Researchers drew on a variety of data for this case study of Lister Elementary School in Tacoma.
At some schools, introducing social and emotional learning (SEL) programs is all about evolution. Take Lister Elementary School in Tacoma, Wash. At Lister, a new leadership spearheaded a school-wide emphasis on SEL. Then, over time, school leaders and staff members integrated a focus on racial equity and restorative practices into its SEL approach.
The story of those efforts is detailed in this case study. It’s one of a series detailing collaborations between schools and OST programs in six communities aimed at boosting social and emotional learning.
Lister didn’t have OST programs on site until the second year of the four-year initiative. Then, the efforts were interrupted by COVID-19 pandemic in year three, shifting to a virtual model combining students from multiple schools in year four. As a result, Lister’s partnership with OST programs was at an early stage or at an interrupted stage of development during most of the initiative. For that reason, the case study focuses on SEL during just the school day.
The communities were participants in Wallace’s Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, which brought together school districts and their OST partners to develop and put in place SEL activities across learning settings.
The school used four key strategies as its work evolved, including:
School leaders also embedded SEL throughout the school’s policies and practices. For example, they included SEL in teacher evaluations and made commitment to racial equity a priority in the school’s mission statement. And they ensured that students and staff used a common vocabulary when communicating about SEL.
These efforts resulted in significant successes, such as:
As teachers we talk a lot about ‘we don’t have time, we don’t have time.’ But in my perspective, I have a lot of academic time, because I’m [no longer] helping kiddos problem-solve, because we’ve [already] taught them how to do that and we’re continually reinforcing.— Michelle Hahn, Tacoma Whole Child facilitator, Lister Elementary
The collaboration took place in a large urban district primarily serving students from historically disadvantaged populations. For that reason, lessons learned may not apply to all elementary schools.
The case study assesses school-wide efforts and not the Tacoma school-OST program partnership.