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$1 Million Donation Expands Innovative SEL Program

Social Emotional Learning Helps Increase Test Scores, Decrease Behavioral Problems

Austin, TX—Recently, three pairs of Austin donors announced their commitment to donate $1 million to the Austin Independent School District to expand its Social and Emotional Learning programming.  The matching grant is designed to call upon community members to help support implementation of SEL in all schools in the district during the next three years.

SEL teaches students to understand and practice the concepts of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making that can help them be more successful and productive in their schools, careers and communities.

Community members Jeanne and Michael Klein, Betsy and Hughes Abell with the Buena Vista Foundation, and Carmel and Thomas Borders with the Tapestry Foundation have come together to create the $1 million matching donation. The gift will support instructional coaching, parent and classified personnel training, curriculum materials, campus facilitator stipends and professional development. The support will help AISD broaden and deepen SEL instruction, reaching every student in the district.

The district’s commitment to SEL is rooted in the success of the program’s first year. A national analysis by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning revealed that teaching SEL skills leads to a 9 percent decrease in problem behaviors and an 11 percent increase on math and reading scores on standardized tests. A 2006 survey by the Conference Board, a business research association, showed that three of the top four skills desired by employers are the same skills reinforced through SEL: professionalism and work ethic, teamwork and collaboration, oral communication and ethics and social responsibility.

AISD introduced the program in the district in 2011. Programs are being implemented through the vertical team system, which includes a high school and its feeder middle and elementary schools. Two to three vertical teams will join the initiative each year. During the 2011-12 school year, the 27 schools that make up the Austin and Crockett vertical teams began the initiative. This year, the Eastside Memorial, McCallum and Travis vertical teams joined—bringing the total number of SEL schools to 57, serving 44 percent of students in the district.

The district’s SEL initiative is funded by the NoVo Foundation, which supports SEL with $250,00 each year, and AISD, which provides more than $600,000 in funding for personnel services. CASEL, whose representatives toured AISD’s SEL campuses this semester—also provided start-up funding and curriculum materials for the launch of SEL.

For more information, visit the district’s SELwebsite at www.austinisd.org/academics/sel.