Learners succeed and thrive when their school environments fully support them. At Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) Schools, we are committed to educating the whole child which must include support for students’ social and emotional growth.
As a forward-thinking, world-class school district, HSE pays attention to cutting-edge
research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, including new findings on
teaching and learning. Listening to the voices of leaders in colleges, communities, and
careers where our students will learn, live, and work, we hear increasing demand for
graduates who possess strong social-emotional skills. In fact, academic and future
successes for students are tied directly to their social-emotional strengths. We also
cannot ignore data indicating that children and adolescents are under higher levels of
stress than in years past. Nationally, for adolescents ages 15-19, suicide is the second
leading cause of death (Shain 2016) Our own student data shows multiple stressors
among HSE children and teens. Providing support for social-emotional wellness is
essential if we want healthy, successful graduates prepared for life beyond HSE.
WHAT RESEARCH SAYS
Studies of the brain are continuing to yield confirmation of the toxic effects stress
has on learners. Stress impacts the brain’s ability to absorb, recall, and process
information. “Science says to us that, in fact, the way the brain functions and grows, it
needs safety, it needs warmth…” explains Stanford professor Linda DarlingHammond. “We actually learn in a state of positive emotion much more effectively
than we can learn in a state of negative emotion. That has huge implications for what
we do in schools." (Edutopia 2019).
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL),
a meta-analysis of 82 studies was conducted, looking at over 97,000 students who
experienced SEL programming. They found that not only was academic performance
significantly higher in students exposed to SEL programming, but "conduct problems,
emotional distress, and drug use were all significantly lower for students... and
development of social and emotional skills and positive attitudes toward self, others,
and school was higher" (CASEL, 2021c).
Similarly, a 2011 meta-analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students
showed “SEL interventions that address CASEL’s five core competencies increased
students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, compared to students who
did not participate in such SEL programs. Students participating in SEL programs also
showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and
depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school" (CASEL,
2021a). The 2019 Social and Emotional Learning Report from McGraw-Hill found
“81% of parents believe that SEL is just as important as academic learning" (CASEL,
2021a). Six of the Top 10 skills identified by the World Economic Forum involve
social and emotional competence (CASEL, 2021a).
In 2016, the Aspen Institute launched the National Commission on Social, Emotional,
and Academic Development, uniting leaders from education, research, business,
health, and the military “to re-envision what constitutes success in our schools.”
(Aspen Institute 2019). In January 2019, the Commission released its final report
and recommendations. The Executive Summary says simply, “Children learn best
when we treat them as human beings, with social and emotional as well as academic
needs.” (Aspen Institute 2019). The report continues, “More specifically, children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, character traits, and values to succeed in school, careers, and life….(T)he promotion of social,
emotional, and academic learning is not a shifting educational fad; it is the substance
of education itself. It is not a distraction from the ‘real work’ of math and English
instruction; it is how instruction can succeed.” (Aspen Institute 2019).
It is a mistake to label social emotional learning as a soft skill. In fact, this integrated
approach strengthens rigor and serves as a booster rocket for academic performance.
Consider the following from A Nation at Hope (Aspen Institute 2019):
More than 9 in 10 parents think that schools have a role in reinforcing the
development of what they typically call life skills.
2/3 of current and recent high school students agree that SEL would help
their...learning of academic material and preparation for college, careers, and
9 in 10 teachers believe social emotional skills can be taught.
97% of principals believe a larger focus on SEL will improve students' academic
8 in 10 employers say SEL skills are the most important to success and are also the
hardest to find.
SEL benefits all children, but disproportionally benefits vulnerable students who
may have experienced trauma.
WHAT IS SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING?
"Social emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which all young people and
adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy
identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show
empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make
responsible and caring decisions" (CASEL, 2021b). Social and emotional skills are
often referred to as one’s emotional intelligence or EQ. These skills give youth and
adults the framework to do these things:
- Cope with anger and stress
- Recognize their own and others'
- Express emotions appropriately
- Solve their own problems
- Think critically and make good
- Develop effective listening and
- Handle them without violence
- Reduce power struggles and resolve
conflicts constructively and
- Give positive feedback to others
- Dialogue rather than debate with
- Act according to their values, not
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH
A recent U.S. Surgeon General report indicates that one in five children and adolescents will face a significant mental health condition during their school years.
Supporting mental health in students can remove barriers to learning and shift focus
to the success of the whole child. Hamilton Southeastern Schools defines mental
health as a person’s overall emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
KEY RECOMMENDATIONS IN EDUCATION
A Nation at Hope claims "the promotion of social, emotional, and academic learning is
not a shifting educational fad; it is the substance of education itself." This national
report produced by the Aspen Institute identify the following six categories that
accelerate efforts to impact student outcomes (Aspen Institute 2019).
1. Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to prioritize
the whole child. This begins by articulating the social, emotional and academic skills
that graduates need for success in school, the workforce, and life.
2. Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all young
people. Build settings that are safe and foster bonds among children and adults.
3. Change instruction to teach students social, emotional, and cognitive skills;
embed these skills in academics and school-wide practices. Intentionally teach
competencies and infuse them in academic content and in all aspects of the school
setting (lunchroom, hallways, extracurriculars), not just in stand alone programs or lessons.
4. Build adult expertise in child development. Ensure educators develop expertise
in child development and the changing science of learning.
5. Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole
child. Partnerships between schools, families, and the community support healthy
learning and development in and out of school.
6. Forge closer connections between research and practice by shifting the
paradigm for how research gets done. Bridge the divide between scholarly research
and what is actionable in schools.
HSE SCHOOLS MILESTONE 1
School Counseling and Integrated Efforts
A district team (Student Success Team) focuses solely on equity/inclusion, social emotional learning in schools, and mental health partnerships/supports in the
All HSE Schools have one or more licensed school counselors on staff. School
counselors provide academic advising, guidance regarding college and career
readiness, and support for mental health and social emotional learning.
All school counseling programs have been awarded the Indiana Department of
Education Gold Star Award for demonstrating they have “a comprehensive and
accountable school counseling and guidance program, aligned to Indiana School
Counselor and Student Standards, as well as national standards.”
Anti-bullying training occurs annually for all students, staff, and volunteers.
College and Career Academies opened in 2015 in both high schools with extended
hours available beyond the traditional school day for counselors to meet with students and families.
In the fall of 2019, the district implemented the use of an online program, Naviance,
centered around college and career readiness. Through the integration of this
program in the school curriculum, 7th and 8th graders engage in career exploration
through activities such as career interest surveys. Naviance allows high schoolers
to research colleges, apply to multiple colleges through one application, and apply
for financial aid and scholarships.
The district additionally works with J. Everett Light Career Center, creating high
school courses centered around hands-on career experience such as welding and
auto-mechanics. Internships for school credit are additionally available for high
schoolers to continue their career exploration. The district has expanded its high
school curriculum to include more opportunities for students to gain college credit
and real-world experience through AP, ACP, and dual-credit course offerings and
programs such as Project Lead the Way.
In 2017, the Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation received a Comprehensive
Counseling Initiative grant award from the Lilly Endowment to respond to
stakeholder needs assessment with outcome based strategics impacting student
success through both academic and social emotional learning achievements.
In 2020, the district additionally received the three-year Project AWARE federal
grant award from the Indiana Department of Education in order to increase the
district’s capacity to meet students’ mental health needs. This grant allows the
district to carry on critical work, such as fund ongoing SEL work, solidify tier 1
supports for all students, expand tier 2 supports, increase family knowledge and
engagement around mental health, and increase the school’s crisis preparedness.
Community Health Partnerships
HSE has a District Mental Health and School Counseling Coordinator who
coordinates services with community-based mental health organizations and
oversees a partnership with Community Health Network. Additionally, she supports
student led clubs, such as Bring Change to Mind.
The school district plays an integral role in the City of Fishers Stigma Free Initiative.
Student tip lines and assistance teams have been created to identify and proactively
support at-risk students.
Community Health Network provides behavioral health services to students on-site
in each of our schools. This effort eliminates barriers to students receiving critical
support while also minimizing the impact to instructional time and missed work time
for parents. Student impact from this partnership during 2018/19 includes:
- 754 students were served in 19/20
with parent permission.
- 76% of students receiving services
showed mental health gains and
- 23 full time therapists were assigned
to schools along with a crisis
- 3,567 telehealth services occurred during the COVID shut down.
- 76% of students who received treatment in both 18/19 and 19/20 had zero behavioral offenses.
- 54% of students who received treatment in both 18/19 and 19/20 had an increase in attendance.
Data, Outcomes, and Panorama Survey
During the 18/19 academic year, the Hamilton Southeastern School Board of School Trustees set a goal to become a more data-centric educational system. Data can be
utilized in a variety of ways including classroom instruction, staff development,
operational efficiency, and student outcomes. Two new analytics positions and a district data team were created to bring multiple, reliable, and valid data systems together and begin to provide a more holistic view of student success. Early successes include: br> br>
- Administration of Panorama
Education stakeholder surveys
including 89% teacher response rate,
91% student response rate, and 32%
family response rate in the spring of 2019. The response rate in the fall of 2020 was approximately 60%.
- Alignment of district discipline codes
to enhance data mining and building
- Development of corporation
dashboards for real time data access
and progress monitoring.
- Exploration of how to measure
student success beyond standardized
test and traditional methods.
One success in particular highlighted the growth that occurred as a result of the
school district’s SEL implementation. A second stakeholder Panorama Education
survey was sent out to students in the fall of 2020. The survey measured student
strength in the five SEL competencies, student favorability of school support and
environment, and teacher-student relationships. Significant growth was shown
across the board for all grades. Considerable increases include: br> br>
- 23% increase in students grades 6-12
who felt that all or most of their
teachers would be concerned if they
walked into class upset.
- 10% increase in students grades 3-5
who were frequently or almost always
able to pay attention and ignore
distractions while working.
- 10% increase in students grades 3-5
who were often or routinely able to
disagree with others without starting
- 8% increase in students grades 6-12
who were often or routinely able to
disagree with others without starting
WHAT IS NEXT?
SEL strategies & We Got This
Despite the progress already made, our district has committed to continued growth in the area of social-emotional learning and inclusion/equity for all students. Two important efforts are beginning in 2019 to advance student success.
The first was a pilot in 2019 of intentional and integrated social emotional learning
curriculum in every building grades K-8. After 15 months of thoughtful research with a
diverse group of stakeholders, the district used a combination of curriculum from
MindUp, Second Step, and Common Sense Media. The scope and sequence taught
fundamental concepts such as neuroscience, goal setting, problem solving, and
disagreeing respectfully. In 2020, the curriculum was fully rolled out to all buildings in
grades K-8, with each classroom receiving a weekly SEL lesson. In 2019, a committee
of dedicated high school teachers began researching and planning for SEL at the high
school level. A second SMART period was added weekly in 2020 to every 9th grader’s
schedule, and the SEL curriculum was piloted during this time. Full rollout of the HS
SEL curriculum will occur in the fall of 2020.
The second is a communication campaign, #WeGotThis, designed to work
collaboratively with parents and community organization to enhance social emotional
learning. This effort an invitation for all adults in the community to come along side
these efforts to benefit students. A team of community stakeholders – parents,
teachers, and community members – works to help lead this work. During the 19/20
school year, the district launched several neuroscience videos, followed by a series of
self-care videos during the COVID-19 shutdown. During the 20/21 school year, the
distract plans to launch a series of SEL 101 videos to show what SEL work looks like
inside of our schools. Working together, we can create an environment where every
student can leave HSE for a successful future saying, "I've got this."
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
CASEL. (2021a). "Benefits of SEL". Retrieved from
CASEL. (2021b). "SEL Is...". Retrieved from https://casel.org/whatis-
CASEL. (2021c). "Twenty seventeen Meta-Analysis". Retrieved from
Riley, H., Terada, Y. (2019) "Bringing the Science of Learning into
Classrooms." Retrieved from www.edutopia.org
Shain, B. (2016) "Suicide and suicide attempts in adolescent."
Pediatrics, 138(1), 1-12.
Riley, H, Terada, Y (2019) "Bringing the Science of Learning into
Classrooms." Retrieved from www.edutopia.org
The videos linked here are important for you to see. With every new school year, we know that our students will face a myriad of stressors. Together we can help build the resilience needed to not only cope with stress, but to thrive.
You’ll hear more about the ways HSE educators support student success—not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. We know that every child is more than grades and test scores. We also know that the most current research in our field is clear: students need a wide array of strengths to succeed in life. We’re studying the research and responding with supports and learning experiences to help all HSE students strengthen social skills and build resilience.
With you as our partners, we can prepare children to forge relationships, build communities, and handle the challenges of life after HSE. Please share with us triumphs you child experiences throughout the year. Not only in academics, but also in moments of kindness, challenge, teamwork and perseverance. Together
Hamilton Southeastern Schools’ efforts are funded through a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative for Indiana K-12 Students. Learn more at