and as they work to improve the implementation of various discipline practices, provide consistency and clear expectations in the new learning environment, and close equity gaps.
“Our Fellows were already focused on these key issues as methods to improve support for teachers and students, but with the disruption and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak, their research has become all the more timely and important,” said Rachel Hathaway, Teach Plus Indiana Executive Director.
- Educator preparation programs in Indiana should audit their curriculum to identify how SEL is currently being incorporated into their teacher training, specifically regarding the language in course descriptions or offerings.
- In accordance with the requirements of HB1283, the Indiana Department of Education should provide specific training and/or curriculum on how to incorporate SEL competencies and trauma-informed instruction into educator preparation programs.
- Educator preparation programs in Indiana should partner with and engage in SEL-focused conversations with Indiana K-12 school districts and teachers as a foundation of how SEL training should be implemented for their pre-service teaching candidates.
“Students’ social and emotional needs are a crucial issue, exacerbated by the pandemic, and it is imperative that programs prepare teacher candidates to apply the knowledge, skills, and training around social-emotional learning competencies. It is our hope that this paper serves to improve a focus on social emotional learning strategies of teaching and learning throughout the teacher preparation process,” said Christina Shaul, a Teach Plus Fellow and 5th and 6th grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Theodore Potter School 74 in Indianapolis Public Schools.
- Each school and district must carefully study the IDOE’s Model Policy Document to identify key elements for implementation while also considering what schools need to establish and implement positive school discipline frameworks.
- The IDOE should conduct a statewide culture and climate survey to better understand schools’ needs and make the results publicly available to inform decision making.
- The state should create comprehensive guidance to inform school and district staffing decisions on mental health personnel, positive discipline coordinators, counselors, and push-in teachers.
- The state’s comprehensive guidance to support schools should also include robust professional development facilitated by highly qualified trainers who actively engage teachers in alternative discipline programs.
“Our research highlights the importance and need for positive discipline in Indiana. We hope that our recommendations will help schools to better plan for student success, which starts with a comprehensive culture and climate survey, and ends with addressing the needs of teachers through professional development and staffing,” said Adam Bogs, a Teach Plus Fellow and 10th grade math and science teacher at Victory College Prep Lighthouse Academies in Indianapolis Public Schools.
In addition to focusing their recommendations in the areas of trauma-informed instruction, social-emotional learning, and school discipline practices, the teachers call out the positive impact these reports and their recommendations would have on teacher retention in the state.
“By helping inform the implementation of SEL in educator prep programs, we are also helping address teacher retention. New teachers, who most often struggle with classroom management in their first years, will now be better equipped to consider the whole child and to try new strategies that can help them better educate and manage student behaviors, said Jeanie Mitchell, a Teach Plus Fellow and 11th and 12th grade French teacher at Penn High School in Mishawaka.
As schools and districts continue to finalize their reentry plans for the 2020-21 school year, Teach Plus urges school and district leaders to act on the recommendations raised by the Teaching Policy Fellows in these reports. “We have a unique opportunity to incorporate thoughtful data and intentional systems and structures into the re-opening processes of our schools and districts. We must be intentional in setting our students and teachers up for success and safety, not only in this current moment, but in the long term for sustainable improvement and support,” commented Hathaway.
About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students. teachplus.org