OUSD Selected to Join National Collaborating Districts Initiative

December 16, 2011 - The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and the NoVo Foundation has invited Oakland Unified School District to join their intensive Collaborating Districts Initiative. The initiative supports large school districts in building capacity for high-quality, evidence-based programming to promote social and emotional learning in preschool through 12th grade. CASEL works collaboratively with selected school districts to achieve the goal of making social and emotional learning an essential part of every child’s education.

OUSD’s selection for the initiative includes an initial grant from the NoVo Foundation of $125,000 to be used for developing a multi-year Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) implementation plan. The NoVo Foundation makes grants to U.S. based organizations and is dedicated to a few very targeted initiatives focused on ending violence against girls and women, promoting gender equity worldwide, empowering adolescent girls in the developing world, and advancing SEL in the U.S. 

Once the plans are approved, a grant of $250,000 per year for three years ($750,000) will be awarded, contingent on the District continuing to make significant progress toward systemic implementation of high-quality social and emotional learning programs.

“Preparing children not only for college and career, but also for success in life and to serve as responsible, contributing citizens to our democracy, requires a holistic approach to education,” explained OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith. “CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative will strengthen the implementation of our Full-Service Community School model by exposing us to strategies and best practices that nourish students academically, socially and emotionally so they benefit from the conditions required to achieve at high levels.” 

OUSD was one of only five districts from across the nation selected to join the Collaborating Districts Initiative. In addition to Oakland Unified, Chicago Public Schools, Sacramento City Unified School District, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, and Washoe County School District in Nevada were chosen for the honor. These districts will join three currently participating school districts, the Anchorage School District, the Austin Independent School District, and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

The operational focus of CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative is to help each participating district accomplish the following:

  • Develop a vision and action plan for implementing and sustaining SEL programming district‐wide.
  • Establish student learning standards for SEL from preschool through 12th grade.
  • Provide ongoing SEL professional development for school leaders and staff.
  • Adopt evidence-based SEL programs for all students.
  • Develop an SEL-focused structure to coordinate student support services and academic learning.
  • Cultivate a district-wide culture of caring and respect.
  • Collect and use data to evaluate and improve its SEL efforts.

This work builds on existing initiatives in Oakland Unified, such as the Restorative Justice Program. Restorative Justice as a whole school approach supports and teaches social emotional intelligence, builds community and relationships and increases the school community’s ability and capacity to communicate and address challenges. In this way it is a prevention method: the school community becomes better equipped to resolve issues before they escalate into real problems. These skills can be employed when differences or conflict first appear.

In terms of discipline, restorative justice takes incidents that might otherwise result in punishment and in them finds opportunities for students to recognize the impact of their behavior, understand their obligation to take responsibility for their actions, and take steps towards making things right. In this process, students learn how to interact and manage their relationships with adults and peers and they become better equipped to understand how their behavior impacts others. As a result, restorative practices encourage accountability, improve school safety, and help to develop skills so students and the school community can thrive.