The numbers tell the story. According to the National Education Association, an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students; 15 percent of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school. One in seven students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. Approximately 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month. Among students, homicide perpetrators were more than twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied by peers; harassment and bullying have been linked to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents.
The College of Saint Elizabeth has begun to grapple with the important issue of creating safe, nurturing environments that encourage academic success and emotional well-being for elementary and high school students. Dr. Patricia Heindel, a CSE professor of psychology and area chair for human and social development, and Dr. Maurice Elias, professor of psychology at Rutgers University, are the recipients of a $250,000 grant from the NoVo Foundation to develop a social-emotional learning (SEL) credentialing online program for school and district leaders, teachers, and after-school program personnel. SEL skills include recognizing and managing emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, and making responsible decisions. These crucial capacities can be taught by classroom teachers to students of every background.
The NoVo Foundation is dedicated to transforming global society, moving from a culture of domination to one of equality and partnership. The SEL credentialing project aligns directly with NoVo Foundation’s commitment to help nurture a new generation with the skills and motivation to build a more equitable, cooperative, and just world.
"The NoVo Foundation's mission dovetails beautifully with the mission of the College of Saint Elizabeth,” says Dr. Heindel. “Since it first opened its doors in 1899, CSE has been dedicated to fostering just and ethical relationships and developing leaders in a spirit of service and social responsibility. This grant and partnership with Rutgers University allows us to continue this tradition and establish CSE as a center of excellence in preparing school leaders who can successfully address children’s social emotional skills development, create a school culture and climate that sits on a foundation of shared values, and ultimately make schools more safe and civil."
This unique credentialing program aims to tackle the issue of preparing educators and educational leaders to address socio-emotional character development. Failure to adequately address students’ emotional/non-cognitive barriers to learning is a sustaining factor in the achievement gap and no substantial and sustainable progress will take place unless this is redressed systematically and continuously.
Over a two-year period, this project aims to create a sustainable teaching structure that will provide school professionals from all disciplines -- teachers, support staff, and administrators -- with the competencies to reduce the emotional barriers to learning that are the primary impediment to students’ achievement and broader success in school and in life.
The credentialing program consists of two components: SEL Instruction and SEL Implementation Coordination, each of which is composed of two sets of courses.
Direct SEL Instruction (DI) introduces to educators, counselors, social workers, and after-school program staff the social emotional skills that students need to be successful. It develops skill in teaching strategies that improve students’ social emotional skills, addresses harassment, intimidation and bullying prevention, suicide prevention, and substance abuse prevention; and offers best practices for implementing social skills groups in and after school, service learning, and conflict resolution programs.
SEL Instructional Leader (IL) prepares school professional staff to train building-level colleagues in the competencies achieved by the DI credentialing program, appropriate for members of any school-based professional group, as well as after-school program providers.
School-Focused Coordination (SFC) prepares school leaders to coordinate SEL implementation efforts at the building level, with a focus placed on school climate, culture, values, leadership, and student voice/engagement.
District-Focused Coordination (DFC) is similar to SFC, but it is geared to individuals who coordinate SEL efforts across buildings in elementary, middle, and high schools in school districts.